78. The MCA hopes to save £20m a year by 2014-15
by restructuring the Coastguard Service, ending the state's Emergency
Towing Vessels (ETV) contract and withdrawing funding from the
Maritime Incident Response Group (MIRG). The three separate proposals
are interlinked. Throughout our inquiry, we have seen how each
facility plays an important part in saving lives at sea or protecting
the coastal environment. We heard how the Coastguard work closely
with the ETVs and regard the vessels as a crucial asset. ETVs
have been used to support the delivery of MIRG operations. The
impact of the funding reductions to these three services should
be considered as a whole.
79. Taken together, the proposed changes to the co-ordination
of the Coastguard and the potential loss of the ETVs and the MIRG
represent a significant restructuring of the country's marine
search and rescue and accident and pollution prevention capabilities.
It is regrettable that the
Department for Transport announced all three sets of maritime
proposals with no prior consultation whatsoever and did not consider
their combined impact.
80. We cannot support the MCA's proposals on the
future of the Coastguard in their current form. We oppose the
withdrawal of funding for the ETVs because we feel there is no
alternative in place, but we welcome efforts to find alternative
revenue streams to cover their costs. We oppose ceasing central
funding to the MIRG because local fire services cannot and should
not be expected to support a national strategy. Whilst we recognise
the pressure on the Government to make financial savings, we cannot
support proposals that reduce maritime safety in this way.