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Displaying items by tag: Tom MacSweeney

The International Maritime Organisation, that’s the United Nations agency for safety at sea, has acknowledged, the first time this has been publicised, that a large number of abandoned or no-longer usable fibreglass vessels - including fishing vessels and leisure craft – are being dumped at sea each year, possibly due to a lack of land-based disposal facilities.

The IMO, as it is known, told me so after I enquired, following a previous podcast about the disposal of fibreglass yachts, about the envirornmental aspects of disposing of what are, basically, plastic boats.

When I raised the subject around Irish boating circles, no one seemed to be sure how long plastic boats will last for…

Fibreglass is a highly recyclable material, the IMO told me and said that the technology for recycling fibreglass already exists, but the logistics of handling the large amounts of fibreglass hulls from abandoned or derelict vessels poses a significant challenge.

So, the IMO has decided to carry out a study which it says is “to collate information on the scale of the problem of disposing of fibreglass vessels” and to identify “key knowledge gaps relating to impacts of fibre reinforced plastic vessels dumped or placed in the marine environment.”

It seems that no one realy knows what to do with them at the present time.

Scientific research will be hired to report on whether such vessels could be disposed of in the sea in a safe and environmentally sound manner and whether “guidance” should be developed on the disposal of fibreglass vessels.

Seems like a potential problem is being identified.

Listen to the Podcast below

Tom MacSweeney presents the maritime programme, THIS ISLAND NATION

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RNLI Lifeboat crews on the hallowed turf of Croke Park, unfurling huge flags with a message about water safety in front of 67,000 passionate football supporters seems an unlikely activity, but it was achieved just before the teams they were supporting did battle in the All-Ireland semi-final between Mayo and Kerry yesterday.

I am a dedicated supporter of the RNLI and believer in the importance of getting the message of water safety across to the public. Those involved in the marine sphere hear and see the message regularly, but getting it out to the general public is more difficult.

Though indeed, from the number of emergency calls for help necessitating the launching of lifeboats in recent weeks to yachts and other leisure craft, reinforcing that message will be of benefit.

RESPECT THE WATER RNLI AT CROKE PARKThe RNLI 'respect the water' slogan is rolled out at Croke Park

The GAA has been of great assistance to the RNLI in getting the message – Respect the Water - out through its clubs all over the country, in a partnership with the lifeboat service. At the All-Ireland semi-final the opportunity to do so, in front of the huge crowd and big media presence, including television, the GAA provided a marvellous opportunity to convey the message in the widest fashion to the public. I asked Niamh Stephenson, Public Affairs Manager of the RNLI, to describe what happened. Her report will be broadcast this week on my radio programme, THIS ISLAND NATION.

In advance, for Afloat.ie readers, this is how she describes what happened:

Published in Tom MacSweeney

A few weeks ago I rounded Ballycotton Island on the East Cork coastline, sailing beneath the iconic, dramatic black lighthouse which towers 195 feet above sea level. It was erected in 1851, the construction led by the renowned engineer George Halpin who, as Inspector of Lighthouses, established 53 of them and modernised another 15.

As the wind died away our Sigma 33, SCRIBBLER, needed the reaching spinnaker hoisted to get across Ballycotton Bay to the finish line off the small harbour’s pier wall. It was the re-establishment of the annual race from the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven to Ballycotton.

That distance is about a nautical mile and, relaxing afterwards over refreshment in the village, I heard the tales of how Lightkeepers on the island, in the days before modern communications, kept in touch with their wives living ashore…. by semaphore, the signalling system invented by Frenchman, Claude Chape, in 1792 as a “visual telegraph,” using crossbars with pivoting arms on top of towers. Napoleon used it to communicate strategy to his armies. The British Royal Navy developed naval flag semaphore which they used to defeat the French at the Battle of Trafalgar.

But it is unlikely that either Chape, Napoleon or the British, envisaged semaphore helping a Lightkeeper to elope with another Lightkeeper’s daughter…This story I narrated, subsequent to the race, on a documentary about Ballycotton Lighthouse and its Keepers produced by Community Radio Youghal Programme Director, Justin Maher, in which Ballycotton Historian, Derry Keogh, a guide with the community project, Ballycotton Lighthouse Tours, revealed another use for semaphore:

Listen to the PODCAST below.

• Tom MacSweeney presents THIS ISLAND NATION radio programme

Published in Tom MacSweeney

Back in June I asked if there was sufficient joined-up thinking about the project for a new Irish tall ship – and why the Naval Service hasn’t taken a more active role in Irish sail training over the years, with advantages to itself, comparable to what the Royal Navy does in Britain…you can read that story here.

Neil O’Hagan, Executive Director of the Atlantic Youth Trust, organisers of a new national tall ship project, sent me an email saying that it is good to see discussion about the project so that it gets attention… but that “there is more going on than meets the eye…”

On this week’s Podcast, I indicate that I am glad to hear that, but I have reservations and will be convinced about actual Government support when I see it delivered…

Listen to the Podcast below…

Published in Tom MacSweeney

A ”Truism” is defined as a self-evident truth. That underlines the accuracy of the descriptive saying “out-of-sight-out-of-mind” and the application nof it to the attitude of the Irish Government towards seafarers.

Every day Ireland’s ports are depended upon by the public, all of us who live ashore. But those ports would not operate without ships and the ships would not operate without seafarers. Neither the Government, nor the great majority of the public, fully appreciate seafarers.

In an island nation, which we are, our economy would die without them. 95 per cent of our exports and imports move by sea.

So how much value is placed upon seafarers and the fishing industry by the general public?

These thoughts come to mind as the INTERNATIONAL MARITIME ORGANISATION, which is the United Nations body dealing with marine affairs, has announced that Sunday, June 25, will be WORLD DAY OF THE SEAFARER.

The theme is to be that “SEAFARERS MATTER”.

The President of the worldwide Nautical Institute, the international representative body for maritime professionals involved in the control of sea-going ships, Capt. David ‘Duke’ Snider told me: “There is never a day when there aren’t ships moving cargo and people across the oceans, thousands of seafarers in hundreds of ships on seas all over the world, every day of every year, but they are out-of-sight, out-of-mind, to those who need them most and that’s everyone who lives on land. World trade couldn’t be carried on without them. There would be no oil to fuel transport, to power industries, to generate electricity, to heat homes. There is so much the world would not have if seafarers didn’t bring the supplies that those who live ashore need for their lives.”

The INTERNATIONAL MARITIME ORGANISATION is encouraging Governments to recognise the “unique contribution” made by seafarers all over the word to international trade and the world economy.

The Irish Government has not recognised or celebrated World Day of the Seafarer in past years.

It would be encouraging if it did so, but on past performance I will not hold my breath that it will do so.

• Listen to the comments of the President of the Nautical Institute below:

Published in Island Nation
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This Saturday will be a special one in Cork City when a fleet of boats sails up the River Lee from Cobh to moor at the uppermost navigable point of the river which yachts can reach. Cruisers and dinghies will race the traditional Cobh-to-Blackrock Race from the Promenade on the riverfront at Cobh to the Port of Cork’s marina in the city centre. This is an annual tradition. Once it marked the end of the sailing season, but as that has extended into much later in the year, the race has become also a social gathering when motorboats and non-racers join the fleet and families are on the water for the day out, organised by Cove Sailing Club.
It is, as Aidan McAleavy of the Cove club said, “a truly spectacular sight to see a large fleet race to the city.”
It made me wonder why Cork, my native city, hasn’t done more to develop the maritime location with which it has been favoured. The River Lee is renowned in the city’s anthem - The Banks of My Own Lovely Lee and the river endows Cork with a network of waterways as it breaks into different channels to negotiate the city centre. However, in all the development of Cork, I do not see that a lot has been done to bring the riverscape to the forefront of city planning, nor do all citizens appreciate the beauty of the river, it seems, to judge by debris still dumped into it. With its bridges and river channels Cork should be a city where the riverscape is its dominant aspect. As shipping and the port is moved downriver there is talk, a lot of it, about development, but not a lot about the city’s maritime foundation, which could be further forgotten when shipping is moved away from the city centre.


Other Irish cities still have shipping visible to the citizenry – Dublin in particular but that city’s Council hasn’t done a lot either to focus public facilities on the riverfront which the Liffey has provided them .. Waterford has put in some effort with a marina and quayside public facilities, as well as a memorial to the Conningbeg and Formby, both vessels sunk during World War One, with 68 passengers and crew lost from Waterford and the South East…. However, the movement of shipping out of the city has left derelict sites… Limerick has turned part of its face to the river…. Galway has done a bit, but the culture of the Claddagh could be more focussed upon.
All Irish cities could take lessons from European municipalities like Barcelona and Hamburg where the riverfronts are central to city life……. Wouldn’t it be an advance in maritime appreciation of City Councils held meetings to discuss waterfront enhancement?
• Listen to THIS ISLAND NATION Podcast here

Published in Island Nation

Seamus Butler is, to me, a man who embodies all that is good about sailing. He has a deep love for the sport, he enjoys it and teaches those values to young sailors, building the future of sailing.

I found him after driving to the western shores of Mayo, along the side of beautiful Clew Bay, through Mulrany following the Bangor-Erris Road, Achill Island across the water, to Bellacrogher Boat Club. There I parked, walked around the side of a lake to the Bay of the Plunderer, boarded a rigid inflatable and was taken out to the most unique clubhouse/classroom in Ireland, floating on the lake with its own pontoon and training area.

To tell you more would take from the superb interview which Seamus gave me and which I urge you to listen to below.

He is a man to be admired, as are the club members who have supported the development of this unique club which this Summer hosted Mayo’s first Hobie Cat Championships. They were even listed as one of the European events of the season!

Seamus puts a lot of emphasis on safety in the training of young sailors and the value of that is underlined in another item in the programme, when the Chief Executive of Irish Water Safety criticises – and quite rightly in my opinion – that only one-fifth of the country’s primary schools are teaching swimming and the importance of safety on the water to pupils, evidently because the majority of teachers consider other sports more important. He outlines worrying statistics about the high number of anglers who have drowned and warns about the increased use of kayaks without proper training.

Completing the mix of an interesting programme, you can hear why the national museum favours wheels to support its exhibits, why brides loves the light it provides and about the Round Ireland walker who has raised €25,000 for the RNLI, as well as a bit about the history of shanties.
You’ll enjoy listening.

Published in Island Nation

There are moments and scenes which stand out in your mind. Stamped on mine is the day I went to a coastal village in West Cork and there, on the edge of a cliffside near Barryroe, close to Courtmacsherry Harbour, I saw the remains of a long-abandoned fishing family’s home, where two sons had died in the biggest sea battle of World War One – the Battle of Jutland on the thirty-first of May 1916. A short distance further up the same cliffside from that house, I was shown the home of another family whose son had died in the same battle. And, amazingly, in the parish of Barryroe, six men from the village had died in that sea battle, fought by a hundred thousand sailors in 250 ships of the British and German Navies. Eight thousand of those sailors were killed, including the six men from this village in West Cork. Another 29 sailors from Barryroe survived.

The interest of coastal communities in their history and culture, their pride in their heritage are impressive and are well underlined in this edition of my maritime programme, THIS ISLAND NATION, (click below for podcast) in the process of producing which I am fortunate to meet such communities.

In this edition I meet people from Courtmacsherry and Barryroe on the West Cork coastline and hear how they have researched and, as a result honoured, the amazing linkage between the area and the biggest sea battle of World War One – the Battle of Jutland, which is also described as the biggest sea battle ever. The statistics from it are, in terms of human destruction, terrible.

To walk into Lislevane Cemetery in Barryroe and see the memorial to those who fought and died at the Battle of Jutland is an emotional experience.

Published in Island Nation

Five years ago the Department of Transport told the United Nations agency dealing with safety at sea and the marine environment that it was preparing to ratify a treaty drawn up by the UN intended to control the spread of invasive marine species which could cause damage in Irish waters, possibly wiping out native marine species and causing damage to the marine environment generally.
Five years later, while 51 nations around the world have signed the Ballast Water Management Convention drawn up by the International Maritime Organisation, Ireland still hasn’t done so, despite a request from the Secretary General of the Organisation.
The treaty is designed to counter the threat to marine ecosystems caused by potentially invasive species carried across the oceans of the world in ships’ ballast water. Ballast water is essential to the safe and efficient operation of modern shipping, providing balance and stability to unladen and partly laden ships. Because shipping transports up to 90 per cent of the world’s traded commodities, it is reckoned to transfer up to 5 billion tonnes of ballast water around ports of the world every year and that is claimed by scientists to be the main cause of introducing non-native species from one country to another.
When Peru, this month, became the 51st State to accede to the Treaty to try to control this problem, I asked the International Maritime Organisation if Ireland had ratified…


“Not yet” I was told from IMO Headquarters in London, with the additional quote from their spokesperson… “but it is apparently intending to … Well that is what Ireland said in 2011” and they sent me a copy of Marine Notice No.47 of 2011 from the Department of Transport which stated that “Ireland’s maritime administration is at present preparing the legislation that is required and intends to ratify the Convention when this process is complete…”
Five years later, the IMO suggested to me that it might be worth asking why Ireland had not signed… I did and the Department told me…that “provision to give effect to the Convention was made in the Sea Pollution Miscellaneous Provisions Act of 2006. Now that’s ten years ago, but it seems a Statutory Instrument has been drafted by the Department to give effect to the Convention in Irish law. However, subject to some legal clarifications the Department expects that the Order will be enacted only …” shortly after the Convention comes into force…”

zebra mussel boat

Zebra mussels on the hull of a boat

Thereby hangs the rub…This treaty has actually been hanging around since 2004, that’s 12 years ago, even as the problems of invasive species increased with specific threats identified in Ireland by Government task forces, to freshwater river systems, lakes and coastal areas. To come into effect it needs a minimum of 30 States to approve it which would represent 35 per cent of world merchant shipping tonnage. 51 States have done so but they represent only 44.87 per cent of tonnage. Ireland’s access would only add .02 per cent tonnage, but the Secretary General of the IMO has appealed to every nation to support the Convention… so why is Ireland delaying, saying that it won’t sign until the Convention comes into force… in other words waiting for other nations to support it while Ireland won’t?
Senator Grace O’Sullivan is the Green Party’s spokesperson on the environment and says Ireland could push the treaty along if the Government would sign it, while Richie Flynn, Executive of IFA Aquaculture on behalf of fish farmers, isn’t surprised by the failure to sign, but it doesn’t please him.
Hear their views and the Podcast above.

Published in Island Nation

When that lovely piece of music, SAILING BY, rolls from the studio presentation desk through my headphones, I feel a sense of enjoyment at being able to bring a wide tapestry of news, information, stories about the culture, history and the maritime tradition to listeners so many of whom tell me that Ronnie Aldrich’s playing of the programme’s theme music on the LP ‘Sea Dreams’ sets the scene for them. I hope it does for you too because, sitting in the studios of Community Radio Youghal on the East Coast of County Cork, where the sea rolls in from Capel Island and other offshore points, my intention is to make  a programme bringing together the maritime community. The response is encouraging and I am grateful to listeners who regularly suggest story lines. The current edition is my 46th programme from the radio studios in Youghal, a town with a huge maritime tradition. It was once the biggest port in the Republic. It was a town with a great schooner tradition, trading to the British coast. There were tragedies when families suffered great losses. The town was chosen as the location for the filming of the famous ‘Moby Dick’ epic. It has gone through a period of industrial decline. Every year it remembers those who have died at sea. It is again looking to build up its maritime resources. It has potential as a cruising port-of-call.
I have devised the programme as Ireland’s maritime programme, broadcast through the community radio service and on Afloat.ie to highlight the importance of the maritime sector to an island nation. The programme of news, stories and information from around the Irish coastline, rivers and lakes, connects the ‘family of the sea’ and relates this connection to the oceans of the world.
In the current edition we travel from Bloody Foreland in County Donegal where we hear about navigational changes noted by the Commissioners of Irish Lights, through connections in Offaly to Dublin Port’s famous Diving Bell and a new song about it by an Irish balladeer who has moved from Liffeyside to Holland. He gives us the honour of being the first to broadcast his composition. With a call to Cork to meet ‘the Irish father of ocean energy,’ and hear how he is concerned about lack of public knowledge of the value of marine energy, we are told a story that has not been mentioned in other media as they recall the blowing up of Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin 50 years ago. There is much more to know about Admiral Nelson as we hear how he defended an Irish revolutionary who wanted to kill the King of England. Together with reports from lifeboat stations around the country and the dominance of Clare in lifesaving, all of these stories make up the wide maritime tapestry of the latest edition of THIS ISLAND NATION which you can hear here.
I hope, like myself, that you enjoy this voyage around the maritime sphere of Ireland and, if you would like to contact the programme, the Email address is: [email protected]

Published in Island Nation
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About boot Düsseldorf: With almost 250,000 visitors, boot Düsseldorf is the world's largest boat and water sports fair and every year in January the “meeting place" for the entire industry. From 18 to 26 January 2020, around 2,000 exhibitors will be presenting their interesting new products, attractive further developments and maritime equipment. This means that the complete market will be on site in Düsseldorf and will be inviting visitors on nine days of the fair to an exciting journey through the entire world of water sports in 17 exhibition halls covering 220,000 square meters. With a focus on boats and yachts, engines and engine technology, equipment and accessories, services, canoes, kayaks, kitesurfing, rowing, diving, surfing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, SUP, fishing, maritime art, marinas, water sports facilities as well as beach resorts and charter, there is something for every water sports enthusiast.

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At A Glance – Boot Dusseldorf 

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