Maritime and Coastguard Agency reveals plans to close South Shields site

Marine and Coastguard Agency staff detained the Donald Duckling cargo ship after it failed a safety inspection in 2014.
Marine and Coastguard Agency staff detained the Donald Duckling cargo ship after it failed a safety inspection in 2014.
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The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has revealed plans to close its South Shields base in the next year as part of a services shake-up.

The sea safety inspection organisation is set to slash the numbers of its offices nationwide from 14 to 10 - with the South Shields site at Tyne Dock among those facing the axe.

The closure - due to take place in 2017 - will not be rubber-stamped until a consultation process is completed.

Views on the organisational overhaul can be submitted until April 21.

The MCA say the downsize scheme was put into motion due to difficulties in recruiting and retaining surveyors.

This, the consultation report states, has led its level of service to 'deteriorate' for several years and hastened efforts to develop a new business plan.

The MCA say 'no final decisions' over office closures will be made until the consultation process has been completed.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) uses its base in South Shields to inspect boats and carry out fishing surveys.

The agency was involved in detaining the Donald Duckling cargo ship after it failed a safety inspection in 2014.

An MCA spokesman said: "When a government organisation proposes changes to how it operates it should consider consulting with its staff, customers, stakeholders and interested parties in order that all relevant views can be taken into account.

"The proposals follow a detailed analysis of the services provided across the UK. No final decisions on closures have been made and will not be made until the consultation is complete and responses analysed.

"The intention is that services to the customer will improve following full implementation of the Survey and Inspection Transformation Programme.

"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 provide that service."

Writing in the consultation document, MCA chief executive, Sir Alan Massey says the proposals will help to 'modernise and improve' marine survey and inspection activities.

Sir Alan stated: "The MCA’s vision is to be the best maritime safety organisation in the world, driving progress towards safer lives, safer ships, and cleaner seas.

"The work carried out by our survey and inspection staff is critical to supporting that vision, and we have been concerned for some time that the current model has been under considerable pressure.

The core of this programme is the delivery of a better service to customers principally through improvements in our internal standards, procedures, systems and processes with a fully resourced and enthused surveyor workforce.

The MCA says its plans will lead to improved workloads for the reduced number of offices.

The consultation closes on Thursday, April 21.

To viw the proposals, visit www.gov.uk/mca#consultations