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Aberdeen MRC

Mr. Salmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will publish a table showing the planned number of people on watch at Aberdeen MRC at the following dates (a) 5 April, (b) 5 June and (c) 5 August 1989 showing a detailed split into qualified officers, trainees and auxiliaries.

Mr. Portillo : The planned strength for 5 April is four experienced regular officers, one regular officer under training, and one auxiliary.

It is not possible to forecast with certainty the composition on the other dates, due to the possibilities of unforseen absences affecting any plans which may be made now. However, the watch is expected to comprise four regular officers (of whom normally not more than one would be under training) and one or two auxiliaries per watch. It is planned not to have fewer than four persons on watch.

Ness Railway Bridge

Mr. Maclennan : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether, following the collapse of the Ness railway bridge, there has been an inspection of other bridges on the Inverness-Wick/Thurso railway line.

Mr. Portillo : Yes. British Rail is satisfied as to the integrity of other bridges on the Inverness-Wick/Thurso railway line, but precautionary inspections by divers are being carried out where it is considered advisable.

Swansea MRC

Mr. Salmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what official record has been kept of technical difficulties with interference and breakthrough at Swansea MRC since the transfer of additional aerials following the closure of Hartland MRSC ; and if he will publish this information.

Mr. Portillo : All instances of breakthrough were logged by the staff at Swansea, and reported to the coastguard maintenance authority for rectification. The interference was unrelated to the closure of Hartland Point MRSC and has been successfully eliminated.

Mr. Salmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what problems have been experienced with interference and breakthrough at Swansea MRC since the transfer of additional aerials following the closure of Hartland MRSC ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Portillo : Interaction between two VHF frequencies was experienced which was unrelated to the transfer of control of aerials following the closure of Hartland Point MRSC.

The problem has been traced to a change of frequency used by the police, and the Home Office has dealt with it by modifying the coastguard radio sites affected.

Mr. Salmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will assess the impact on coastguard operations of technical difficulties being experienced at Swansea MRC following the closure of Hartland MRSC.

Mr. Portillo : There is no evidence of any operational impact due to technical difficulties at Swansea.


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Transportation Unit

Mr. Bermingham : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the role of the head of the transportation unit.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : Leadership : achieving the tasks, building the team and getting the best from individuals.

Mathematical Models

Mr. Bermingham : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proportion of development work on mathematical transport models for use in analytical work was tendered out to consultancies in each year since 1983 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : The Department's records do not enable a year- by-year breakdown to be compiled. The development of models often takes place in step with their operational use, as needs for improvement arise.

The best estimate which can be made is that for the period 1983 to date. 76 per cent. of development has been carried out by extra mural contract and 24 per cent. in-house mainly at the transport and road research laboratory.

Ramsey MRSC

Mr. Loyden : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will give details of the financial, buildings, equipment and manpower arrangements made between the Department of Transport and House of Keys in respect of the closure of Ramsey MRSC.

Mr. Portillo : The Isle of Man Government have accepted full responsibility for the coastguard auxiliary companies on the island. Their continuing training and administration will be under the supervision of a Her Majesty's Coast Guard officer on secondment to the Isle of Man Government.

The existing Her Majesty's Coast Guard rescue equipment has been valued and offered to the Isle of Man Government for purchase. They are currently considering the offer.

The buildings vacated by Her Majesty's Coast Guard are subject to negotiation between the Isle of Man authorities and the Property Services Agency.

Merchant Navy Certificates

Mr. Michael Brown : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he has yet decided whether to accept Merchant Navy certificates of competency issued by other European Community member states as valid for service in junior officer posts on United Kingdom registered ships.

Mr. Portillo : Following the consultation exercise announced on 1 December 1988, the Government have decided to implement certain changes to the certification requirements for officers serving on United Kingdom registered merchant vessels.

These changes will allow holders of certificates of competency issued by any member state of the European Community--in accordance with the International Maritime Organisation convention on standards of training, certification and watchkeeping--to serve in junior officer posts on board United Kingdom vessels. The


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Department has written to the certification authorities in other member states for the information needed to give effect to these changes. They will be introduced as soon as this information is available.

We have also decided to extend recognition to certificates of competency issued by the Norwegian authorities subject to satisfactory assurances on reciprocity.

Merchant Ship Registration

Sir David Price : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act 1988 relating to merchant ship registration are to be brought into effect.

Mr. Portillo : The Merchant Shipping Act 1988 (Commencement Number 3) Order 1989, published today, brings part I of the 1988 Act fully into force in the United Kingdom on 1 April 1989. Part I modernises the system for registering British ships and strengthens the enforcement of safety requirements. Similar provisions are already in force or being introduced in the other British flag registries in Crown dependencies and dependent territories.

Boeing 737 (Accident)

Mr. Bill Walker : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the official report into the cause of the accident to a Boeing 737 aircraft at Manchester airport on 22 August 1985 will be published.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : The report by the Department's air accidents investigation branch (AAIB) was published today. Copies have been placed in the Library.

The report took longer than normal to produce because of the extent of the investigation required into the circumstances surrounding this accident and as a result of the decision by AAIB to devote exceptional resources and time to conduct a large scale examination of the survivability aspects of the accident.

The report contains 31 safety recommendations. It is the Civil Aviation Authority who has the statutory responsibility for the regulation of civil aviation in the United Kingdom and all of the recommendations were passed to the CAA for action as the investigation progressed.

The report is very detailed and comprehensive and the AAIB is to be congratulated on a most thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding this accident.

Passenger Ferries

Sir David Price : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement about roll-on roll-off passenger ferries built before 1980.

Mr. Portillo : The report of the formal investigation into the loss of the Herald of Free Enterprise drew attention to the revised requirements for stability in damaged condition introduced in 1980 and applied to United Kingdom roll-on roll-off passenger vessels built after that date. Although the Herald of Free Enterprise was in fact built to the 1980 standards, and although the accident was not caused by any damage to the vessel, the report nevertheless recommended that the stability in a damaged condition of the vessels built before 1980 should be


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reviewed, and that consideration should be given to the phasing out of those that did not meet, or could not be modified to meet, the 1980 standards.

As the first step in considering this recommendation my Department invited the owners of all United Kingdom registered roll-on roll-off passenger vessels built before 1980 to submit to the Department calculations of the vessels' stability in a damaged condition to establish whether or not they complied with the 1980 standards, and if not to consider the scope for modifications to the vessels, or for changes to their methods of operation to ensure that they did comply.


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This exercise is now complete. In all 72 vessels were examined. Of those it was found that 55 already complied with the 1980 standards. Of the remainder, the majority are being voluntarily adapted by their operating companies to comply with the 1980 standards by means of physical modifications and/or changes in operating procedures. My inquiries of the companies indicate that they are unlikely to retain the small number of remaining vessels, where modification is not a realistic proposition, for more than about another three years. It is important to recognise that all operating British ferries, in whatever category they fall, fully comply with the relevant national and international regulations.


 

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