Opposition to Thorpe St Andrew marine centre closure plans in 2019
- Credit: James Bass
A major centre for seafarers is due to close meaning they could have to travel to Ipswich for tests, inspections and surveys.
The Martime and Coastguard Agency wants to reduce the number of offices it operates and has plans to close its Thorpe St Andrew Business Park base, near Norwich, in 2019 and open a new site in Ipswich.
But shadow shipping minister Richard Burden has said ministers have not been able to demonstrate it will save money.
He warned: 'This is one of the busiest marine offices for trainee seafarers so it's difficult to see the sense in closing it when our merchant navy needs more UK seafarers recruited to our ships.
'So far the government has not made its case for closure and we'll be pressing them for clear answers before they publish their final plans for MCA office closures and relocations.'
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But the consultation document, published in March, said the government was committed to ensuring effective use of taxpayers' money and this included the efficient use of its estate.
Under the plans offices would close in Tyne, Plymouth, Orpington, Beverley, Harwich and Norwich and open in Ipswich.
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Norwich MP Clive Lewis said: 'These plans hit the UK's ability to operate a safe and secure ports network. And yet again this government is putting the demands of corporations and the wealthy few – international ship owners, operators and financiers – above the needs of the many, including UK seafarers and ordinary travellers.'
The consultation for the closure closed on April 21 and the government is currently collating the responses which will be analysed and considered by a review panel.
A spokesman said: 'There are five members of the survey and inspection team who work from Norwich Marine Office.
'The MCA is committed to ensuring it delivers the services and support our customers need as efficiently and effectively as possible. 'The Transformation Programme includes proposals to introduce changes to working practices; some of which are subject to negotiation with Trades Unions. These proposals, supported by improvements to ICT, are designed to enable our surveyors to continue to provide a service within the Norwich area.'
'The proposals follow a detailed analysis of the services provided across the UK. No final decisions on closures or movement of offices have been made and will not be made until the review of the consultation responses have been completed and analysed for the MCA Chief Executive to consider.'