#islandnation – Why do people still use a boat when they do not have enough basic knowledge of the movement of tides, sea conditions and the responsibility upon them that, if they go out on the water then they must be able to get back safely to shore themselves?
That question come to mind when examining the RNLI statistics for the past summer during which there were 377 calls for help to the lifeboat service. This was down slightly from 389 in the previous year, but again many of the launches were due to what the RNLI describes as "people getting caught out by the tide, problems with their vessel's engine or machinery and an increasing range of leisure marine activities."
Lifeboat crews have told me privately that there are cases where they feel people are not taking their own safety precautions, not planning sufficiently and not even carrying enough fuel in powerboats or unaware of the basic fact that tide changes can make a return journey longer than an outward one.
The RNLI always responds to calls for help, but while it is good to see more marine leisure interest and use, people must have a basic knowledge of the water if they are to use a boat. There are still too many who do not understand how to behave on the water, who do not know who has right-of-way, when not to be speeding around ports and harbours endangering or inconveniencing others, particularly moored boats and so on. Regrettably, water idiots and water hogs are plentiful in all parts of the coast.
The RNLI figures cover the period June 1 to August 31 2012. The busiest station overall in Ireland was Enniskillen which has two inshore lifeboats on Lough Erne and two Rescue Water Craft. They launched 23 times over the summer. They were followed by Dun Laoghaireand lifeboat crews in Bangor and Portrush who all launched 18 times each. The next busiest station was Baltimore in West Cork. The newly-opened lifeboat station on Lough Ree at Coosan Point in Athlone, which is currently on a twelve month trial, was also busy with nine launches this summer.
Alongside the rescues and calls for assistance there were also a number of tragedies this summer. During one week in August five lives were lost in four separate tragedies off the coasts of Cork, Mayo and Clare. Lifeboat crews were involved in searches with colleagues in the Irish Coast Guard, Garda and Navy divers, sub aqua clubs, local boats and volunteers.
Owen Medland, RNLI Training Divisional Inspector said: "This has been another busy summer for the RNLI despite the unpredictable weather. There have been some stories of incredible bravery and also some stories of devastating loss. In all cases our lifeboat volunteers have shown extreme professionalism and commitment."
There are 44 RNLI lifeboat stations in Ireland with three operating inland at Lough Erne in Enniskillen, Lough Derg in Dromineer and Lough Ree in Athlone.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR A CAREER AT SEA
The National Maritime College of Ireland will hold an open day at Ringaskiddy on Tuesday next, October 23, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. when representatives from international shipping companies and maritime organisations will be available to provide information about careers in the maritime industry.
There will be tours of the college including the ship simulators, sea survival centre and engineering workshops. There will also be opportunities to meet maritime companies and organisations as well as presentations on course opportunities at the NMCI. More information by Email: [email protected] or phone 021 4970607.
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which represents over 80% of the world merchant fleet, is opposing a proposal by the International Salvage Union for new charges for what the Union terms 'environmental salvage', in cases where salvors have carried out operations in respect of a ship or cargo which has presented a threat of damage to the environment. There are also suggestions by the Salvage Union for other alterations to existing salvage rules which are controversial in regard to the opposition by shipowners.
"ICS remains deeply sceptical about the proposal for a separate environmental salvage award, especially as salvage services are already generously rewarded under the present system," the Chamber says. In co-operation with the International Group of P&I Clubs, representing ship insurers, ICS leads shipowner representation on salvage issues, such as in relation to the operation of the Lloyd's Open Form (LOF) – which
The International Union of Marine Insurance has also said that the proposals need further consideration.
LOCK RESTORATION IN NEWRY AND PORTADOWN
The Newry and Portadown branch of the Inland Waterways Association has been doing great work on restoring locks 2 and 3 which had originally I am told been restored by Newry and Mourne Council in the 1990s but had fallen into disrepair.
Lock restoration at Newry and Portadown. Photo: IWAI
There has been considerable support for weekend work parties and the rivers agency has also been helpful. It is good to see such dedicated voluntary commitment and there is further work I am told to be done as far as Sand's Mill including debris cleaning and there are hopes that a small boat rally will be possible in the area next month. It is some 50 years since there was boat traffic in this canal area I understand.
HOW MANY SHIPWRECKS AROUND IRELAND?
Just how many shipwrecks are there around the Irish coastline?
That question has been asked of me by readers following my report on the recovery of millions of Euros worth of silver from a shipwreck three hundred miles off the coast and for which Cork port has been used by vessels involved. This is the wreck of the SS.Gairsoppa.
The answer to the question is that there could be somewhere around 15,000 or more shipwrecks around the island of Ireland when the 32 Counties of this island are take into account. There have been official surveys and many books published about Irish shipwrecks, but there is no common agreement about the total number and, from time-to-time, more are located.
Writer Edward Bourke, a maritime historian specialising in the history of shipwrecks around the coastline has written a series of three volumes listing 7,000 wrecks.
"The listing of shipwrecks can never be complete," he said, "because information emerges from new sources regularly and new wrecks are discovered."
A Northern Ireland website, 'My Secret Northern Ireland,' which lists wrecks on that coastline answers the question with three points:
• First, the British have been a traditionally strong seafaring people and most of the routes from Britain to the rest of the world pass either to the north or the south of Ireland
• Second, the waters around the British Isles have seen much fighting at sea especially during the two world wars
• Third, the weather has contributed its own share, more so in older times when sailing ships were more susceptible to the whims of nature
The Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government in the Republic published the 'Shipwreck Inventory of Ireland,' listing 3,000 vessels which were wrecked prior to 1946 off the coasts of Counties Louth, Meath, Dublin and Wicklow.
Karl Brady who compiled that volume of research work wrote: "As a consequence of the high level of maritime traffic in our seas and the hazards associated with seafaring, a large number of vessels have been stranded or wrecked around our coast. It is estimated that up to 15,000 shipwrecks may lie in Irish territorial waters."
The Department undertook this project to quantify Ireland's maritime heritage and create an archive of all recorded incidences of shipwrecking around our coast. This was valuable research work which, in my view, would help raise awareness generally of the maritime sphere and the historic and cultural importance of the various elements of our maritime heritage. As in other aspects of life, the current economic cutbacks may have affected the progress of this research.
In early Summer this year there was considerable interest off Schull in West Cork when the wreck of a wooden merchant ship, believed to date back to the 16th century, was discovered buried into the seabed in 10 metres of water just off the shoreline. It was located during construction work on a waste water treatment plant. The ship's cargo appeared to have included coconuts.
NO PLACE FOR COUNCILLORS
Politicians who are local councillors around the country have been finding the unexpected results of a change of regulations which the Minister for Transport introduced. Its effect, apparently, is that councillors are no longer entitled to be nominated as members of the boards of port companies. Board members are being appointed directly by the Minister according to local politician. In Cork I have been told by some of them that they think it is a blow to local democracy that what they saw as a longstanding link between the views of the public expressed through them and the port company has been lost. The port is a vital part of Cork economic life and the loss of the presence of local councillors does raise issues of democratic representation on such an important body.
Email your comments on maritime matters to : [email protected]
Follow Tom for more maritime news and comment on Twitter: @TomMacSweeney