MCA reinstates officer at centre of walk-out threat

THE MARITIME and Coastguard Agency (MCA) says it “highly values” its volunteers despite unrest in the Northern Isles after a senior officer returned to post following a suspension.

Some coastguard rescue officers in the Shetland and Orkney were left unhappy after the area commander was reinstated to his Kirkwall-based job on Monday.

A mass walk-out was thought to have been on the cards, but it is understood that volunteers have been persuaded to stay on for the time being.

The returning officer was suspended in 2015 after allegedly firing a coastguard rescue officer on the spot during an exercise in Shetland.

The MCA’s head of coastal operations is understood to have held a meeting in Shetland on Monday, but there appears to have been no firm resolution to the issue.

In a statement, an MCA spokesperson said the organisation “highly values its volunteers in the coastguard rescue service”.

“Their selfless commitment to emergency response at all times and in all conditions is indispensable to the safety and wellbeing of our coastal communities throughout the UK,” they added.

“Following a challenging period for management in Orkney and Shetland, we are now looking forward to building further on our renowned capabilities for search, rescue and support of the local population.”

There are seven voluntary coastguard rescue teams in Shetland in Fair Isle, Sumburgh, Lerwick, Walls, Hillswick, Mid Yell and Baltasound, with between 80 and 90 active members.

They assist the coastguard through duties such rope rescues and manning helicopter landings, but they also help the police in missing person searches, for example.