Great Yarmouth port chaplain backs coastguards

Great Yarmouth's port chaplain has backed coastguards in their fight to stop savage government cuts - describing the plans as 'ludicrous'.

The Rev Peter Paine, port chaplain for 10 years, spoke out against the proposal to close 10 coastguard stations, including Yarmouth's, with only two, in Aberdeen and Southampton, continuing to provide a 24-hour service.

He said: 'From my point of view it is quite simple. Local knowledge is paramount and local knowledge from Aberdeen and Southampton is absolutely useless.

'With the North Sea as busy as it is, to do away with night stations around here is ludicrous. How many lives will we have to lose to spell it out.'

The Rev Paine, whose previous RAF career was in air sea rescue, described Yarmouth's sea-going community as 'like a big wheel with the coastguard at the centre of the hub'.

He highlighted the important role Yarmouth's North Quay coastguards had played in co-ordinating emergency services after the offshore helicopter crash in 2002, the biggest tragedy in recent years.

He spoke out in support of the union representing coastguards, the Public and Commercial Services Union, which last week spelled out its concerns and urged people to have their say before public consultation closes on March 22.

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Peter Wheeler, branch secretary of the union and a watch manager at Yarmouth coastguard, said: 'Everyone we speak to, from fishermen to lifeboat crews, thinks the government plans are a bad idea.

'They say the technology is there for us to do it but we are concerned by the loss of local knowledge.'

The government has said its plans are focused on bringing the coastguard service into the 21st century.

The closure of stations and cuts to staff numbers would be more than compensated for by a massive investment in more modern communications technology.