The overall shape of the new nationally networked Coastguard was announced on 14 July 2011 following an extended period of public consultation launched on 16 December 2010.

That announcement identified a number of specific changes from the original proposals on the composition of the nationally networked system.

As a result, the Government held a further period of consultation which closed on 6 October 2011.

Readers will be aware that the Government announced its decisions on those specific changes on 22 November 2011. In summary the nationally networked system will comprise:

  • A single Maritime Operations Centre (MOC) acting as a national strategic centre to manage Coastguard operations across a network of interlinked coastguard centres, as well as co-ordinating rescue activities for many incidents occurring anywhere around the coast of the UK on a day to day basis depending on demand and work levels in other centres. It will be based in a ready built operations centre at Fareham originally constructed as a Fire Control Centre.
  • A stand-by MOC at the existing coastguard rescue coordination centre at Dover fully equipped to take on the MOC role but not normally manned for this purpose.
  • Eight further centres, all of which will be connected into the national network allowing the effective interchange of information and tasking between the MOC and these centres or between themselves. All these centres will be open 24 hours a day. These networked centres will be based at the existing Coastguard coordination centres at:

    o Aberdeen
    o Shetland
    o Stornoway
    o Belfast
    o Holyhead
    o Milford Haven
    o Falmouth
    o Humber
  • The small centre at London, collocated with the Port of London Authority operations centre, and overseeing activity on the Thames will continue with to provide 24/7 cover.

RYA Cruising Manager, Stuart Carruthers said: “The RYA has responded fully to both consultations. The RYA’s central concern has been to ensure that all Coastguard services that are currently delivered, including search and rescue, provision of maritime safety information and VHF voice communication, continue at the same high level or are improved and that change recognises the technical limitations of equipment common to and available for the recreational community.

“For some time, the RYA has been aware of the lack of interoperability of the current system, the inability to spread the work-load across the system and the fundamental lack of resilience caused by increased demands on the current structure; all of this has serious implications for safety at sea for recreational boat users.

"The RYA has made it quite clear from the start that there was a need to address the current weaknesses.

“From the outset and throughout the entire consultation process, the RYA has made it transparently clear that it lies beyond its remit to discuss how the SAR service is co-ordinated throughout the UK.

"The whole thrust of the RYA’s response has therefore been directed towards continuity and quality of what is provided and not to get embroiled in the often emotive issues of how it is provided. It is important to make this distinction and the RYA has responded with this in mind.

“The RYA will continue to monitor the implementation of the new networked service to ensure that the needs of its members are fully addressed".