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Displaying items by tag: Covid 19

Following a review of current circumstances locally and internationally by the HSE and Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), it has been decided to stand down the health reporting requirements around COVID-19 set out in Marine Notice No 06 of 2020.

As of Monday 10 January, there is no longer a requirement for every vessel arriving in Ireland from outside the island of Ireland to issue a Maritime Declaration of Health (MDOH).

In line with the requirements of the Infectious Diseases (Shipping) Regulations 2008 (SI No 4 of 2008), a vessel need only submit a MDOH when:

  1. There is a case, or a suspected case, of an infectious disease on board and this has resulted in illness or death, or
  2. upon a request to do so as part of a local arrangement with local port health authorities.

Further queries relating to the submission of MDOHs may be directed to the Environmental Health Service at [email protected] Additional guidance on COVID-19 in Ireland is available from the HSE.

The Department of Transport adds that Marine Notice No 06 of 2020 is hereby withdrawn.

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Authorities have confirmed that crew of privately owned leisure craft arriving in Ireland who do not have a COVID-19 vaccination certificate or a negative PCR test less than 72 hours old will not be permitted to land.

Dun Laoghaire Marina general manager Paal Janson sought clarity from Dublin Port’s immigration office after being contacted separately by two yachts on passage to Dublin — one with a crew member without a vaccination certificate, the other having crew members with older negative PCR tests.

In response, Sergeant Sharon Burke of An Garda Síochána’s Dublin Port Immigration Unit confirmed that “without a Vaccination Certificate or a Negative PCR Test taken within the previous 72 hours prior to arrival, those crew members are not…permitted to land in the State”.

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The Irish Marine Federation has confirmed with the Government that restrictions against visiting vessels in Irish ports remain for the time being.

Last week Afloat.ie reported on contradictory advice that emerged in the wake of the latest update to maritime travel restrictions amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic from the Department of Transport.

Following that update on Wednesday (23 June), Irish Sailing said its understanding was that “the previous ban on foreign leisure vessels travelling to Irish ports has been lifted”. As of Wednesday morning 30 June, the statement remains on the Irish Sailing website.

This view was not shared by all in the marine industry, and in response the Irish Marine Federation (IMF) says it was “contacted by a number of members who were uneasy at the apparent downgrading of the ‘essential travel only’ advice currently in force”.

The IMF sought clarification from the Department of Transport, which has since confirmed that “there has been no change” and the current restrictions on travel to Ireland remain in place until at least 18 July.

“The IMF and its affiliated body, the Irish Marina Operators Association, have been keenly watching the travel situation develop throughout this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and our members continue to suffer the financial loss of foreign leisure vessels excluded from coastal harbours and marinas,” the federation added.

“Nobody is more eager to see a safe and responsible return to marine tourism than our members are. We strongly recommend however that Government and public health advice is adhered to, as is clearly set out, and this is the only source of information used when assessing the risks and feasibility of international travel.”

Meanwhile, Afloat.ie has received its own confirmation from the Department of Transport that no cruise ships are permitted to enter any Irish port or anchor in Irish waters.

“While this decision will be kept under review, there are no plans at present for the resumption of cruises into Ireland,” the department added. “Government advice continues to be that only essential travel is to be undertaken in accordance with health authorities’ guidance.

“The focus at present is on minimising the risk of infection across all sectors. Any decision regarding the resumption of cruise tourism into Ireland will be based on the advice from public health officials.”

Contradictory advice has emerged in the wake of the latest update to maritime travel restrictions from the Department of Transport.

Following yesterday’s (Wednesday 23 June) update to Marine Notice No 16 of 2021, which can be downloaded below, Irish Sailing has said its understanding is that “the previous ban on foreign leisure vessels travelling to Irish ports has been lifted”.

However, this understanding is not shared by all — with at least one marina operator telling Afloat.ie that their business will hold off on lifting any COVID-19 travel restrictions until Government guidelines explicitly allow.

At time of writing, Government advice remains to “avoid non-essential travel” until at least 18 July.

Afloat.ie has contacted the Department of Transport for comment.

A wildlife charity has urged the public to take care when disposing of face masks after it’s alleged a puffin became entangled in a mask and died.

According to The Irish Times, the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) said it was sent the distressing image it shared on its Instagram, showing the seabird with a disposable face mask wrapped around its face and underneath a wing.

Birdwatch Ireland says it has also received reports of birds caught in recklessly discarded masks, though it is not clear how widespread the problem may be.

But the IWT says that even a small number of cases adds to “the issue of marine litter and plastic waste that we know presents serious issues for wildlife”.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

The Ocean Race Europe has partnered with Quirónprevención of the Quirónsalud group for the design and implementation of a strict COVID-19 prevention protocol for the first edition of the race, which is scheduled to start from Lorient in France on Saturday 29 May.

A multidisciplinary team of health professionals — who are experts in disease prevention — have designed a plan that aims to reduce the risk of an outbreak during the course of a regatta that will see 12 teams from nine countries racing to four European cities over a three-week period.

“This is a very challenging time to be organising live sport across different countries,” said race director Phil Lawrence. “The safety of our sailors, their support crews and all those working to make this event happen is of primary importance.

“With the support and expertise of Quirónprevención, we have been able to implement a plan that minimises the risk from Covid-19 and allows us to conduct a safer event.”

Fernando Camino, general director of Quirónprevención, added: “This first edition of The Ocean Race Europe can be a template for many other sports competitions that have seen their activity stopped due to the pandemic.

“We must convey the message that by doing things well and complying with a strict protocol of technical and sanitary measures, it is possible to reactivate the celebration of events and all the employment and economic activity behind it.”

The schedule and logistics of the event have been analysed by the professionals at Quirónprevención, who have prepared a series of recommendations and operational guidelines.

In addition, a team of health workers from Quirónprevención will be on site during The Ocean Race Europe in each of the stopover cities, ensuring compliance with a schedule of COVID-19 tests for sailing crew, shore support and organisation staff, with the goal of reducing the risk of transmission and conducting a safe event.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

Anyone wishing to bring a yacht into an Irish port from abroad will have to wait a little longer as the official line remains “essential travel only”.

Despite last week’s slight relaxation of movement restrictions within Ireland — with people now allowed to travel within their own county or within 20km of home if crossing a county border — there has been no change for boaters hoping to sail here from abroad.

And indeed, the new mandatory hotel quarantine (MHQ) measures may further complicate matters.

As far as one prominent Dublin marina is concerned, there are no berths open for foreign vessels under the current level of COVID-19 restrictions.

“In general, as we in Dun Laoghaire Marina do not allow quarantining aboard at the marina, we are politely declining any requests for visits from foreign-owned boats,” general manager Paal Janson says.

While the Department of Transport “are happy for the marina to take responsibility for issuing or even collecting passenger locator forms”, DL Marina management have declined to take on this responsibility, he adds.

Other ports may have different arrangements, and interested parties are recommended to seek written consent from the relevant harbour/port authority. “It may be no harm to receive advice from [email protected],” Janson adds.

But as the official line remains ‘essential travel only’, he is of the opinion that “holidaying yachtsmen are not high on the list of priorities” for Transport officials for the time being.

“The feeling is once cruise ships are allowed into Irish ports and harbours again, then foreign yachts will be similarly welcomed back,” Janson says.

“I think now the focus should shift towards allowing people who are vaccinated to travel freely,” Janson says. “The issue of vaccination passports, harmonisation of travel within EU states, etc. must now be considered and a pathway back to normality be created.

“The end of this unprecedented pandemic is close at hand and we need now to be looking at all avenues for the resumption of travel, sport and business.”

Published in Irish Marinas
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Cancelling the Tokyo Olympics “remains an option” if the pandemic spread is not brought under control.

As the Guardian reports, those were the comments of Toshihiro Nikai, general secretary of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic party, in a TV interview that was as of his morning (Saturday 17 April) yet to be aired.

Nikai’s statement is at odds with his government’s insistence that the Games will go ahead in a little over three months’ time, on 23 July.

But public sentiment is not so clear-cut, with nearly two-fifths saying the Games should be cancelled, and nearly a third supporting a further postponement — an option the International Olympic Committee has already ruled out.

While no overseas visitors will be allowed to enter to be spectators at this year’s Olympics, the event is set to being thousands of athletes — including Ireland’s qualified sailors Annalise Murphy, Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove — together along with media, sponsors and officials for the two weeks of competition.

Hosting such numbers “domestic, political and economic purposes — ignoring scientific and moral imperatives — is contradictory to Japan’s commitment to global health and human security,” several medical experts have said.

The Guardian has more on the story HERE.

Published in Olympic
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The Government's phased easing of some Covid-19 restrictions during the month of April was welcome news but there was also some disappointment expressed in boating circles over a lack of clarity contained in the announcement that makes it difficult to plan the season, especially the staging of major summer regattas.

The Government aims to continue its cautious approach, gradually easing restrictions, while a substantial level of the population is vaccinated during April, May and June, after which, it should be safe to reopen society more widely.

In his address, the Taoiseach used the phrase ‘distance sports' to describe a sporting activity that was permitted but what does this mean for sailing, a low risk, outdoor, no-contact sport?

In a response to a query from Afloat, a Sport Ireland spokesman said 'At present, these are activities that can take place on a socially distanced basis and take place between a maximum of two households'.

SB20 Sportsboat racing on Dublin Bay pre-COVID Photo: AfloatSB20 Sportsboat one-design racing on Dublin Bay pre-COVID Photo: Afloat

Single-handers

An interpretation of this means that single-handers, double handers and crews from two households can go sailing if they can 'distance' themselves.

But 'distance' does not extend to competition at this point, it refers only to private social sailing and it would exclude yachts with large crews from different households. So, Like golf or tennis, two parties can have a social game. Likewise, two individuals can have a recreational sail.

The spokesman said Sport Ireland has been in touch with the various National Governing Bodies, including Irish Sailing, on this matter.

Overall then, what we know is: 

From 12th April

  • travel within your own county or within 20km of your home if crossing county boundaries

From 26th April:

  • Outdoor sports facilities can reopen and sailing clubs may remain open.
  • ‘Distance’ Sailing activities may take place between a maximum of two households
  • School-aged children may resume training using the pod system (pods of 15)
  • No matches or events may take place (other than exempted events)

By any interpretation, this does not appear to allow for cruiser-racer sailing, except for small crew numbers on board. Clearly, this could have a major impact on the most popular aspect of the sport, for early summer at least.

Even though we know that there is little difference between sailing in training and racing modes, the sport is reliant on the not so small matter of lockdown measures easing from Level Five to Level Two (when racing is permitted) but, as widely anticipated, this did not materialise in this week's announcement.

Still, on Dublin Bay, DBSC and ISORA, race organisers are both aiming for May starts in 'some form', subject to guidelines. In June, the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race and the Sovereign's Cup at Kinsale are due to get underway.

Reduced Crews?

It raises the question, that if this situation is to be considered the norm for the next two to three months, then sailing should be looking at reduced crews for racing in the future, as they are doing in the UK? Such a move was previously explored on Afloat here

This weekend, for example, one design keelboats are sailing in the Solent for the first time this year and boats that normally allow five are only taking four crew. Likewise, cruisers crew numbers in the UK are limited. 

The first race starts this weekend, the JOG Race, and below is one of the sailing instructions:

  • 17.1 Crew numbers for this race are limited to a maximum of 6, irrespective of a family group or other considerations. This is a maximum and skippers may limit their own crew in line with social distancing and other requirements.

Coincidentally, the first RORC event also starts this weekend; long coastal day races over three weekends, with a maximum of 80% of normal crew numbers.

By reducing crew numbers it could help to comply with the 'distance sport' ruling and give sailing room to negotiate a return to competition because there is no way nine people sitting out on a 35-foot cruiser will meet these criteria.

The Department of Transport confirmed today (Friday 5 March) that the French Government will no longer require proof of a negative COVID test result from hauliers travelling on direct maritime routes from Ireland to France.

French legislation has been amended with immediate effect in light of the very low positivity rates of COVID-19 among commercial vehicle drivers, and the move is in line with the EU Green Lanes recommendations.

Proof of a negative test result will still be required for drivers travelling from Great Britain to France or the Netherlands, and therefore any hauliers travelling from Ireland via the UK landbridge route to enter France or the Netherlands must still have proof of a negative test result.

Proof of a negative test result is also still required for travel to Germany. Drivers intending on travelling on such routes may continue to obtain a test here in Ireland at existing testing facilities (or in Great Britain).

In accordance with EU Green Lane recommendations, Ireland will continue to maintain a policy of exempting essential transport workers not showing symptoms of COVID-19 from quarantine and testing requirements when entering Ireland.

The Department of Transport says the Government will continue to encourage all EU Member States to follow this policy also in the interests keeping supply chains open within the Single Market. This is particularly important for the continued movement of medical supplies and essential goods into the country, it added.

Published in Ports & Shipping
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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.

©Afloat 2020

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