Sumburgh coastguard change agreed months ago, MP alleges

A controversial change which would see coastguard response times at Sumburgh quadrupled has already been agreed behind closed doors, MP Alistair Carmichael has claimed.

Mr Carmichael said he believed the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) signed a contract for the change with Bristow Helicopters some months ago.

The unpopular move will see the readiness response time at Sumburgh change from 15 minutes to 60 minutes from October 2026.

It had been slammed by Mr Carmichael and former Sumburgh chief pilot Paul Bentley.

Mr Carmichael will lead a parliamentary debate on the future of the UK’s coastguard services tomorrow (Wednesday), and he has demanded the MCA release its documents on the alleged agreement.

“Apparently the MCA’s intention is to start negotiating terms after signing the contract.

“Anyone who has ever had to reopen a contract may question what sort of leverage the agency thinks it will have in this situation.

“Call me old fashioned but I have always thought that it was best to hold local consultations and impact assessments before you make a decision, rather than after.”

Mr Bentley – who was in charge of major rescue missions such as the Braer oil tanker disaster in an-almost 29 year stint at Sumburgh – previously criticised the move strongly.

“I think a lot of people are absolutely horrified at the prospect of it,” he said.

​“When I heard about it I just couldn’t believe my ears.

“I would have fought tooth and nail against this if I had been on the site.

“I hope it doesn’t happen because I think it could possibly lead to loss of life.”

The MCA has been approached for comment.


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