Staff at the coastguard centre in Lerwick can help their colleagues elsewhere in the UK from today, and receive help, too, when the going gets tough.
The station at Knab Road has become part of a new and fully modernised single national network, which should see it work in harmony with other stations during busy periods.
The technology upgrade allows Shetland to be connected to a National Maritime Operations Centre in
Hampshire, as well as other stations. In all 10 coastguard operation centres, like the one in Lerwick, will work together to manage the workload, with no reduction in rescue resources.
Six other stations have closed as a result of the modernisation. Lerwick was once penned for closure itself, but saved from the axe following fears that local knowledge of the area would be lost.
Coastguard chiefs say today’s move will deliver a more efficient and effective service than the old system which has operated since 2001, but still achieve savings of around £5 million a year when the modernisation across the network is finished in December.
The new maritime operations controller for Lerwick, Stephen Turner, said no-one in need of help from the coastguard would be aware of any changes.
“The way we deliver the coordination of search and rescue operations on our coast and out at sea is changing. But the public won’t notice any difference. If you call 999 to ask for the coastguard, or issue a mayday broadcast, we will still be here to help you.
“The new national coastguard network will be able to oversee and assist with operations around the whole of the UK. Here at Shetland CGOC [Coastguard Operation Centre] we’re now part of the network, so we can call upon help from our fellow coastguards elsewhere in the country, and also in turn help them out if needed.
“It’s important to remember though that the rescue teams in your community are unaffected. There will still be the same number of lifeboats, coastguard rescue teams, helicopters and other rescue resources.”
• See this week’s Shetland Times for full coverage.