Irish Lights today launched a new five-year strategy which maps out its vision for the delivery of next generation maritime services to protect lives, property, trade and the environment, at the organisation’s HQ in Dún Laoghaire. Irish Lights is a statutory maritime safety organisation delivering 24/7 safety and navigation services around the coast of Ireland (North and South) 365 days a year.
The Safe Seas – Connected Coasts 2018-2023 Strategy commits Irish Lights to implementing a combination of new and existing navigation technology, engineering and data management solutions to facilitate Safe Navigation at Sea for commercial shipping, fishing, leisure craft and passenger vessels. Irish Lights provides a range of services to ensure that the Irish and UK Governments comply with the requirements of the international Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS). With over 340 General Aids to Navigation in the form of lighthouses, buoys, beacons and a range of digital services, the Irish Lights operational network constitutes a critical coastal infrastructure for the safety of all at sea and our coastal communities.
The Safe Seas – Connected Coasts Strategy builds on a number of advances made by Irish Lights across its operations in recent years to improve services, reduce costs and deliver positive economic and community benefits. This includes upgrading lighthouse stations and navigation buoys with energy efficient LED technology, with a reduction of 35% in overall CO2 emissions since 2009. The lighthouse and buoy energy efficiency upgrade programmes will see Irish Lights Aids to Navigation fully powered by renewable energy by 2023.
Irish Lights will continue its work to protect and develop its heritage assets for the benefit of the Irish public. The Great Lighthouses of Ireland North-South tourism and heritage initiative, saw 140,000 visitors to lighthouses around Ireland in 2017. In addition, over 19,000 bed-nights are now available in lighthouse keepers’ cottages at some of the most spectacular locations on the coast. This network of regional tourism initiatives has been developed in partnership with tourism agencies and local communities and is resulting in significant economic spin-off to coastal communities. Building on the success of this initiative, Irish Lights plans to work with partners to identify opportunities to have the extensive Irish Lights historical archive and records, which date from the early 1800s, professionally curated, secured, stored and catalogued, to be available in digital format for research, tourism and education purposes.
The strategy also affirms Irish Lights’ commitment to developing new services with the development of its Coastal Data Service providing reliable access to accurate, near real time weather and sea state observations at selected locations, to promote and contribute to safer navigation at sea.
John Coyle, Chairman of Irish Lights, said “As the provider of General Aids to Navigation around the island of Ireland, Irish Lights has a long and respected track record of service to the maritime community dating back to 1786. In more recent times, the context in which that service must be delivered has changed. Rapid technological advances, pressures on the marine and coastal environment and more diverse stakeholder needs, all require a greater emphasis on collaboration across agencies and with international organisations. We look forward to collaborating with all of our stakeholders in taking this ambitious strategy forward.”
Yvonne Shields, Chief Executive of Irish Lights said: “This strategy underlines the importance of continuing to provide a reliable, high quality and efficient infrastructure of visual and electronic Aids to Navigation around the coast of Ireland North and South. It builds on our current programme of technological and energy-efficiency upgrades to lighthouse stations and navigation buoys and strengthens our commitment to working with international partners to test and evaluate new navigation solutions which we expect to emerge in the next five to ten years. Safe navigation at local level also features prominently in our strategy, which includes a stronger focus on supporting local lighthouse authorities that are responsible for over 3,200 local aids to navigation around the coast.
“Looking ahead we recognise the need for all organisations with a mandate in the marine area to contribute to the sustainable development of our marine resources. As part of our strategy over the next five years, we will ensure that our services and the technical expertise and operational experience that exists in Irish Lights, contribute to the wider development of the maritime economy.
“We will work in partnership with other agencies and with industry to maximise opportunities to deliver value-added services to support industry and coastal communities. For example, we will use our coastal infrastructure to generate sea state observations which can be accessed by a broad range of users to plan marine activities more safely and also to monitor long-term trends in environmental conditions at sea. We will also collaborate with researchers and technology developers to test and develop new equipment, technologies and services.
“Lastly, an important additional objective for us in the next two years is to work with others to ensure that safe and efficient navigation is fully considered in Maritime Spatial Planning process”.