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Three European agencies have initiated the first Coast Guard “capacity building” and training exchange at European level.

The European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA), the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) are working on an initiative to bolster the development of an academy and training network.

They also aim to implement an exchange programme between administrations from different countries.

“The exchange programme facilitates the exchange of theoretical and practical knowledge and best practices among authorities engaged in coast guard functions,”they state.

“ By doing so, the project contributes to preparing staff for joint missions and operations, benefiting EU member states, European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries and Schengen associated countries' coast guard authorities and entities,”they state.

This programme is also very relevant for the EU Maritime Security Strategy and Action Plan[1], which seeks to strengthen Europe's autonomy amid growing threats to maritime security.

The first exchange took place in Sarzana, Italy, with participants from the Icelandic Coast Guard and the Portuguese Maritime Life Saving Institute in the Italian Coast Guard's Rescue Swimmer Course, with a week dedicated to theoretical and practical lessons.

Overall, there were 86 candidates that were assigned to an exchange and 34 candidates to reserve lists. The next exchanges for this semester involve authorities from Croatia, Finland, France, Italy, Romania, Portugal, Poland and Spain

"The programme sets sail on a journey of collaboration, learning, and empowerment, striving to shape the future of coast guard functions across Europe,” EFCA executive director Susan Steele says.

More information is on the Coast Guard Portal here

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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

Published in Coastguard
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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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