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Ferry firm opposes coastguard cuts

THE STATE-owned company behind ferry operators NorthLink and CalMac is calling for the government to stop trying to save money by cutting the coastguard service.

The David MacBrayne Group said the government review of coastguard services should concentrate on saving lives.

Chairman Peter Timms said that as the ferry operator with the most routes and vessels in the UK, it was uniquely qualified to comment on the proposals.

Mr Timms said that while the company welcomed plans to modernise the service, they had fundamental concerns about the focus on making it cheaper to run.

“We welcome the intention to introduce new technology, however the focus of this technology must be on improving services and cutting casualties and pollution; not to cut costs,” he said.

He said the government had to take into account the economic and social impact on affected communities and said more use should be made of his own company’s staff.

“Our masters and skippers sometimes feel their knowledge is undervalued, and that they have no say in what should be a continual improvement process to learn lessons from every call for assistance.”

More important than search and rescue capability was the setting of high marine standards supported by effective regulation to prevent the need for it, he said.

“The MCA is silent on its plans for its standard setting and regulatory activities. There are problems with these, and we would like to see these services included in delivery of MCA casualty reduction targets.

“We recommend that efforts to improve search and rescues should be executed in parallel with an external review of the effectiveness and application of regulatory standards.”

Mr Timms also questioned the lack of comment in the proposals about the loss of the emergency towing vessels from Scotland’s north and west coasts.

“Whilst these vessels were not initially introduced to support our operations directly, but as a result of the Braer incident and to provide cover for tankers transiting the Minches, they do nonetheless now provide critical cover for all vessels in these sea areas.

“The need for such cover has been evidenced on several occasions since their introduction and there are tangible benefits to justify retaining the service.

“The proposals also seem particularly at odds with good practice established in the US Coastguard Service and even in Europe, where Germany, France, Netherlands and Norway appear to be establishing a similar capability with ETV’s that the MCA is planning to dismantle.”


Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021