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Lighthouses & Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL)
The role of lighthouses that are dotted throughout our rugged long coastline, to many conjure images of isolated places marking a romantic headland, where tales of lightkeepers, shipwrecks and smuggling abound are told through local folklore and spread down through the generations.
However, lighthouses over the centuries are of course to assist in the important and vital role of protecting the lives of mariners and all while out at sea. To the present day, the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL) are the guardians of our seas around the entire island of Ireland, north and south.
Lighthouses play a vital role for the safety of seafarers, their ships and cargoes, bringing imports and exports, ensuring the captains of industry efficiently employ the crew that makes up our island nation's wellbeing. Yet, in which we so much heavily depend for our daily lives and arguably do not collectively appreciate the combination of ships and lighthouses and other aids to navigation (AtoN).
As such it's not just the lighthouses that mark our main ports, buys the thousands of buoys that mark the shipping lane approaches and channels to our ports, harbour's, bays, creeks and estuaries.
Some lighthouses are iconic, marking a port entrance, harbour mouth, or perched on a cliff headland, but also those on island or standing like a needle on the far distant horizon, standing precariously a top of a reef, islet or rock.
In recent years, the remaining handful of Automatic Light-floats (ALF), converted manned lightships and Large Automatic Navigation Buoy LANBY –a smaller version of an AFT, essentially a light -tower structure atop of a circular hull anchored to the seabed, have all gone having been replaced by superior 'Super Buoys' .
In addition to these AtoNs our seas are marked with beacons and radio aids to assist marine navigation. Together these AtoNs are not just for the safe guidance to seafarers for the shipping industry, but for mariners of all types and sizes of marine craft.
To ensure all these navigations aids are in constant working order, particularly the major AtoNs, there is a 24 monitoring using sophisticated technology based from CIL headquarters in Dun Laoghaire Harbour, which includes administration offices and maintenance workshop depot facility.
Another vitally essential component of CIL service is the lighthouse tender, which these days are referred to aids to navigation vessels, where the ILV Granuaile's homeport is also based in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. She can be seen regularly operating arriving and departing with a host of brightly coloured buoys, all in which have been repaired, require work, upgrading or replacement.
The activities of ILV Granuaile are carried out right around our coast, and are not strictly confined to servicing buoyage systems and lighthouses replenishment but surveying and wreck marking or removal. Granuaile is also a strategic state asset and has been employed for commercial contracts.
Finally how are lighthouses etc, funded? Light dues from commercial shipping calling to Irish and UK ports are directed into the General Lighthouse Fund (GLA) and the Irish Government contributes to this fund too.
CIL is part of an integrated system of AtoNs managed around the Irish and UK coasts, where Trinity House is responsible for the waters off England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar, and the Northern Lighthouse Board is responsible for Scottish waters and the Isle of Man.