Mas recortes en el MCA

Sorprendió a todos, incluso a los propios ingleses, el anuncio sobre la retirada de los Emergency Towing Vessels para septiembre de 2011 o la supresión de los bomberos especializados MIRG para contener el gasto.

The MCA will no longer provide Emergency Towing Vessels (ETVs) at taxpayers’ expense from September 2011. Emergency towing vessels are mainly deployed when vessels break down. The Government believes state provision of ETVs does not represent a correct use of taxpayers money and that ship salvage should be a commercial matter between a ship’s operator and the salvor. Removing ETVs will save £32.5m over the Spending Review period.

The Maritime Incident Response Group (MIRG) will be reviewed. The MIRG was formed to respond to incidents at sea for which firefighting, chemical hazard and/or rescue teams may be required. The teams are drawn from 15 Fire and Rescue Services and since the MIRG teams began operating in 2006 they have not been involved in any significant incidents. All ships’ crews are trained in basic firefighting techniques and there is little evidence that MIRG has changed the outcome of ship fires. A consultation will follow on the detailed proposals but it is estimated that ending all the MIRG would save the Department £340,000 annually.

Pero, la cosa parece que no ha terminado, ahora le toca el turno a los funcionarios del MCA. El Caballero y Contra Almirante Alan Massey, retirado de la Navy, y al mando del MCA desde hace unos meses, anuncia los recortes indicando que con ello, mejorará el servicio al usuario y la seguridad en la mar, con dos cojones que diría alguno.

También se hace eco de la noticia, más extensamente David Osler en el LLoyds List,

David Osler

12 January 2011 Lloyds List

MORE than one in three coastguard jobs around the UK coast will be scrapped as part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s drive to save around £80m ($124.9m) over the next four years, recently-appointed chief executive Admiral Sir Alan Massey has revealed to Lloyd’s List.

In a combative interview, Adm Massey insisted that coastguards themselves accept they do not work efficiently and that the impending changes should go through even if the UK government had not ordered huge across-the-board reductions to public spending last year.

Going public on the full details of the shake-up for the first time, Adm Massey said that the Department for Transport had ordered him to make cuts of 22% in the MCA budget by March 2015, a figure broadly in line with what is happening in similar agencies.

Although a few big ticket items face an immediate axe, other costs will be shed on a stepped basis rather than through adoption of a big bang approach.

“Going for the jugular in year one is extraordinarily difficult to achieve anyway, it would be a huge hit,” he said. “Phasing in over four years gives you much more time to plan. Anybody who tried to manage this budget would try to do the same.”

With cuts of this magnitude, the MCA will have to drop some existing functions in addition to making efficiency savings, he went on. As has already been announced, emergency towing vessel cover around the coast will go when the existing contract with Klyne Tugs ends in September this year, saving about £32m by 2015.

Also bearing the brunt of the economy drive will be administration staff in areas like finance, human resources, regulation and policy. In line with requirements imposed centrally by the DfT, one in three such posts will be scrapped.

“I hope to be able to do that without our customers noticing the difference,” said Adm Massey. “But you can’t take a third out of the resources of what government departments do and expect everything to carry on as normal.

“Clearly some things will have to be done in a different way. I don’t doubt that some things will simply be stopped. It will be a question of prioritising.”

The other, and perhaps most controversial, main area for savings will be the coastguard service. Some 228 jobs out of around 600 co-ordination posts will get the chop, a headcount reduction of 38%, while 10 of the existing 19 facilities will close. Savings are estimated at £7.5m a year, some of which will be used to improve low pay.

“I am by no means the first [MCA] chief executive to try to achieve modernisation of the coastguard, because it is far from ideal and pretty inefficient in the way it is laid down at the moment,” said Adm Massey.

“We can make far more effective use of the talents and skills of our people, and current technology, and that is what we are seeking to achieve.

“The coastguards would be the first to put their hands up and say ‘actually we recognise that the current set up of 18 Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres plus the London activity does not represent the most efficient way of doing things’.”

Although some staff will naturally be reluctant to relocate, the case for change is recognised by employees and unions alike, Adm Massey said.

Under his scheme, there will be two major centres in operation round the clock, one in Aberdeen and the other in either Southampton or Portsmouth, each able to undertake the entire national workload if need be.

Another seven centres will act as satellites. Dover and London will be staffed 24/7, while Humber, Falmouth, Swansea, either Belfast or Liverpool and either Shetland or Stornoway will be staffed only during the day.

Shipping Minister Mike Penning said: “The safety of all who use our coast is paramount, but in addition to the long-overdue need to modernise the coastguard the state of the public finances is well documented and difficult decisions have to be made.

“Our job in government is to balance our duty to maintaining high levels of safety with our duty to the taxpayer to reduce the deficit. I am confident that the decisions we have made will not compromise safety and I would like to thank those in the MCA for their continuing hard work.”

But a spokesman for seafarer union Nautilus International countered: “While we can’t dispute the significant advances in communications technology that make some of these proposals more tenable than in the past, our overriding concern is for the loss of local knowledge and expertise, which can prove critical in search and rescue operations.”

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