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The year in figures

  • August was the busiest month in 2023.
  • The 44 Coast Guard Units were mobilised on 1,278 separate occasions.
  • Coast Guard Helicopters conducted 796 missions.
  • Royal National Lifeboat Institution lifeboats were tasked on 850 occasion
  • Community inshore rescue service boats were tasked on 76 occasions.
  • Critical assistance was provided to 665 people.
  • CG helicopters conducted 174 air ambulance flights in support of the offshore island communities

In 2023, the Irish Coast Guard coordinated responses to 2,788 incidents which is the second highest number in 5 years (2,976 in 2021). August was the busiest month with a total of 391 incidents. The incident count covers the range of services provided by the Coast Guard. Services include search and rescue, maritime casualty support and pollution preparedness and response.

IRCG also provides air ambulance services to the HSE, including day and night aeromedical services to the offshore islands, assists An Garda Síochána with missing person searches, including inland and mountain rescue, as well as provision of other support to the Emergency Services.

Critical assistance was provided to a total of 665 people. This number reflects interventions that prevented loss of life or serious injury, and emergency transfers to hospitals, including offshore, coastal, and inland incidents and offshore island aero medical support.

Following Government approval, a contract for provision of a new Coast Guard aviation contract was signed in August 2023. The contract provides for retention of day and night SAR helicopter services, located at Sligo, Shannon, Waterford, and Dublin. The contract also provides for the provision of a day and night Fixed Wing service located at Shannon.

The Fixed Wing service will enhance the Coast Guard’s Search and Rescue and environmental monitoring capability. The helicopter service will be delivered by a fleet of six AW189 helicopters. The first such helicopter is scheduled to enter service in Shannon in late 2024, to be followed by Sligo, Waterford and Dublin in the first six months of 2025.

Minister of State with special responsibility for the Irish Coast Guard, Jack Chambers, TD, said: “As we reach the end of another busy year for the Coast Guard, I want to thank all the IRCG volunteers and staff for their professionalism and commitment. I want to particularly recognise the work of the Watch Officers at Rescue Coordination Centres in Malin, Valentia and MRCC Dublin.

“During the year I had the opportunity to visit several Volunteer Coast Guard Units around the country that enabled me to recognise the services they provide to their communities and view firsthand the various challenges that they encounter.

“The opening of the volunteer Coast Guard station in Bonmahon, Co. Waterford was a particular highlight and I am committed to delivering a series of other similar developments commencing with Westport and Greystones.”

The capacity to Raise the Alarm and Stay Afloat, are central to the prevention of drownings at sea, along the coast and on inland waterways. The Coast Guard’s core safety message Stay Afloat – Stay in Touch highlights the importance of never engaging in any commercial or recreational boating activity without wearing a life jacket or Personal Flotation Device (PFD), coupled with a capacity to raise the alarm via means such as a VHF radio, Personal Locator Beacon or EPIRB.

A recent incident in Donegal where four fishers were rescued highlighted the value of wearing a PLB, because it proved to be the only means of raising the alarm, thus enabling the Coast Guard to mount a successful search and rescue mission.

Any maritime or coastal activity should be supported by informing shore-based colleagues of intended activity and anticipated return time. Mobile phones should not be considered as a suitable substitute or be relied upon as the only means of emergency communication at sea.

The Coast Guard looks forward to launching a Safety on the Water App in 2024 as an element of - Safety on the water, which will provide members of the public with immediate access to water safety information for planning coastal and water-based activities. This app will be launched under the slogan of ‘Think Water Safety – Plan and Prepare’.

The Coast Guard wishes everybody a Happy and Safe New Year and thanks the public for their ongoing support and cooperation.

Published in Coastguard
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The Coast Guard, Water Safety Ireland and the RNLI have issued a joint appeal for the festive season, urging people to be mindful of the potential risks with their chosen activity and attend to their personal safety in planning and participating in any water based or coastal activities.

The increase in popularity of festive dips and open water swimming will see a lot of people taking to the water over the next few weeks. Many people will also avail of the opportunity to participate in coastal walks and hikes. The three maritime organisations are asking people to check that they have the right information to safely enjoy these activities and that they know what to do in the event of an emergency.

For those taking part in winter dips and swims the advice is:

  • Never swim alone.
  • Ensure that somebody ashore is monitoring your activity.
  • Acclimatise slowly.
  • Stay within your depth.
  • Always be seen.
  • Organisers of Christmas day or New year swims are advised to have suitably trained personnel in attendance and to appoint a Safety Officer.

Water-based activities at this or any time of year are not limited to swimming as the popularity of kayaking, canoeing, boating, and paddle-boarding remains high. The safety advice for these activities includes:

  • Always have a means for calling for help and make sure you can access it when you are out on the water.
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return.
  • Wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid.
  • Always check the weather forecast and sea conditions before you set off.
  • If you're exploring somewhere new, seek knowledge from experienced practitioners in the area.

Water Safety Ireland’s Deputy CEO Roger Sweeney said “A full moon during Christmas week (Dec 27th) will heighten the risks for walkers and swimmers as the resulting higher high tides will make our coastline more precarious. Stay away from the water’s edge on family walks and swimmers should watch out for stronger rip currents. Stranding will also be a risk for many walkers as the lower low tides caused by the full moon will expose even greater areas of the coastline. Children are often tempted to explore these sandbanks but risk being surrounded by an incoming tide. Parents and guardians should provide constant undistracted adult supervision of their children at all times.”

RNLI Water Safety Lead Linda Gene Byrne added “This time of year sees a huge increase in people doing seasonal swims and dips, particularly for charity. We would urge people when they decide to take to the water, to make time to ensure they are doing it safely and with the correct knowledge and equipment. That time taken could save a life or another person’s life. If you need to call for help, everything that you have done to keep afloat could make all the difference.”

Coast Guard Operations manager Gerard O’Flynn commented “Please plan your activity, whether it be on the water or along the coast and only swim or walk in areas with which you are familiar. Be mindful that less busy walkways may have suffered erosion since the summertime. Always carry a means of communication, such as VHF radio or a personal locator beacon especially if going afloat. PLBs attached to a lifejacket are proven to be lifesavers”.

The Coast Guard, Water Safety Ireland and RNLI would also like to thank all the volunteers and staff of the search and rescue organisations, who keep people safe on the water all year round and whose actions have saved many lives and wish them and their families a SAFE, happy Christmas and a peaceful new year.

If you see somebody in trouble on the water or along the coast, or think they are in trouble, dial 112 or 999 and ask for the Coast Guard

Published in Coastguard

Former head of the Irish Coast Guard, Chris Reynolds, has claimed that staffing cuts by the Department of Transport were contributory factors in the death of Caitriona Lucas and the Rescue 116 helicopter crash, which claimed four lives.

As The Sunday Independent reports, Chris Reynolds, who was director of the Irish Coast Guard from 2007 to 2016, says the State’s search and rescue section is “being blamed unfairly” for the deaths due to a failure to appoint a safety systems manager recommended by consultants four years before the two incidents.

Independent Clare TD Michael McNamara called for a statutory inquiry into Lucas’s death, stating that the recent inquest into her death had highlighted “a number of very disturbing features”.

Lucas (41), a mother of two and an advanced coxswain with Doolin Coast Guard, died after the rigid inflatable boat (RIB) she was crewing on with the neighbouring Kilkee unit capsized off the Clare coast on September 12th, 2016.

The week-long inquest at Kilmallock court, Co Limerick returned a verdict of misadventure and made seven recommendations relating to Coast Guard safety, management and training.

During the inquest, the Coast Guard’s failure to appoint a safety systems manager recommended in 2012, four years before Lucas’s death, was cited by her family’s legal team, as were internal difficulties within the Kilkee unit which had led to crewing shortages.

The inquest heard that Lucas, who had gone to help out the Kilkee unit in a search for a missing man, was conscious for 17 minutes in the water after the RIB capsized. Having lost her helmet on impact, she sustained a head injury and lost consciousness.

The inquest also heard that a second RIB with the Kilkee unit could have conducted a rescue within ten minutes if two of three crew available to launch it had not left the scene.

The inquest heard that a Health and Safety Authority (HSA) investigation was delayed for nine months by the Coast Guard, as it had questioned the HSA’s legal remit.

The HSA inspector was unable to inspect the safety equipment which Lucas had been wearing – including her helmet.

The inquest was told that her drysuit, which had filled with water, was destroyed rather than kept as evidence.

Reynolds told The Sunday Independent that he had asked to be interviewed by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) and the HSA, both of which had investigated Lucas’s death, but was not given the opportunity

A Department of Transport spokesperson told the newspaper that following Ms Lucas’s death, the HSA and the MCIB conducted reviews and “the Irish Coast Guard has worked to implement the recommendations”. It has also accepted the recommendations of the recent inquest into her death.

Read The Sunday Independent here

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An Independent TD has called for a statutory inquiry into the death of Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitríona Lucas off the Clare coast over seven years ago.

Clare Independent TD Michael McNamara raised the issue in the Dáil following the recent inquest, which returned a verdict of misadventure in relation to Ms Lucas’s death.

As Clare FM Radio reports, McNamara claimed those in government who failed to implement safety measures had much to answer for. The inquest heard how a recommendation in 2012 for a safety systems manager at the Irish Coast Guard was not put into place until two years after Ms Lucas’s death.

The inquest jury issued seven recommendations relating to equipment, safety and training. One of the inquest’s findings was that Ms Lucas was conscious in the water for 17 minutes, and that a second rigid inflatable boat owned by the Kilkee Coast Guard unit could have been launched and at the scene within ten minutes.

The Clare FM report is here

Published in Coastguard

A jury has returned a unanimous verdict of misadventure at the inquest into the circumstances surrounding the death of Irish Coast Guard advanced coxswain Caitriona Lucas off the Clare coast in September 2016.

The verdict was issued by a jury of four men and three women before Limerick coroner John McNamara at Kilmallock Court on Thursday evening.

Seven recommendations were also made by the jury in relation to safety management, training and equipment used by the Irish Coast Guard.

Ms Lucas (41), an experienced member of the Doolin Coast Guard and mother of two, died after the Kilkee Coast Guard Delta rigid inflatable boat (RIB) she was crewing on capsized during a search for a missing man on September 12th, 2016.

She was the first Irish Coast Guard volunteer to lose her life during a tasking.

Marine expert Michael Kingston, representing the Lucas family, had sought a verdict of unlawful killing.

However, Mr Simon Mills, senior counsel for the Department of Transport and Irish Coastguard, said “the verdict of unlawful killing was not one open to the jury on the facts of the case".

Attending the four-day full hearing, which had been preceded by two preliminary hearings in April and June, were Ms Lucas’s husband, Bernard, son Ben and daughter Emma, father Tom Deely, and siblings Padraig and Bríd, along with long time friend and former Doolin Coast Guard member Davy Spillane.

In a statement afterwards on behalf of the Lucas family, her son Ben said that “the Irish Coast Guard’s failure to have proper safety systems caused my mother’s death”, and “the minister in charge of the transport department in 2012 should be held to account”.

He said there were “critical lessons to be learned”, and the jury had made recommendations that should have been made seven years ago “to protect life”.

Ben Lucas said criticised the delay in holding the inquest, and said that “the preservation and production of evidence has been appalling”.

“Irish Coast Guard management, the Attorney General’s office and the Department of Transport did not act on a critical report in 2012 that instructed them to put in place a senior safety systems manager in the Irish Coast Guard that never happened, and my mother went to help others but was let down so terribly,” Mr Lucas said.

The hearing heard 28 depositions, including evidence that a recommendation for a safety systems manager at the Irish Coast Guard in 2012 was not implemented till 2018.

It heard that “interpersonal issues”, which had been reported to Irish Coast Guard management the previous March (2016), had led to a loss of experienced volunteers at the Kilkee unit – which meant “flanking stations”, including Doolin which Ms Lucas was a member of, were asked to help out.

It heard Ms Lucas was conscious in the water for 17 minutes after the Kilkee Delta RIB was hit by a wave and capsized in a shallow surf zone at Lookout Bay off Kilkee, and that a second RIB owned by the Kilkee unit could have reached the area to effect a rescue of all three on board within 10 minutes.

However, after Kilkee deputy officer-in-charge Orla Hassett called for that D-class rib to be launched, she had to requisition a privately owned vessel which rescued one of the three, Kilkee volunteer Jenny Carway.

Kilkee Delta RIB coxswain James Lucey, was rescued some hours later by the Shannon Coast Guard helicopter, which also airlifted Ms Lucas on board earlier and flew her to Limerick University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The inquest heard that the cause of Ms Lucas’s death was due to drowning, but a head injury which could have caused temporary loss of consciousness was a contributory factor.

Two State investigations have already taken place into Ms Lucas’s death, and three years ago the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) directed that no criminal charges would be brought arising from an HSA inquiry.

A separate MCIB report was critical of the Irish Coast Guard’s safety management system and outlined a number of systems and equipment failures in relation to the Kilkee unit.

Summing up for the jury at the inquest in Kilmallock, Limerick coroner John McNamara said it appeared there was a “brain drain” in relation to the Kilkee unit and some “confusion” about the command structure of the unit.

He said that Ms Hassett had put it “quite succinctly” that this was not relevant when three people were available to launch a second RIB to effect a rescue.

He recalled that evidence had been heard about previous recommendations, including those in an appendix to the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) inquiry into Ms Lucas’s death relating to a previous incident in a surf zone off Inch, Co Kerry, in 2014.

He said that the Kilkee unit was not aware of those Inch recommendations, and he noted evidence from HSA inspector Helen McCarthy that there was no site-specific risk assessment of the area where the capsize occurred and no map of hazardous areas at the Kilkee station.

Mr McNamara recalled evidence being heard that the radar system on the RIB was not operational, one of its seats was not in commission, and the radio was not working.

He noted that British marine safety expert Nick Bailey had confirmed the equipment was suitable for use in Irish coastal areas, but there was an issue for the Irish Coast Guard with helmets coming off on impact.

Earlier, Mr Bailey said in evidence that the loss of helmets by all three Coast Guard crew after the Kilkee Delta RIB capsized “should raise concerns” with the Coast Guard in relation to their design and whether they were being worn correctly.

Mr Bailey confirmed that Ms Lucas’s drysuit – which the inquest heard earlier in the week to have been taking water when she was recovered - was not available for his inspection.

Mr Bailey told the inquest that he had examined Coast Guard safety equipment, including lifejackets, helmets and drysuits, at the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) on June 12th, 2017, nine months after the incident in which Ms Lucas lost her life.

The inquest had already heard that the HSA was unable to start its investigation until then, when it could establish it had a legal right to do so, and was only given access to one piece of Ms Lucas’s safety gear – as in her drysuit, which it was allowed to photograph only, and which was then disposed of in a skip.

Mr Bailey said that in his assessment, the drysuit and thermal clothing used by the Irish Coast Guard was “appropriate” for the type of work it was doing in Irish waters.

He said that while the type of lifejacket he had examined was a “reasonable compromise” between support and free movement, it would not necessarily keep an unconscious person upturned with a clear airway.

The inquest heard that this Mullion design of lifejackets has since been withdrawn by the Irish Coast Guard..

In his summing up, Mr McNamara said that “it is clear that if Ms Lucas’s helmet had remained on, it may have avoided the head injury that she sustained”.

Mr McNamara said it was “unfortunate” that her drysuit, which had filled with water, was not available for inspection by the HSA or its experts.

The coroner said that “we don’t know what the outcome would have been” if the Kilkee D-class RIB had been launched, but Mr Kingston had established from drone footage that there was a window of 17 minutes.

“Ms Hassett, an experienced volunteer, felt they could have attempted a successful rescue,” he said, and he paid tribute to her presence of mind and that of Garda sergeant John Moloney in requisitioning a civilian vessel which rescued Ms Carway.

“This occurred within an emergency situation, with a lot of pressure on everyone involved,” he said. He also commended those who had recorded the drone footage.

The jury of four men and three women issued seven recommendations related to safety, equipment, training and implementation of previous reviews.

Condolences were expressed to the Lucas family by the coroner, Gardai, legal representatives of both sides and the HSA.

The seven recommendations made by the jury at the Caitriona Lucas inquest are:

  • Each Coast Guard station should take appropriate steps to ensure Irish Coast Guard volunteers are aware of relevant exclusions for Coast Guard vessels and where possible display same clearly at the base station;
  • an immediate ongoing review of training of Coast Guard volunteers/staff should provide up-to-date training for capsize incidents;
  • an ongoing review should take place of the suitability of all safety gear, including helmets, to ensure safety in operational conditions;
  • there should be “urgent” implementation/education of all lessons learned and recommendations of all reviews into Coast Guard incidents;
  • measures should be taken to ensure that all Coast Guard vessels are fitted with voyage data recorders;
  • there should be establishment of an appropriate centralised safety management/portal for identified risk issues on a confidential basis;
  • and the Irish Coast Guard should consider ongoing training for the officer-in-charge (OIC) and deputy OIC “as appropriate” at units.
Published in Coastguard

The continuing inquest into the death of Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitriona Lucas off the Clare coast over seven years ago has heard that she was conscious in the water for almost 17 minutes after the RIB she was crewing on capsized.

As The Irish Times reports, Clare Civil Defence member Stephen Hayes described how he flew a drone to try to get visuals on the three crew of the Kilkee Coast Guard RIB.

Two of the three were rescued. Ms Lucas, a highly experienced member of the Doolin Coast Guard who was helping out Kilkee on a search did not survive after she was airlifted from the water.

Hayes said that the time stamp on the video recording of the incident indicated that Lucas lost consciousness at 1.27.50 or almost 1.28 pm, which was almost 17 minutes after the alarm was raised.

Irish Coast Guard volunteer Gary Kiely told the inquest that the Kilkee Coast Guard Unit had been short of members at the time.

At a meeting three days before the incident, Kiely said he suggested approaching some experienced members who had left the unit to return.

He said that Irish Coast Guard manager Micheal O’Toole said he didn’t think it was necessary given the time of year but promised to revisit the issue.

Kiely said that local knowledge was also important as the tide could often come around the headland into Lookout Bay with swells breaking into high waves.

Martony Vaughan, who had stepped down as officer in charge of the Kilkee Coast Guard Unit on September 11th told the inquest he had driven with fellow Coast Guard member Rose Keane to the cliff tops overlooking the scene of the capsizing as soon as the alarm was raised.

Vaughan agreed with maritime expert Michael Kingston, representing the Lucas family, that there was no Irish Coast Guard presence on the water at the scene for a period until the Irish Coast Guard Shannon-based helicopter arrived at 1.38 pm and airlifted Lucas from the water at 1.41 pm.

Read The Irish Times here

Published in Coastguard

The work of the Irish Coast Guard, mountain rescue and community rescue boat teams is profiled in a new series filmed last autumn for TG4.

Tarrthálaithe na hÉireann, an eight-part series, was made by Big Mountain Productions and starts on October 5th on TG4.

It follows the Irish Coast Guard, mountain rescue teams and community rescue boats on call-outs, training and fundraising events.

User-generated content (UGC) was created through wearable tech and drones, the film company says, and it worked with the Valentia Coast Guard station and Rescue 118 crews based at the Irish Coast Guard Sligo helicopter base.

The Costelloe Bay Coast Guard Team appear in episode one of TG4's Tarrthálaithe na hÉireannThe Costelloe Bay Coast Guard Team appear in episode one of TG4's Tarrthálaithe na hÉireann

Coast Guard units from Mulroy and An Bun Beag in Donegal, Ros an Mhíl in Conamara and Wexford’s Cahore point were involved, along with the Sligo/Leitrim, Kerry, Dublin/Wicklow and the South East Mountain Rescue teams.

Volunteers from the specialist dog rescue unit SARDA, and community inshore rescue teams based at Banna Beach Kerry and Bantry Bay, West Cork are also featured.

Jarlath Folan from the specialist dog rescue unit SARDA 4  appear in episode one of TG4's Tarrthálaithe na hÉireannJarlath Folan from the specialist dog rescue unit SARDA 4 appear in episode one of TG4's Tarrthálaithe na hÉireann

The series was made with the full cooperation of the Irish Coast Guard and the Department of Transport.

An Bun Beag Coast Guard appear in in episode five of TG4's Tarrthálaithe na hÉireannAn Bun Beag Coast Guard appear in in episode five of TG4's Tarrthálaithe na hÉireann

Tarrthálaithe na hÉireann is on Thursdays from October 5th at 8 pm on TG4 and is available on the TG4 player.

Published in Maritime TV

Unions representing Irish Coast Guard search and rescue (SAR) air crew and engineers are due to meet Bristow Ireland later this month in relation to employment under the new SAR contract.

Trade union Fórsa, representing air crew, and Unite, representing engineers, expect to meet with Bristow representatives in late September in relation to job guarantees.

This follows a statement by Bristow Ireland earlier this week that it has given a commitment to the Department of Transport that “the company supports the principles of TUPE and that we would fully engage with Fórsa and UNITE [unions] as part of the mobilisation phase of the contract”.

“We are fully committed to establishing pathways for personnel currently servicing the existing SAR contract to join Bristow. We look forward to early engagement with both Fórsa and UNITE,” it said.

Under Transfer of Business (TUPE) regulations applying to Ireland, a new employer is legally obliged to take on the existing employees of the business.

The new employer must take on the employees on the same terms and conditions, except for pensions.

CHC Ireland air crew were so concerned about this that they participated in a safety stand-down on September 8th, where each of four SAR bases went “off-line” for an hour at lunchtime.

“Lack of confirmation re continuity of employment, under TUPE Regulations, for CHC staff has led to elevated levels of stress amongst staff and therefore the safety stand down is necessary at this time,” CHC Ireland said.

Over 140 people have been employed by CHC Ireland at four SAR bases over the past 20 years of the current contract.

Separately, CHC Ireland has confirmed that it is continuing its legal challenge over the awarding of the contract by the Department of Transpo

Published in Coastguard

Bristow Ireland Limited, the company that is set to take over the Coast Guard search and rescue contract in Ireland from October 2024, has pledged to work closely with unions to ensure a smooth transition for staff.

The company has expressed its support for the transfer of undertakings regulations and has committed to engaging with Fórsa and Unite as part of the mobilisation phase of the contract. Bristow has also assured that it will establish pathways for personnel currently servicing the existing SAR (search and rescue) contract to join its team.

In a statement, the company said, "We look forward to early engagement with both Fórsa and Unite."

"Bristow Ireland Limited, which will operate the SAR (search and rescue) contract in Ireland from October 2024, has given a commitment to the Department of Transport that the company supports the principles of TUPE and that we would fully engage with Fórsa and UNITE as part of the mobilisation phase of the contract", the statement said.

As Afloat reported previously, CHC Ireland, which currently operates the Coast Guard search and rescue service, announced last Friday safety stand-downs at four search and rescue bases due to concerns for the health and well-being of staff.

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Irish Coast Guard helicopters will be “offline” from 12 noon to 1400 hours today at all four search and rescue bases, amid concerns among its air crew about future employment.

A statement from CHC Ireland this morning said it was announcing a “safety stand down” for their four all weather search and rescue (SAR) bases in Sligo, Shannon, Dublin and Waterford from 1200 to 1400 hours today,September 8th.

“Due to increased concern for the health and wellbeing of CHC staff following the awarding of the SAR contract to Bristow Ireland Ltd, commencing in July 2025, all four bases will be offline from 12 to 2 pm today. A reduced service will be available during this time,” the statement said.

In a further statement, CHC Ireland said that its  Shannon and Dublin SAR bases would be offline from 12 pm to 1 pm, and Sligo and Waterford would be offline from 1 pm until 2 pm.

"During these times, two helicopters will be online for the duration of the safety stand down," the company said.

“Lack of confirmation re continuity of employment, under TUPE Regulations, for CHC staff has led to elevated levels of stress amongst staff and therefore, the safety stand down is necessary at this time,” the statement said.

TUPE regulations relate to undertakings on transfer of employees to new employers under a 2003 EU regulation.

“ It is incumbent on us to protect the safety and wellbeing of our staff. By taking this necessary measure we can ensure that we continue to operate safely, without outside distractions and remain focused on the life-saving work we do for the Irish Coast Guard “ Rob Tatten, CHC Director of Operations and Accountable Manager Ireland, said in the statement.

CHC Ireland is currently pursuing a legal challenge, following the Minister for Transport’s decision to award a new ten-year SAR contract for the Irish Coast Guard to Bristow Ireland.

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