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BBC Scotland's Craig Anderson
"A three-year fight to save two of Scotland's key coastguard centres is coming to an end"
 real 56k

Friday, 29 September, 2000, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
Coastguard station signs off
Oban Coastguard Station
Oban Coastguard Station has been dismantled
A Scottish coastguard station which became the subject of closure controversy has relayed its last message to shipping.

Campaigners had been trying to rescue Oban station, and the Pentland station in Orkney, from UK Government plans to mothball them.

However, the battle was lost and Oban was the first to shut down on Friday, with Pentland remaining operational until December.

Watch manager Tim Bowis relayed the final, poignant broadcast to shipping at 1000 BST.

He said: "As from 1000 local time today, Oban coastguard is now closed.

I would like to say thank you for all the support...and wish you all a calm sea and a prosperous voyage in your various endeavours.

Watch manager Tim Bowis
"On behalf of all the staff I would like to say thank you for all the support and assistance received throughout the years and wish you all a calm sea and a prosperous voyage in your various endeavours.

"Goodbye and God bless. This is Oban coastguard, out."

The Department of Transport has insisted that new technology will improve the coastguard's response to emergencies.

However fishermen's representatives have voiced fears that lives could be put at risk as a result of the changes.

Much of the equipment in the Oban coastguard station has already been ripped out in preparation for its formal closure.

The area covered by the Oban centre will now be split between stations at Greenock and Stornoway.

New digital equipment has been introduced
A new digital communications network has been installed which, senior coastguard officials say, will make the seas safer.

The existing search and rescue teams will remain in place.

However, there is concern that a lack of local knowledge could lead to vital delays in the response to potential disasters.

John McAllister, vice-president of the Scottish Fisherman's Federation, said: "I'm very disappointed.

"As this government's gone on over the last two years, they claim they're listening to the people.

"Yet again we see where there's been a great effort put forward and a great case put forward by many different bodies to save the coastguard in Oban and we've seen Mr Prescott with no interest in listening to us whatsoever.

I do believe they have made a huge and terrible mistake

Argyll and Bute MP Ray Michie
"It's the real arrogance of the government that, for saving so little money, I feel that lives could be lost by not being prepared to listen to the mariner's voice."

Argyll and Bute MP Ray Michie said: "I do believe they have made a huge and terrible mistake. The government may well rue the day that this has happened.

"They keep going on about their new technology, but people have grave reservations about new technology.

"We've seen how it has collapsed in all sorts of other sources, like the SQA, for example, and you cannot have confidence in the new technology by replacing people."

Coastguard Charlie Charlton said: "The staff here are all very sad and obviously we fought tooth and nail to keep the place open.

"We lost. We went positive and decided - okay we lost the battle, but we weren't going to lose our professionalism. We'd still be the best service right up to the last day."

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See also:

21 Jul 00 | Scotland
New ship reporting system call
23 Nov 99 | Scotland
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25 May 00 | Northern Ireland
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08 Aug 98 | UK Politics
Union anger over coastguard closures
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