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Philip Bartlett has been appointed Bristow Ireland’s director of Irish search and rescue (SAR) helicopter and fixed-wing aviation.

“Bartlett will be responsible for leading the Bristow Ireland team responsible for delivering life-saving missions across the country,” the company says.

Bristow Ireland is due to take over provision of rotary and fixed-wing aviation services for the Irish Coast Guard, and received its air operator certificate from the Irish Aviation Authority earlier this year.

As part of the contract with the Department of Transport, the company will run six SAR-configured AW189 helicopters from dedicated bases in Shannon, Sligo, Waterford, and Weston.

The new contract will include a day and night fixed-wing service operating out of Shannon.

Bartlett has 33 years of experience in Irish and British aviation, and was most recently chief technical officer for Shannon Technical Services.

Before that, Bartlett was a technical operations manager for Nordic Aviation Capital, where Bristow Ireland says he “gained a perspective on the regional aircraft leasing business, including managing aircraft deliveries and returns, to and from various international airlines”.

He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering (Hons) in aircraft engineering, aerodynamics, business, and quality from Kingston University.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society; an incorporated engineer with the British Engineering Council; and holds an EASA Part 66 and national aircraft maintenance engineer’s license from the Irish Aviation Authority.

Published in Coastguard

Minister of State with responsibility for the Irish Coast Guard Jack Chambers will turn the sod on a new Coast Guard station for Westport in south Mayo on Thursday (March 27).

Members of the Coast Guard will join the junior minister to break ground on the new project at the Quay at Cloonmonad, Westport.

The proposed building will consist of a two-storey accommodation block and a single-storey boathouse with vehicle storage along with changing rooms, a meeting room and staff facilities.

Westport’s Coast Guard unit currently operates from a small, temporary facility. Completing the new building will take 18 months.

Mayo Fine Gael TD Michael Ring had said the new building is “vital” for the success of the Coast Guard’s ongoing work as a unit.

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Five crew members were rescued by the Irish Coast Guard after their fishing vessel ran aground on the northern side of Inis Mór, on the Aran Islands. The emergency call was received by the Valentia Coast Guard shortly before 5am this morning.

The 21-metre fishing vessel had five crew members on board who initially abandoned the vessel into a life raft. Shannon-based Coast Guard Helicopter R115, Aran Islands RNLI lifeboat, and North Aran Coast Guard Unit were all immediately dispatched to the scene to assist with the rescue operation.

The lifeboat from the Aran Islands stood by during a rescue operation off the north coast of Inis Mor for a grounded vising vesselThe RNLI lifeboat from the Aran Islands stood by during a rescue operation off the north coast of Inis Mor for a grounded vising vessel

The crew members were subsequently winched to safety by R115 with the Aran Islands lifeboat standing by. They were then transferred to University Hospital Galway for further medical evaluation.

Despite the ordeal, the five-person crew were reported to be in good spirits after receiving medical attention. The swift response of the Coast Guard teams was praised by local authorities and the community at large.

RNLI adds: 

Aran Islands RNLI responded to a Mayday in the early hours of this morning (Sunday 3 March) to rescue the crew of a fishing vessel that had run aground. It was the second call out in two days for the station’s volunteers.

The all-weather crew were requested to launch their lifeboat at 4.51am by the Irish Coast Guard following a Mayday call from the crew of a fishing boat that had ran aground at An Coirnéal Port Eochla on the north side of Inis Mór. The lifeboat launched shortly after with six crew onboard.

In the 20 minutes it took to get to the scene, the fishing vessel had started to take on water and was beginning to list to the left. Arriving, the lifeboat crew observed that all five fishermen had abandoned their 21m trawler and were in a life raft alongside the vessel. All were safe and well and in good spirits.

Weather on scene at the time was blowing a force 5 north west wind which was easing and there was a moderate sea of 2m and good visibility.

The Irish Coast Guard helicopter, Rescue 115 from Shannon was also tasked along with Coast Guard and Fire Service units to the shore side.

Having assessed the situation, a decision was made by Aran Islands RNLI Coxswain Declan Branigan to launch the lifeboat’s smaller daughter inflatable lifeboat should it be needed to access closer to shore. On arrival of Rescue 115, the situation was further assessed and it was agreed that the safest option was to winch the five fishermen to safety. The lifeboat stood by until all casualties were accounted for before returning to Kilronan Pier at 7.30am this morning.

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In a long-range mission coordinated by the Malin Head Coast Guard Coordination Centre, the Dublin-based Coast Guard Helicopter R116 successfully evacuated a seriously ill fisherman from a Norwegian vessel 160 miles west of Erris Head, Co. Mayo. The evacuation, carried out in collaboration with the UK and Norwegian Coast Guards.

The Shannon-based Coast Guard Helicopter R115 was also deployed as a secondary support asset, shadowing R116 throughout the mission.

The rescuers battled strong winds and rough seas to reach the stricken vessel and airlift the casualty onboard.

After being winched aboard R116 at 12:50pm, the fisherman was immediately transported to University Hospital Galway, where he was transferred into the care of the HSE.

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In a joint operation between the Marine Rescue Sub-Centre in Valentia and the UK Coast Guard, a casualty from a merchant vessel was successfully rescued from 120 miles off the South West Coast.

The mission was carried out by the Shannon-based Coast Guard Helicopter R115, which received top cover support from a UK Coastguard fixed-wing aircraft.

The operation was carefully planned by Valentia and UK colleagues, who had been collaborating since late yesterday afternoon as the vessel transited from the Atlantic.

The casualty was safely landed at Cork Airport and then transferred to Cork University Hospital by ambulance.

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The Minister of State responsible for the Irish Coast Guard, Jack Chambers TD, officially opened the newly constructed Coast Guard station in Bonmahon, Co. Waterford today.

Following a significant investment by the Department of Transport of €5.2m, the volunteers at the Bonmahon Coast Guard unit will now take up residency at their new facility. Over the past three years, the Bonmahon Coast Guard Unit has attended 89 incidents, and this new facility will enhance the Coast Guard activities undertaken by the unit.

(Above and below) The Minister of State responsible for the Irish Coast Guard, Jack Chambers TD, officially opened the newly constructed Coast Guard station in Bonmahon, Co. Waterford today in the presence of Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan and local TD Mary Butler(Above and below) The Minister of State responsible for the Irish Coast Guard, Jack Chambers TD, officially opened the newly constructed Coast Guard station in Bonmahon, Co. Waterford today in the presence of Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan and local TD Mary Butler

(Above and below) The Minister of State responsible for the Irish Coast Guard, Jack Chambers TD, officially opened the newly constructed Coast Guard station in Bonmahon, Co. Waterford today in the presence of Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan and local TD Mary Butler

As Afloat reported previously, the first sod was turned on the building in September 2022.

Minister of State Chambers commented: “The men and women of our Coast Guard undertake incredible, lifesaving work - often in the very worst conditions - and it is essential they are supported in their role, which is at the very heart of our coastal communities."

"The opening of this €5.2m station house, which is the first new Coast Guard building since 2014, marks the ongoing commitment by the Department of Transport in developing the volunteer service. The Coast Guard, through the building programme is committed to the ongoing construction of rescue stations around the coast."

"The new station provides state-of-the-art facilities, including training rooms, operations rooms, offices, garage space, welfare facilities and vehicle parking. It will serve the Bonmahon Coast Guard unit and the public for many decades to come.”

The new Bonmahon Coastguard station provides state-of-the-art facilitiesThe new Bonmahon Coastguard station provides state-of-the-art facilities

Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan said:

“On behalf of my colleagues in the OPW, I am pleased to announce that the construction of the new Coast Guard station in Bonmahon is now complete. This purpose-built facility will provide the Unit and volunteers with modern accommodation and significantly improved storage facilities."

“The commitment and dedication of the volunteers is second to none, and I am delighted that this new facility will assist them in delivering this invaluable service along the South East Coast.”

As Minister of State with responsibility for the Coast Guard, Minister Chambers presented the 200th-year commemorative ‘Proof of Service at a Wreck’ tokens to the Bonmahon unit to acknowledge the IRCG’s 200th anniversary since 1822.

Ahead of presenting the tokens, Minister Chambers said:

“These tokens are a symbol of appreciation for the work the volunteers do in search and rescue. And as the final unit of the 44 units to be awarded these tokens, I am delighted it coincides with the opening of this new station.”

(Above and below) As Minister of State with responsibility for the Coast Guard, Minister Chambers (left) presented the 200th-year commemorative ‘Proof of Service at a Wreck’ tokens to the Bonmahon unit to acknowledge the IRCG’s 200th anniversary since 1822(Above and below) As Minister of State with responsibility for the Coast Guard, Minister Chambers (left) presented the 200th-year commemorative ‘Proof of Service at a Wreck’ tokens to the Bonmahon unit to acknowledge the IRCG’s 200th anniversary since 1822

(Above and below) As Minister of State with responsibility for the Coast Guard, Minister Chambers (left) presented the 200th-year commemorative ‘Proof of Service at a Wreck’ tokens to the Bonmahon unit to acknowledge the IRCG’s 200th anniversary since 1822

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As the inquest into the death of Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitriona Lucas continues, the court has heard how she was both fastidious and dedicated.

Health and Safety Authority (HSA) inspector Helen McCarthy told the coroner John McNamara and jury that she had seen Ms Lucas’s Irish Coast Guard logbook during her time with the Doolin unit.

“I have never seen anything quite so meticulous,” she told the Limerick coroner John McNamara at Kilmallock courthouse.

Simon Mills, senior counsel for the Department of Transport and Irish Coast Guard, said Ms Lucas was “an absolutely fantastic member of the Coast Guard”.

A senior officer with the Irish Coast Guard’s Kilkee unit told the third day of the inquest on Wednesday that its D-class rescue craft could have been on scene within ten minutes if she had the trained crew to launch it.

Orla Hassett, Kilkee Coast Guard deputy officer-in-charge (OIC) and a paramedic with the National Ambulance Service, also said that numbers in the Kilkee unit had dwindled so much that they had to seek help from “flanking stations” – including the Doolin unit, which Ms Lucas was a volunteer with.

Responding to questions from marine expert Michael Kingston, representing the Lucas family, Ms Hassett said she had informed Irish Coast Guard management the previous March (2016) of “escalating issues” which could affect rescue taskings due to “inter-personal” relations.

She said that Kilkee volunteer numbers had fallen from 30 in 2010 to 12 by 2013, and “four very experienced members” left in the weeks before the incident.

Ms Lucas (41), an advanced coxswain with Doolin Coast Guard and mother of two, died after the Kilkee Coast Guard Delta RIB she was helping out with as crew capsized during a search for a missing man on September 12, 2016.

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

A consultant pathologist Dr Teresa Laszlo told the inquest that cause of death was due to drowning, but said that a skull injury which could cause temporary loss of consciousness could have been a contributory factor.

HSA inspector Ms McCarthy confirmed that her employer had to seek legal advice before it could start its investigation, which delayed it by nine months, and she did not have immediate access to Ms Lucas’s personal protective equipment (PPE).

The HSA was able to establish that a Coast Guard RIB was a place of work under existing legislation, and that the Irish Coast Guard has a duty of care to all its staff and volunteers.

PPE was given to the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB ), which did permit her to photograph Ms Lucas’s drysuit but she could not take it in evidence, she said.

She did not see Ms Lucas’s helmet, and was sent a “cutoff” of the Irish Coast Guard logo from the drysuit by the Irish Coast Guard. The court heard the drysuit was disposed of in a skip.

Ms McCarthy said that no risk assessment had been prepared of the area where the capsize occurred in Lookout Bay, which can be affected in certain conditions by unexpected waves in neighbouring Intrinsic Bay.

She said her investigation also showed that there were ongoing issues with the VHF radio on board the RIB that capsized, the coxswain was not trained for this position, according to Irish Coast Guard records, and personal locator beacons worn by the three crew failed to function.

Ms Lucas had been conscious in the sea for 17 minutes after the capsize, the inquest heard earlier this week.

The inquest continues.

Read the Irish Examiner here

Published in Coastguard

Over seven years after her death off the Clare coast, the inquest into the death of Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitriona Lucas resumes today in Kilmallock court, Co Limerick.

The Sunday Independent reports that the full inquest is expected to hear that her helmet and lifejacket still cannot be produced by the Irish Coast Guard, in spite of requests by her family and by representatives of two separate State investigations.

The location of her drysuit is also an issue. Ms Lucas, a 41-year-old librarian and mother of two, died after a Kilkee Coast Guard RIB capsized during a search for a missing man on September 12, 2016.

The highly experienced member of the Doolin Coast Guard had been assisting the neighbouring unit at Kilkee in the search when the capsize occurred. Two others on board the RIB were rescued.

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

Her family say that acquiring her drysuit for independent examination is critical, given reported issues with Irish Coast Guard equipment in recent years. Shortly after her death, a drysuit worn by one of Ms Lucas’s colleagues had filled with water during a training exercise.

It is understood that video footage recorded by a local Civil Defence unit of a rescue attempt in the minutes leading up to her death has been provided to Ms Lucas’s legal team for the first time.

It has been made available for the full inquest, resuming today before Limerick coroner John McNamara at Kilmallock court and is expected to run for a number of days.

Read The Sunday Independent here

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Former Director of the Irish Coast Guard and former Head of the European Mission to Somalia, Chris Reynolds, recently announced his new role as a Team Leader for a maritime security project.

The project will primarily focus on maritime enforcement and the Coast Guard in Malaysia, and Reynolds has been selected to lead the team responsible for its implementation.

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The Department of Transport says it was notified by CHC Ireland about a “safety stand down” at search and rescue (SAR) helicopter bases on Friday.

The department said it is “actively engaged with all stakeholders, including CHC” to “enable the smooth transition” to a new contract.

It was responding to the decision by CHC Ireland aircrew to go “off-line” for an hour at lunchtime yesterday, amid concerns about future employment  when Bristow Ireland takes over the Irish Coast Guard SAR contract.

“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 had said.

The department said it was informed by CHC that “the interruption would be for a maximum of one hour at any base and was intended to enable CHC to conduct staff briefings in relation to the transition from the existing contract to the next generation aviation contract”.

The department said that “established arrangements for such interruptions will apply with regard to response to any incident that might arise”.

“The contract for the next generation Coast Guard contract was awarded to Bristow Helicopters and was signed on August 11th, 2023,” it said.

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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Ireland's Offshore Renewable Energy

Because of Ireland's location at the Atlantic edge of the EU, it has more offshore energy potential than most other countries in Europe. The conditions are suitable for the development of the full range of current offshore renewable energy technologies.

Offshore Renewable Energy FAQs

Offshore renewable energy draws on the natural energy provided by wind, wave and tide to convert it into electricity for industry and domestic consumption.

Offshore wind is the most advanced technology, using fixed wind turbines in coastal areas, while floating wind is a developing technology more suited to deeper water. In 2018, offshore wind provided a tiny fraction of global electricity supply, but it is set to expand strongly in the coming decades into a USD 1 trillion business, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). It says that turbines are growing in size and in power capacity, which in turn is "delivering major performance and cost improvements for offshore wind farms".

The global offshore wind market grew nearly 30% per year between 2010 and 2018, according to the IEA, due to rapid technology improvements, It calculated that about 150 new offshore wind projects are in active development around the world. Europe in particular has fostered the technology's development, led by Britain, Germany and Denmark, but China added more capacity than any other country in 2018.

A report for the Irish Wind Energy Assocation (IWEA) by the Carbon Trust – a British government-backed limited company established to accelerate Britain's move to a low carbon economy - says there are currently 14 fixed-bottom wind energy projects, four floating wind projects and one project that has yet to choose a technology at some stage of development in Irish waters. Some of these projects are aiming to build before 2030 to contribute to the 5GW target set by the Irish government, and others are expected to build after 2030. These projects have to secure planning permission, obtain a grid connection and also be successful in a competitive auction in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).

The electricity generated by each turbine is collected by an offshore electricity substation located within the wind farm. Seabed cables connect the offshore substation to an onshore substation on the coast. These cables transport the electricity to land from where it will be used to power homes, farms and businesses around Ireland. The offshore developer works with EirGrid, which operates the national grid, to identify how best to do this and where exactly on the grid the project should connect.

The new Marine Planning and Development Management Bill will create a new streamlined system for planning permission for activity or infrastructure in Irish waters or on the seabed, including offshore wind farms. It is due to be published before the end of 2020 and enacted in 2021.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE. Is there scope for community involvement in offshore wind? The IWEA says that from the early stages of a project, the wind farm developer "should be engaging with the local community to inform them about the project, answer their questions and listen to their concerns". It says this provides the community with "the opportunity to work with the developer to help shape the final layout and design of the project". Listening to fishing industry concerns, and how fishermen may be affected by survey works, construction and eventual operation of a project is "of particular concern to developers", the IWEA says. It says there will also be a community benefit fund put in place for each project. It says the final details of this will be addressed in the design of the RESS (see below) for offshore wind but it has the potential to be "tens of millions of euro over the 15 years of the RESS contract". The Government is also considering the possibility that communities will be enabled to invest in offshore wind farms though there is "no clarity yet on how this would work", the IWEA says.

Based on current plans, it would amount to around 12 GW of offshore wind energy. However, the IWEA points out that is unlikely that all of the projects planned will be completed. The industry says there is even more significant potential for floating offshore wind off Ireland's west coast and the Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a long-term plan for at least 30 GW of floating offshore wind in our deeper waters.

There are many different models of turbines. The larger a turbine, the more efficient it is in producing electricity at a good price. In choosing a turbine model the developer will be conscious of this ,but also has to be aware the impact of the turbine on the environment, marine life, biodiversity and visual impact. As a broad rule an offshore wind turbine will have a tip-height of between 165m and 215m tall. However, turbine technology is evolving at a rapid rate with larger more efficient turbines anticipated on the market in the coming years.

 

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is designed to support the development of renewable energy projects in Ireland. Under the scheme wind farms and solar farms compete against each other in an auction with the projects which offer power at the lowest price awarded contracts. These contracts provide them with a guaranteed price for their power for 15 years. If they obtain a better price for their electricity on the wholesale market they must return the difference to the consumer.

Yes. The first auction for offshore renewable energy projects is expected to take place in late 2021.

Cost is one difference, and technology is another. Floating wind farm technology is relatively new, but allows use of deeper water. Ireland's 50-metre contour line is the limit for traditional bottom-fixed wind farms, and it is also very close to population centres, which makes visibility of large turbines an issue - hence the attraction of floating structures Do offshore wind farms pose a navigational hazard to shipping? Inshore fishermen do have valid concerns. One of the first steps in identifying a site as a potential location for an offshore wind farm is to identify and assess the level of existing marine activity in the area and this particularly includes shipping. The National Marine Planning Framework aims to create, for the first time, a plan to balance the various kinds of offshore activity with the protection of the Irish marine environment. This is expected to be published before the end of 2020, and will set out clearly where is suitable for offshore renewable energy development and where it is not - due, for example, to shipping movements and safe navigation.

YEnvironmental organisations are concerned about the impact of turbines on bird populations, particularly migrating birds. A Danish scientific study published in 2019 found evidence that larger birds were tending to avoid turbine blades, but said it didn't have sufficient evidence for smaller birds – and cautioned that the cumulative effect of farms could still have an impact on bird movements. A full environmental impact assessment has to be carried out before a developer can apply for planning permission to develop an offshore wind farm. This would include desk-based studies as well as extensive surveys of the population and movements of birds and marine mammals, as well as fish and seabed habitats. If a potential environmental impact is identified the developer must, as part of the planning application, show how the project will be designed in such a way as to avoid the impact or to mitigate against it.

A typical 500 MW offshore wind farm would require an operations and maintenance base which would be on the nearby coast. Such a project would generally create between 80-100 fulltime jobs, according to the IWEA. There would also be a substantial increase to in-direct employment and associated socio-economic benefit to the surrounding area where the operation and maintenance hub is located.

The recent Carbon Trust report for the IWEA, entitled Harnessing our potential, identified significant skills shortages for offshore wind in Ireland across the areas of engineering financial services and logistics. The IWEA says that as Ireland is a relatively new entrant to the offshore wind market, there are "opportunities to develop and implement strategies to address the skills shortages for delivering offshore wind and for Ireland to be a net exporter of human capital and skills to the highly competitive global offshore wind supply chain". Offshore wind requires a diverse workforce with jobs in both transferable (for example from the oil and gas sector) and specialist disciplines across apprenticeships and higher education. IWEA have a training network called the Green Tech Skillnet that facilitates training and networking opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

It is expected that developing the 3.5 GW of offshore wind energy identified in the Government's Climate Action Plan would create around 2,500 jobs in construction and development and around 700 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. The Programme for Government published in 2020 has an enhanced target of 5 GW of offshore wind which would create even more employment. The industry says that in the initial stages, the development of offshore wind energy would create employment in conducting environmental surveys, community engagement and development applications for planning. As a site moves to construction, people with backgrounds in various types of engineering, marine construction and marine transport would be recruited. Once the site is up and running , a project requires a team of turbine technicians, engineers and administrators to ensure the wind farm is fully and properly maintained, as well as crew for the crew transfer vessels transporting workers from shore to the turbines.

The IEA says that today's offshore wind market "doesn't even come close to tapping the full potential – with high-quality resources available in most major markets". It estimates that offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 420 000 Terawatt hours per year (TWh/yr) worldwide – as in more than 18 times the current global electricity demand. One Terawatt is 114 megawatts, and to put it in context, Scotland it has a population a little over 5 million and requires 25 TWh/yr of electrical energy.

Not as advanced as wind, with anchoring a big challenge – given that the most effective wave energy has to be in the most energetic locations, such as the Irish west coast. Britain, Ireland and Portugal are regarded as most advanced in developing wave energy technology. The prize is significant, the industry says, as there are forecasts that varying between 4000TWh/yr to 29500TWh/yr. Europe consumes around 3000TWh/year.

The industry has two main umbrella organisations – the Irish Wind Energy Association, which represents both onshore and offshore wind, and the Marine Renewables Industry Association, which focuses on all types of renewable in the marine environment.

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