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Displaying items by tag: Tom MacSweeney

On THIS ISLAND NATION this week... I take the view that every sport needs a national association to lead its development. So Ireland needs a national sailing association. How a national association serves its members must be the definition of its success. A national sport can also benefit from the oxygen of international competition, offering opportunities to raise the national reputation and the team and/or individual involved. The representative organisation must not lose touch with its base, the local club, the local member. Is there a dichotomy in this regard between the drive for international success and the state of sailing in Ireland?

Next Saturday's planned meeting in the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, following on the raising of issues about the development, future and existing state of sailing in Ireland at the annual general meeting of the Irish Sailing Association (ISA), has a lot to discuss.

The national sailing authority has been challenged on several fronts, ranging from whether the drive for international success has neglected the sport locally, to its administration, whether the ISA was correct to embrace motorboating power within its remit and other aspects of the state of sailing in Ireland today.

I have an open mind on the issues raised, but the challenges issued must be answered, one of which appears to be the relationship of the ISA to the local club member, which has been the subject of debate.

"What does the ISA do for me, as a club member?"

How often I have heard that question raised and also the answers given – amongst them that, without it, there could not be national championships; would not be international recognition of Ireland; matters of regulations; issuing of certificates and many others, as well as criticism that the ISA has moved too far from its base and become involved in matters extraneous to the sport of sailing.


Bring back buying fish locally


"This country is sodden with regulations" a comment I have heard quite often and which has a degree of truth. In the course of the present food controversy over horsemeat I remembered the days when it was possible in a fishing port to buy fresh fish off the boats as the landed. Regulations imposed by the omnipresent "health and safety," often seen as an abuser of freedoms, has prevented that opportunity, to which one can hearken, particularly in these times of industrial-food operations which have led to the horsemeat issue.



On Wednesday of next week, March 27, a "community-supported fishery" project is to be launched at Brighton in the UK. "Catchbox" is the first project of its kind, intended to provide local fish at a fair price to both fishermen and consumers, ensuring a sustainable market for a variety of local fish. Members of the scheme pay a fee to join the project at the beginning of the fishing season and are entitled to a share of participating fishermen's catches each week, based on a set weight. Local restaurants, fish shops, cafes and domestic consumers are entitled. Members will also get together for cookery demonstrations. The idea comes from North America where community-supported fishery schemes are popular. Could they spread so that we could get back to the days of local people being able to buy locally-caught fish rather than the present industrial-type food system which has produced situations such as the horsemeat controversy?


Salmon on the Blackwater - a catch by Terry O'Keeffe from Midleton


Ian Powell of Blackwater Lodge down South in the Cork/Waterford border areas is in happy mood this week after some good catches of salmon, amongst them the one pictured here which Terry O'Keeffe from Midleton caught. Ian describes the catch: "Terry came to the Lodge at about 2.30 p.m. I sent him to Kilmurry. At 4 o'clock I had a call from him to say he too had a springer on fly after only an hour fishing. (Another angler had also taken a good catch earlier in the day.) I grabbed the camera and headed for the scene - the Hut Pool on Upper Kilmurry. Duly photographed, I brought the fish back to the Lodge where it tipped the scales at 10.3lbs. Terry's fish fell to a fly of his own tying fished on a Sink 1/2 Loop Custom Shooting Head made by Glenda. Both fish were extremely fresh but neither had sea-lice which could well mean that fish are moving through only very slowly and that there are probably a reasonable number about."



CFT, the Irish Underwater Council, is to make its 50th anniversary this year with a celebration dinner at the City North Hotel, Gormanston, Co, Meath, on September 15, which will also be the publication date of a special newspaper chronicling the history of the national diving association around the country. All clubs are being asked to provide "pictures and stories and we are also looking for old video or cine-camera footage covering any diving event."

Contact CFT at 78a Patrick Street, Dun Laoghaire, Co.Dublin – phone 01 2844601 or Email: [email protected] if you can help.


Despite fears of a downturn after the Costa Concordia disaster the cruise ship industry has shrugged off bad publicity, dealt with the imposition of new regulations and survived a weak world economic situation to continue making profits. That is according to the Florida, USA-based Cruise Line Industry Association which has set-up a "one worldwide voice" for the industry. The United Nations' body for safety at sea, the International Maritime Organisation, is to implement a unified policy for lifeboat muster drills for passengers, but that may not come into effect until the middle of next year.


Sewage in the water is not pleasant and in the USA where issues can take peculiar turns, environmentalists are objecting in Miami to plans which the local authorities say are vital to impose because of fears that climate change could drastically affect sewage treatment plants in Miami in southern Florida. Scientists there have warned that the three major sewage plants serving the area could be "reduced to shrinking islands in less than 50 years" due to rising sea levels which will threaten the region's vital facilities. As a result local authorities have announced a $1.5 billion plan to improve protection of the existing plants. However the main objectors are environmentalists who want the plans moved inland, but residents in suggested alternative locations are in turn objecting to that!

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For regular Marine News follow on Twitter: @afloatmagazine @TomMacSweeney

Published in Island Nation

#islandnation – On THIS ISLAND NATION this week... How the Government has misled the maritime public ... The unluckiest Ships' Captain? ..... What about this collision in Singapore! Have you checked your marina's ladders? And much more...

Government reform to make its administration more efficient and supportive of the maritime sector is urgently needed. It is time that political parties are required to deliver on the promises they make when seeking election. They have been allowed to mislead the public for too long in this regard. This is what Fine Gael promised in its General Election Manifesto under the heading "Steering the Marine":

Marine Department
Marine and fisheries policy is currently spread across three Departments. Fine Gael will merge these responsibilities under one Department for better co-ordination in policy delivery

But the number of Departments across which the marine is spread has increased to five since Fine Gael and Labour took over Government. There are five Ministers and a similar number of Ministers of State with have responsibility for aspects of the maritime sphere. When they concluded a pact for Government, Fine Gael and Labour indicated that it was their agreed view that maritime matters should be brought under just one Department. Surprise, surprise, where political promises are concerned, this was not implemented. Instead the situation has worsened.

How can the Government be so blind to the potential of the maritime sector? Would this not make you wonder about how efficient it is in protecting the interests of this nation in development of our offshore resources?


The wife of a friend of mine slipped between their boat and a marina in going ashore and fell in the water. There was no marina ladder anywhere in the vicinity and he had to get help from others on the marina to pull her out and onto the marina. Shocked by what had happened he walked the entire marina and could not find a single safety ladder which would help recovery in such an emergency. This marina is in Ireland, he told me. Have you checked your marina?


Youth dinghy sailing


"A national sailing authority must command the respect of those it serves to do its job efficiently. If it doesn't, it can't." That comment is one of several I have received since the future of dinghy sailing was discussed at the annual general meeting of the Irish Sailing Association. "A long, slow decline in the sport which has, as its root cause, bad policy decisions taken at ISA level," is a serious accusation, carried in reports from the meeting, another aspect of which struck me was that there were just 80 delegates reported present. That number does not strike me as strong representation of sailing clubs around the country.

In recent years it has been comfortable to be told that sailing was expanding rapidly and I have seen more youngsters taking part, but what was raised at the ISA a.g.m. does cause concern: "We need face some realities. It's always dangerous when an organisation starts believing its own public relations." That is another quote I have seen from the meeting. I was out of the country when it took place. A challenge has also been raised by Norman Lee from Wicklow and Bryan Armstrong from Sligo about the inclusion of "power" in the 2006 amendment to the ISA's objectives: "Is it a coincidence that what we see as the rot started around 2006? We make no apology for our interest in the sport of sailing meaning boats powered by the wind and this is what we want the ISA to refocus on."

The ISA has been directly and seriously challenged. It is up to the Association to earn the respect of the sailing public.


The most unlucky Ship's Captain about whom I have heard is named Captain Rochfort who commanded two ships which went on the rocks in two months!
Both were steamships and seem to have been pretty close to shore when they hit rocks. The first, the iron paddle steamer Minerva, had a hundred passengers and twenty-two crew aboard and was reported at full speed on the evening of August 29, 1854 en route from Liverpool to Cork but too close to the rocky islands known as the Skerries off Anglesey in Wales. Captain Rochfort ordered a change of course but the vessel struck the Victoria Rocks, took water and began sinking. All aboard got off safely. In subsequent reports, the Captain was praised for his actions as the ship was abandoned.

However the attitude towards him changed two months later when he came under severe criticism and investigations were demanded into his handling of the Ajax, an 800-ton paddle steamer with 400 h.p. engines. She had 300 people aboard en route from London and was also sailing too close to the shore. She struck "well-charted rocks" near Plymouth. Other ships came to the rescue and all aboard were saved.

The two shipwrecks were a disastrous period for the Cork Steam Ship Company which operated services from Liverpool and London. This intriguing story is told by Ronnie Herlihy in his book, 'Tales from Victorian Cork.' The company offices can still be seen on Penrose Quay in the city.


Having read about Captain Rochfort, I saw this example of command (above) which happened on March 3 in the Straits of Singapore, a very busy transit point for shipping, when a smaller vessel began going to port and getting closer and closer to a bulk carrier. Listen to the audio on the bridge of another ship as the incident was filmed and, despite all the warning soundings of hooters and horns, a collision occurred. The Singapore Coastguard reported that there were no casualties, but there was serious damage to the smaller ship. Investigations are continuing.


Cork Port vessel inspects mooring buoys


If you own a mooring in Cork Harbour take careful note that from this Monday, March 11, Cork Port Company intends to begin removing all "unauthorised, unpaid or illegibly marked moorings". It seems a bit early to be doing this as many leisure boat people don't become active until April/May and some not until June. I put this to the Port Company which responded: "The routine of checking moorings has always been undertaken during this time of year by our staff, but also continues during the season. As you pointed out, it may seem early in the season, however, we find the most suitable time to undertake this activity is when unauthorised moorings are free of boats. We note from past surveys that genuinely responsible mooring holders keep a regular check on their mooring throughout the year."

So, you have been warned!


In Dunmore East, County Waterford, Michael Griffin has taken over from Joefy Murphy who retired as Coxswain of the local lifeboat after 14 years in the position during which he was involved in many emergency services. Joefy had been on the lifeboat crew since 1997, a great record.


Cheekpoint pier


Fishermen in the Waterford Estuary who decided not to take compensation but to hold onto their traditional drift net salmon licences have suggested that salmon stocks in the Nore, Suir and Barrow, which feed the estuary have recovered enough to allow access to their traditional fishery at Passage East, Cheekpoint, Dunmore East, Ballyhack, Duncannon and Arthurstown. The economic and social effects of the banning of drift net fishing on fishing communities in these areas has not been adequately examined.

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For regular Marine News follow on Twitter: @Afloatmagazine and @TomMacSweeney

Published in Island Nation

#islandnation – This week...Steamship history from a small town in Cork Harbour...Coastal areas deserve State support for development projects to create jobs...Ice on the river...Grant Dalton blows his cool on America's Cup hypocrisy... Indian sharks have gone missing and more...

Passage West is a town with a great maritime tradition on the edge of Cork Harbour, so what could be more natural than revival of its fortunes coming from the River Lee which caresses its shoreline on the way to the sea? The town has suffered quite a bit from the economic downturn and areas of it look decayed these days, but there is no decay in the memory of the connection of this town with maritime history. It would be fitting were it to become one of the main locations for this year's Gathering events when the 175th anniversary of the first steamship crossing of the Atlantic is commemorated because it was from this town that the crossing started when the ship, Sirius, was commanded by a local mariner.

These days there is still a shipping berth operated in the town off which sailing vessels once transferred cargoes into lighters to carry the loads upriver to Cork City. Much of the maritime hardware, the dockyard and other ancillary facilities have disappeared into the shrouds of time.

Occasionally the town is confused with Passage East on the River Suir in Waterford. Once Passage West had a small ferry operation serving the workforce across the river at what was then the big NET Marino Point State fertiliser factory. Perhaps appropriately, at the steps where that ferry landed onto Railway Quay and where once a railway operated, the Passage to Monkstown River Users' Association has proposed using a block and chain mooring system to locate a pontoon and access gangway 20 metres out from the shore that would be usable at all stages of the tide without requiring dredging. The Associations is an example of an active, local community wanting to use the maritime history and resources of an area to provide economic development in these difficult times. There are several such-minded communities around the coast. What they need is more State and local authority backing and practical financial support. Investment in maritime projects will be a key to the future.


Sirius commemorative site in Cork

"With the development of Spike Island and Fort Camden and more realisation of the value of Cork Harbour's amenities, there is still not enough access to the river. What we want to do is change that, without costing a great lot of money," they told me. As part of this they will hold a week-long Maritime Festival starting on May 17 to mark the 175th anniversary of the of the Sirius voyage from Passage West to New York in 1838, the first ship to cross the Atlantic under steam power. She was commanded by Lieut.Richard Roberts a native of Passage West. It will be a fitting part of this year's national 'Gathering' Project and include a maritime exhibition, water-based activities, rowing and yacht races, safety and rescue demonstrations, a historical exhibition about the Cork/Blackrock to Passage West Railway and onshore events.



Passage West Town Councillor Angela Murphy, a member of the Organising Committee, says they are seeking exhibits – historical documents, photographs, craftsmen's tools, items associated with the railway, ship building/repair memorabilia, ship models for the exhibition "all of which will be safely returned."

Further information from 087 1357634 or Email: [email protected]


Walking along the riverside in Fredrikstad, a port city about two hours south of Oslo in Norway at the weekend, not far from Swedish waters, I enjoyed the sunshine and heard locals say that Spring was coming and soon the covers would be taken off the boats moored along the river and leisure sailing would begin again.


Ice on the tide


Norwegian riverside sailing history


Winter river moorings in Fredrikstad

A boardwalk leading onto a paved area, with seating, restaurants and bars, even a theatre and a free cross-river ferry to the older, historic fort area of the city which once protected the waterway, all underline how Norwegians value their maritime resources. While moored, covered leisure craft are not used in winter, there is still essential river commercial traffic, while all around the Norwegian coastline boats are a more essential part of transport than cars. From across the river at Fredrikstad I could hear the sound of work emanating from boatyards and reminded myself than once I got home it would be time to begin my own plan for getting the boat ready! Along the riverside historic vessels mingled with the modern. A lovely place to walk, to muse, to enjoy. What a pity we do not have similar city-based attractions in this country.

One aspect of maritime life in Norway that is not likely to be experienced here is the sight of ice floating down the river! Even as Spring approaches - and they do have clear weather seasons in Norway – upriver areas were still frozen over.


The Coastal & Marine Research Centre at University College Cork is looking for four experienced biologists to work on a marine mammal monitoring programme on the west coast of Ireland - a project leader, senior field assistant and two field assistants

Under a development plan for the CORRIB gas field off western Ireland, Enterprise Energy Ireland Ltd. commissioned the Coastal & Marine Research Centre at UCC to conduct an independent cetacean monitoring programme on the northwest coast in 2001 - 02. Following preliminary field surveys the study was expanded to include other marine mammal species recorded in the area. Research was undertaken in Broadhaven Bay County Mayo and adjoining coastal waters. The programme of marine mammal monitoring was continued in 2005 and has been on-going since 2008 during the CORRIB development's marine phases. Research is being extended until at least May 2014. The marine mammal monitoring programme is grant-aided by Shell E&P Ireland through RSK Environment Ltd.


The Indian Ocean Humane Society International claimed this week that the shark population in the ocean has been decimated by unchecked trading in shark fins. Together with other conservation groups it is urging the Indian government to take action to protect the endangered sharks and rays when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species meets in Thailand next month. India should have an important role in global shark management and conservation because it is regarded as second in the world in catching sharks according to conservationists.


Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton seems to have blown his cool a bit over the America's Cup World Series regattas which are sailed in the AC45 catamarans. The Series has been regarded as a bit of a sideshow to the main event in San Francisco later this year which will be sailed in the larger, super-powered AC72 cats. Rivals Oracle and Artemis have been accused by Grant of "hypocrisy" because they have named under-strength teams for next month's World Series regatta in Naples, the last event of the Series before the 'real one' starts in July. An interesting use of the word "hypocrisy" by Grant, considering that late last year Emirates Team New Zealand for the Americas Cup was reported as having planned to boycott two world series events scheduled for New York next June. Dalton was reported then to be describing the 'AC World Series' as a distraction from the real AC72 sailing programme and, as a result, that he would send a youth team to New York to compete under the Team New Zealand banner. The New York regattas have since been cancelled, but Dalton was criticised by the event organisers for lack of support! The 'World Series' was considered vital to building the profile of the America's Cup itself leading up to San Francisco. Nice little controversy to excite attention!

Email: [email protected]

Regular news on Twitter from @afloatmagazine and @TomMacSweeney

Published in Island Nation

#islandnation – On THIS ISLAND NATION this week – an island nation without a maritime government ... Coast Guard doesn't seem to like solo boaters.... Whispering to sharks ... Scrapping the only nuclear container ship and more ....



The conclusion of the Vendee Globe, the world's toughest single-handed offshore racing around the world, highlighted the ability of sailors to overcome problems when alone, particularly the seamanship of French yachtsman Jean-Pierre Dick in Virbac Paprec 3 who sailed the last few thousand nautical miles without a keel. In most monohulled yachts that would have been the end of the boat, a capsize would have followed. But he kept his boat upright using water ballast to reach the finish line at Les Sables d'Olonne in France.

The issue of solo sailing, single-handed, alone, has been a subject of debate for many years. Arguments have ranged back-and-forth. It has been claimed that a solo sailor cannot adequately keep watch and so therefore breaks the International Regulations for Prevention of Collision, the ColRegs as they are known. On the other hand, it has been responded that single-handed sailors have kept better watch systems than crewed merchant ships where accidents have happened when vessels were left on automatic control, with no human on duty in the ship's bridge. In Ireland there has been debate in recent years about whether regulations outlaw solo sailing.

All of this came to mind in reading the report of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board into a RIB accident in Cork Harbour last June when the sole occupant was thrown into the water, the outboard engine didn't cut out and the RIB hit him causing serious injuries. In commenting on the findings the Director of the Coast Guard, Chris Reynolds, urged the MCIB "that the report should make a strong recommendation against anyone venturing to sea or on the water on their own. It is neither safe nor conducive to good seamanship."

The MCIB report focuses on the kill cord which, it says, was not functioning correctly, that the operator of the boat knew this and that he was not seated at the wheel when the accident occurred. The man concerned said his boat struck something. There is no conclusive evidence either way on this, but the MCIB said that rescuers did not note any object in the water. The MCIB is blunt, rightly so, in warning about the essential importance of the kill cord for safety in all open motorboats and that it should always be used and checked regularly. It also says that "all pleasure craft owners should complete a recognised powerboat handling course, regardless of previous experience."

The MCIB did not go as far as making the "strong recommendation" which the Coast Guard sought, but it did say that "owners and operators of recreational craft should be aware and follow the Department of Transport, Tourist and Sport's Code of Practice for the Safe Operation of Recreational Craft." If you haven't read this document, you can download it from the Department's website. The Coast Guard and Marine Safety Directorate are, of course, part of the Department. You might be surprised, for example to learn, depending on the size of your boat and where you use it, what you are required to carry aboard under safety regulations – and there is a lot more besides.

Turning back to the issue of single-handed or solo sailing, there should be a lot more discussion about this. Does a blanket-type recommendation for example refer to no single-handed dinghy sailing or kayakers or others, or going out alone to check your boat on its mooring?


Ireland is the third biggest country in the European Union by virtue of our claimed seabed territory of 220 million acres.

Ireland doesn't have a Department of the Marine.

Consider those two facts for a moment.

Then add – There are five different Government Departments dealing with aspects of the maritime sphere.

Now, when Ireland should be leading the case for a beneficial CFP Review the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (note that 'Marine' is last in the title) is embroiled in dealing with horsemeat in beef. There is hardly a word heard of or read about the vital importance of the CFP Review. So who is dealing with fish, the fishing industry and the Review of the Common Fisheries Policy?

I am well aware that the integrated marine plan for Ireland is named 'Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth.' But, to make this effective, five government departments must agree through an inter-departmental Marine Co-ordination Group, to transfer some of their resources to the maritime sphere. Who believes that this will actually happen?



What is regarded as the world's only nuclear-powered container ship is to be scrapped because there is no use for it. The 38,226 gross tonnage Sevmorput, was built by a shipyard in the Ukraine in 1988 but has been lying idle and unused at the Atomflot base for several years. This is where nuclear-powered icebreakers are located. In the 1990s when it was used for trading, several ports refused access and others imposed such restrictions that it was difficult to operate the ship.


For a time it was used between Murmansk and Dudinka. Now it is considered to have no commercial future so it has been announced that it will be scrapped.


Carnival Corporation is to build two new cruise ships. One will be of 99,000 gross tonnage for Holland America Lines. The other will be of 135,000 gt for Carnival Cruise Lines. They will be built by the Italian Fincantieri yard, the first to be capable of carrying 2,660 passengers and due for delivery in Autumn 2015 and the Carnival ship to cater for 4,000 passengers and be delivered in Winter 2016.



On her third attempt to sail around the world solo non-stop, 70-year-old British grandmother Jeanne Socrates has rounded the Cape of Good Hope in her yacht, Nereida. She is attempting to become the oldest non-stop solo circumnavigator. She left Victoria, British Columbia, in October and successfully rounded Cape Horn in January. She is now setting a course to round Australia's Cape Leeuwin. She has already completed two previous solo-circumnavigations but during them had to put into port for repairs, after a grounding and a knock-down damaged her boat.


Ian Walker will skipper an Abu Dhabi entry again in the Volvo Ocean Race next year and there will again be a stopover in the United Arab Emirates capital. The route from Recife in Brazil to Abu Dhabi will take the teams and their brand new Volvo Ocean 65 racing yachts deep into the Southern Ocean. Abu Dhabi became the first Middle East entry in the last race.



Claimed to be the first of its kind in the world, Inland Fisheries Ireland, has produced what they hope will be a new weapon in the fight to stop the spread of Invasive aquatic species in Ireland - an "Individual Angler Disinfection Kit." Contained in a kit bag it comprises: 20 Virkon Aquatic (50g) tablets; a 500 ml plastic trigger spray bottle; disposable gloves; a stiff bristle brush for cleaning boots, etc.; a practical instruction manual; invasive species identification cards on a key ring; a metal 'Stop the spread of invasive species' badge and relevant invasive species literature. The kit is available from IFI and will cover disinfection for up to 20 fishing trips.

"Logistically it is impossible to provide disinfection facilities at every watercourse in the country to cater for all anglers so a different approach was require," says IFI, adding that anglers "recognise they must protect and not adversely impact the aquatic habitat or water quality."

"It will help ensure that pernicious aquatic invasive species are not spread by unsuspecting anglers as they move from one watercourse to another," says the organisation which has been fighting the growing menace of alien species arriving in Irish waters, a threat which has been rapidly increasing.

Marine Environment


The 'horse whisperer' is well-known (no burger comments!) but now there is the 'shark whisperer' filmed off Hawaii when a shark-conservationist swam up to a great white shark, patted it and even grabbed hold of its fin. By the name of 'Ocean Ramsey' she is a declared "advocate for shark preservation" and arranged for the video footage to be issued on Valentine's Day as "my expression of love for the creatures that are misunderstood and at risk of extinction!" There is some debate about the veracity of the video! "The shark acknowledged and observed me, while I peacefully and calmly allowed it to swim towards me and then accepting my touch, allowing me to dorsal and tail ride,' was her description of the experience.

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Regular news on Twitter:  @afloatmagazine @TomMacSweeney

Published in Island Nation

#islandnation – On THIS ISLAND NATION this week – farmed fish overtake the wild kind ... Cork Harbour Master retires ...Shipping revival predicted ... EU attempt to licence leisure boating stopped ... And much more marine news .....


This year more farmed fish will be eaten by humans globally than they eat wild fish, according to one of the leading figures in the fish farming industry, Aquaculture Executive of the Irish Farmers' Association, Richie Flynn. If this forecast turns out to be correct it will happen at a time when two State bodies involved in the Irish fisheries sector are contradicting each other.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara, the State commercial fisheries board; and Inland Fisheries Ireland, which has responsibility for angling development, rivers and estuaries; are at loggerheads over BIM's intention to develop salmon farming in pens in Galway Bay. Fish farming, aquaculture, particularly salmon farming has been opposed by angling interests for many years and is detested by salmon anglers. Scientific and environmental arguments have been used by both sides to justify their positions, with accusations by the angling side that lice problems are caused to wild fish stocks by the farming. Claims have been made that a massive disaster will face the Irish tourist industry because of the Galway development. This is rejected by BIM, promoting the development of aquaculture to counterbalance the drop in stocks of wild fish because of stock issues, quotas and other regulatory restrictions on the fishing industry and the economic value which, they say, fish farming could bring to coastal areas.

As always when 'positions' are taken, the 'middle ground' is ignored and agreement that would require compromise, is difficult to achieve.

There are realities to be faced on both sides -
• Fish farming is not going to go away and its development will be necessary for the food industry and production is likely to overtake the provision of wild-caught fish for human consumption.
• Angling is an important tourist and economic resource but salmon angling has over many years been the preserve of those who owned rivers, wealthy interests and individuals, or controlled by angling clubs and memberships, strictly licenced, with catches restricted for stock protection.

Anglers are a powerful lobbying group which brought an end to drift-net fishing and has tried to do the same for the more limited aspect of traditional draft-netting. Preserving wild salmon stocks is essential. However, so is the future of the aquaculture industry, the provision of food stocks for human consumption and employment in the fishing industry as an economic necessity in coastal areas as well as the tourist industry. This is reality.


After 33 years' service Captain Pat Farnan has retired as Cork Port's Harbour Master and Deputy Chief Executive.

He joined the port company in 1980 as Assistant Harbour Master and was President of the European Harbour Masters Association from 1996 to 1998.Prior to 'coming ashore,' Captain Farnan served with Irish Shipping Ltd., which he joined as a Cadet, then serving in all ranks on a wide variety of vessels trading worldwide. He left Irish Shipping having been Ship's Master for two years. In his Cork post he had also been Harbour Master of Bantry Bay since 2002.

"Amongst the highlights during my time at the Port of Cork was the return of cruise liners to Cork with the berthing of the QE2 at Ringaskiddy in 1990 and the development of t cruise liner facilities in Cobh," he said. The Tall Ships Race visit in 1991, the first time the event was ever hosted in Ireland, was also a personal highlight of my career."

Deputy Harbour Master, Captain Paul O'Regan, will take up responsibility as Acting Harbour Master and Captain Pat Murphy will be the Acting Deputy Harbour Master for the immediate future.


The shipping industry will recover from what has been described as the present "glut" which has caused sharp falls in operating profits and the laying-up of vessels.
That is according to shipping magnate and billionaire John Fredriksen who controls an international fleet of oil, bulk and gas carriers through publicly-listed companies such as Frontline Ltd. (FRO), Golden Ocean Group Ltd. (GOGL) and Golar LNG Ltd. (GLNG). Speaking in Norway he said the market for oil and fuel tankers will be the first to recover, reviving over the next 15 to 20 months, when he predicted that international trade will pick up, with oil product carriers recovering business before the biggest crude carriers, for which demand would "take more time to rebuild."

Predictions in the trade are that daily earnings for product tankers could rise 11 per cent this year, with a 4.6 per cent rise for refined fuels. Shipping predictions are that demand for use of product tankers will increase but, in contrast, there will be too much capacity available in crude tankers and dry-bulk carriers.


The container shipping industry may face a wave of mergers, it has been predicted, as companies try to lower costs. Hamburg-based Hapag-Lloyd AG, the world's sixth-largest container line, is in merger talks with Hamburg Sued, the No. 12, to create the world's fourth-largest carrier. The two lines together would have capacity less than only A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, CMA CGM SA and Mediterranean Shipping Co. While Hamburg Sued focuses on North-South trade, Hapag-Lloyd mainly operates on East-West lanes such as Asia to Europe. Carriers have struggled to make profits in the past two years because of an overcapacity of vessels, slumping demand and low freight rates.


I wrote in early January about the plans by Transport Minister Leo Varadkar to introduce a 'Vessels' Registration Bill' and expressed the view that caution should be the watchword when politicians want to impose regulations that control previously individual freedoms. At the same time I said there were reasons to introduce a register of boats in Irish waters, to aid safety and counteract criminal activities, such as drug-running for which our coastline has been used.

A Dutch Member of the European Parliament has been attempting to introduce a compulsory boat licence across the European Union to be enforced under the Recreational Craft Licence. This would require regular examinations of boat users for competency and appointment of inspectors to check boats for equipment, systems, etc., requiring owners to pay a State fee for their licences. The Dutch proposal would also have introduced a total ban on the use of red diesel in boats. The UK's Royal Yachting Association has fought a strong battle against the proposal and it seems that this has been successful.


The Swedish city of Gothenburg will be the final stop on the route for the 12th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race in 2014-15 and will also feature in the 13th edition under a two-race agreement between the city and the race organisers. Gothenburg is Sweden's second largest city and Scandinavia's largest port. 2014-15 will be the third time Gothenburg has hosted the Volvo Ocean Race and the second time it has staged the finale, following the success of 2005-06 when the Swedish yacht, ABN AMRO ONE, sailed into the port as overall race winner, with Ireland's Justin Slattery as Bowman. Gothenburg, on the west coast of Sweden, is the fifth host port to be revealed so far for the 2014-15 Volvo. The race will start from Alicante in Spain and call first at Recife in north/east Brazil. It will also visit Auckland in New Zealand before rounding Cape Horn for a second Brazilian stop in Itajaí. Further port announcements will be made over the coming weeks. Ireland will not be involved after twice hosting the race in Galway.


The new Archbishop of Canterbury in the UK, 56-year-old Justin Welby, is a sailor. Suggestions have been made that he should call his boat, 'The Holy See'!


The first attempt is being made to send an unmanned robotic vessel around the world underwater to collect data about marine environments, such as water currents, temperature and conditions that reveal the effects of storms on fisheries and water quality. It is on its way from South Africa to Brazil at present, controlled by scientists from Rutgers University, a Mid-Atlantic partner of the United States Integrated Ocean Observing System. The journey of what has been named the 'Challenger Glider' could take up to a year. The name recalls 'HMS Challenger,' which in the 1870s was the first vessel to circumnavigate the globe on a marine research expedition. The 'glider' is regarded as a cost-effective, low-risk method of collecting marine data at various depths and could revolutionise ocean observation work.

"Information from it would provide scientists with a more complete picture of what is happening in the ocean and may help detect trends in ocean characteristic," say the scientists. "The results could enable better forecasting and information that helps to improve safety at sea and protect the environment."


You may not have heard of it, but the European Union is funding a project called
'PERSEUS' which stands for 'Policy-oriented marine Environmental Research in the Southern European Seas. Two hundred scientists from 20 countries around the Mediterranean and Black Seas met in Barcelona last week as part of the project to share the results of joint work they carried out over the past year that summarised what they considered to be the main stress factors affecting the health of these two seas. Amongst these "stressors" they identified fisheries; maritime transport; land-based pollutants from industry and agriculture; oil, gas and mineral exploration and exploitation causing oil spills.


Beachy Head is the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain, rising 540 feet above sea level.
It is marked by a famous red-and-white striped lighthouse beneath the cliff which is 141 feet high. In 2011 Trinity House, the UK lighthouse authority, announced that it could no longer afford to repaint the distinctive red-and-white stripes and that it would be left to return to its natural granite grey. Trinity House maintained that, because boats have high-tech navigational systems, the coloured day-marker stripes were no longer essential. However, a public campaign to keep the stripes was launched in October 2011 and has raised stg£27,000 to repaint the stripes.

Dangerous Seas – TWENTY DEAD

An indication of how dangerous life at sea can be and how little attention loss of life often gets came in the past week when a Russian fishing vessel capsized in the Sea of Japan and 20 Russian and Indonesian crew members went missing. Ten others were rescued by a passing freighter. Not a line of coverage appeared in the Irish media!

Marine Tourism

Disc-like structures above and even below the water have been proposed by a company called Deep Ocean Technology which apparently wants to build the world's first underwater hotel. Reports suggest this could be in the lavish location of Dubai. One part of the hotel would be t thirty feet under the surface and guests wouldn't need breathing apparatus. But they might need 'deep' pockets to afford the luxury!

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Regular news @afloatmagazine

Tom MacSweeney on Twitter: @TomMacSweeney

Published in Island Nation

#islandnation – This week in THIS ISLAND NATION – health in Cork Harbour, sea bass and Irish fishermen, shipping unions take unusual action, where have the Puffins gone, rogue waves and much more...

Cork Harbour is a great local and national resource, generally regarded as the second biggest, best and most beautiful natural harbour in the world. I say that not just as a Corkman living in the harbour area, but because it is generally accepted.

There have been and remain several environmental battles on-going about the harbour involving development proposals by the semi-State Cork Port Company and for a national toxic incinerator and added to all of this Cork Harbour is the location of perhaps the biggest environmental problem Ireland has to resolve - the dumps of waste left behind by the former Irish Steel company on Haulbowline Island, alongside which the Naval Service is based.

The Government's lethargy in dealing with this problem after twelve years of reports warning about dangers to human health is disgraceful. When is work going to start on the remediation of Haulbowline Island in Cork Harbour, is a question I have been asked following public information meetings held by Cork County Council about the matter. It seems that anyone who expects to see work get underway in the near future on the proposed 'capping' of the East Waste Tip on the island, at a cost of €40m., will be disappointed. That proposal was in response to a Government request, but there are other areas of concern on the island and there is no firm indication that the State has any plans to deal with them. They are the site where the main steelworks stood and the South Tip. I have been given to understand that it could take over a year before even a waste licence is obtained to allow the Council undertake any remedial work on the East Tip.

Checking previous investigations about Haulbowline, there is a 2001 report which warned that there was a high risk to humans from PCB spills and to the marine environment from metals and high to moderate risks to humans from windblown-dust. These were just some amongst the predicted dangers highlighted by environmental consultants.

Twelve years later the Government has still not acted and by failing to do so its concern for the people who live and work in Cork Harbour in the vicinity of the former plant is open to challenge. Cork County Council has indicated its concern about the situation and awareness of contaminant issues pertaining to the site but has made clear that it does not own the site and does not have direct authority to intervene.

It is time for the Government to show more concern for the health of the people of Cork Harbour.


Next June the EU Fisheries Commission is proposing to issue Total Allowable Catches for sea bass, based on the fishing track records of EU fishing nations.

Irish fishermen are unlikely to be given any quota because our Government has banned fishing for bass in Irish waters, even though British and French vessels are allowed to catch bass in Irish waters and land them into Irish ports!

This has been described as "a national self-inflicted scandal" by the Federation of Irish Fishermen which represents the country's fishing organisations. The TACs will be granted on the basis of fishing for bass in the years 2000 to 2010 and Ireland has no record as the Government banned commercial fishing for this species in the mid-90s. This was under pressure from angling interests and to protect the species. The Irish ban did not apply to foreign vessels in Irish waters.

"This is a cause of intense anger and frustration for the Irish fishing industry," said the FIF. "Other EU Member States can fish, catch and land sea bass, even into Irish ports, while Irish fishermen are prevented from catching the fish by an Irish Government decision."

The FIF has been asking for the fishery to be re-opened for several years, with a specific proposal which would have allowed a fishery over 30 miles off the South East Coast in order not to interfere with recreational angling.

"This is a self-inflicted disaster by the Government which has ignored reasonable proposals by commercial fishermen for many years and which would have gained scientific evidence about the future of the fishery," according to the FIF.

While anglers will justify the ban, it is questionable that non-Irish vessels are allowed to catch sea bass in Irish waters while Irish boats are not.


Shipping trade unions have taken the unusual step of announcing that they will adapt the familiar 'Fairtrade Mark' to judge the performance of shipowners. Nautilus International, the UK and Dutch trade union which includes Irish seafarers in its membership, has joined forces with the Swedish maritime union, SEKO, to introduce the 'Fair Transport' mark. This, they announced when launching the scheme in Brussels, is to see some of the key welfare principles of the fair trade movement applied to shipping. They said they took their action after asking the Fairtrade Foundation to include a clause in its licensing agreement so that any product displaying the 'Fairtrade Mark' would have to be transported on a ship meeting internationally agreed crew welfare standards.

"The Foundation wasn't interested so we are now asking stakeholders to join with us in developing our own scheme which will recognise good employers and encourage poor performers to raise their standards," the unions stated, indicating that they will launch a 'Fair Transport Mark' to be displayed by quality European shipping operators as a symbol of their commitment to the highest safety and environmental standards of shipping operation and "decent treatment of crews" as well as seeking to underpin the employment of European seafarers.


Survivors of the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster on the Italian coast and relatives of the 32 people who died marked the first anniversary on Sunday with the unveiling of memorials to the victims, a Mass in their honour and a minute of silence at the exact moment that the cruise ship hit a reef off Tuscany. The first event of the day-long commemoration was the return to the sea of part of the massive rock that tore into the hull of the 112,000-ton ocean liner on January 13, 2012 and remained embedded as the vessel capsized, with 4,200 passengers and crew aboard. As fog horns wailed, a crane on a tug lowered the boulder onto the reef off Giglio. Affixed to it was a memorial plaque. Survivors and relatives of the dead were on a ferry watching. A land-based memorial was unveiled after a Mass and ceremony honouring rescue crews.

The Costa Concordia Captain, Francesco Schettino, remains under house arrest, accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and leaving the ship before all passengers were evacuated. He maintains that he saved lives by bringing the ship closer to shore rather than letting it sink in the open sea and claims that the rocks which the vessel hit were not marked on the chats

Capt. Gregorio De Falco of the Italian Coast Guard, whose blunt instruction to Captain Schettino to get back on board his ship during the disaster, was present at the ceremonies.

The ship remains capsized off the port of Giglio. Latest indications are that it will take until September to prepare the ship to be rolled upright and towed from the rocks to be dismantled.


Research into the migratory patterns of Atlantic Puffins which reside on the island of Skellig Michael on the Kerry coastline in the Summer has shown that they travel across the entire Atlantic as far as Canada. One of the suggestions is that they follow the small oil-rich fish, capelin. Although Puffins have previously been tracked from Scotland and Wales the Irish study, using tiny tracking devices, is the first to show the birds making it across the entire Atlantic.


When news reports quote "rogue waves" what does that mean? What exactly is a "rogue wave?"

They are not as prevalent as media reports would indicate. A "rogue wave" can be twice as high as the highest waves normally seen in an ocean area under a given set of weather and sea conditions. "Rogue waves" have been part of maritime folklore for centuries, but their existence in reality is less proven.

The first "proof" was in 1996 when a 25 metre wave (about 75/80 feet) was recorded in the North Sea.


There may have been a human settlement at Lough Hyne near Skibbereen and Baltimore about 4,000 years ago. That is the conclusion being reached after a small piece of flint stone discovered in the area was forwarded to the National Museum. A polished stone axe head was found there in 1954, so the latest find appears to support the habitation theory. Archaeologists have put the primary source of flint finds as in the Antrim area of Northern Ireland, making this one unusual.

Sailing – CAPE CLEAR

I have never seen as many yachts anchored in South Harbour Cape Clear, one of my most favourite spots on the West Cork coastline, as in this photograph of the harbour. It was sent to me by author and islander Chuck Kruger who was one of my leading contributors when I broadcast maritime programming on RTE Radio. Born in the USA he and his wife, Nell, bought a farm on Cape Clear Island in 1986 and he has just published yet another book, "Whiff of Whales," a collection of short stories set on the island.


"Taken on a Summer's day from our farm," says Chuck.

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Tom MacSweeney on Twitter: @TomMacSweeney

Published in Island Nation

#islandnation– This week in THIS ISLAND NATION .... Can politicians be trusted to imposed compulsory boat registration? Preserving fishing tradition... Restricting access to the wheelhouse ... A 27-year wait ends at Glandore and much more .....


There are good reasons to have a register of boats in Irish waters. Many EU countries do. The UK and Ireland do not. The Irish Marine Federation (IMF) has called for a mandatory scheme for the identification of recreational vessels. Now Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has indicated that a 'Vessels Registration Bill' is amongst his priorities. But there are also reasons to be cautious. Experience teaches wariness about politicians when they propose regulations affecting an area of life that has previously escaped unnecessary control.

Such legislation has been expected for some years and there have been indications of what it would contain, such as vessel identification for search-and-rescue; ensuring that boats are covered by insurance; a system to stop the avoidance of VAT on buying boats, all reasonable. However, there are additional issues to be watched.

These include whether the proposals will involve a system of taxation or licensing to swell Government financial coffers, but presented as ostensibly good for the marine sector. For example, will there be another form of 'water tax' imposed to use a boat under the guise of a licence? What restrictions will the State seek to impose on the freedom to go boating, to sail, to use a motorboat, a Rib other watercraft? Will there be compulsory "water licences" akin to "driving licences". Ridiculous to suggest? Perhaps, but there could be a reasonable argument made for such a licencing system, for safety reasons. But how would all of this affect the freedom to use the water and how would it be implemented? Would it be a 'licence' for the employment of legions of public service inspectors.

There are good reasons to require leisure craft entering Irish waters to notify the authorities, such as drug-running prevention and other breaches of the law. The only system that exists is Customs clearance which, according to some visitors, can be 'hit-and-miss,' depending upon the areas of the coastline. Let us not rush to judgement, but do let us be cautious when the State comes calling with new regulations to control the freedom to use the water.

Registration of vessels of all sizes, from small boats to container ships, is done under the Register of Shipping Act. It is not compulsory at present for leisure craft.

Maritime Tradition – DRAFT-NET FISHING

Maintaining tradition is important and in Jack Howard's home in Passage West on the edge of Cork Harbour I discussed the old craft of draft netting. Jack is Chairman of the Cork Draft Net Fishermen's Association who are allowed to fish on the River Lee from May 12 to August 14. The season has been gradually squeezed into a smaller operational period - four days a week from May to July, then 5 days in July and back again to four from Tuesday to Fridays in August. In Cork City and County, under the South/Western Fisheries Board, there are only 17 draft net licences left and the allowed fish catch is 1,632. A generation ago there would have been around a hundred licences and boats operating in the Cork Harbour area.


Draft net fishing on the river Lee in the 1960s - from Jack Howard's collection

"We are doing what is in our blood. It is a tradition and we want to keep it," he told me as he showed me a photograph underlining the pride of a traditional craft handed down through his family. It shows draft net fishermen working on the River Lee and is reproduced here. "There has been pressure from angling sources to abolish draft netting, but anglers should respect that we have a right to catch salmon as well as them and that it is an Irish tradition which deserves to be maintained. There is enough for everyone if everyone respects the others' interests."

I have seen draft net fishermen on the Lee and in other locations around the coast. On the Slaney, Nore, Barrow, Suir and Blackwater small flat-bottomed 'cots' are used to fish in the tidal estuaries. They have distinctive styles and as well as draft netting were used for snap-netting and drift-netting until its abolition. They were also used for eel fishing until that traditional fishery was also closed down by Government decision. In North Mayo 160 draft net men had licences. In Killary Harbour and at Leenane draft netting was often a tourist attraction during summer months.

Draft-netting is a small fishery, but in many coastal regions a way of life, carried out in estuaries and inshore bays where a boat rows out from shore, paying out a net held at the other end onshore. The boat rows against the tide so that the net forms a semicircle. When a salmon is spotted inside the enclosure or felt hitting the net, the boat closes the circle and the net is hauled in.


The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch has recommended that shipping companies should restrict access to the wheelhouse. In a report on a collision in the English Channel last year it says that the master of one of the ships involved had been "distracted from his primary role of watchkeeping" by the presence of other people on the ship's bridge. The collision involved the Dutch-flagged refrigerated cargoship Spring Bok and the Maltese-registered LPG tanker Gas Arctic in March about 6 nautical miles south of Dungeness. No one aboard either ship was injured but both vessels suffered structural damage.


A Danish report warns that one in four of the world's shipyards could close in the next two years due to a slump in orders. There are 542 active shipyards worldwide, but 142 have no orders.


"After 27 years, we have at last acquired a clubhouse for Glandore Harbour Yacht Club. It may have taken a long time but the reward is that we have ended up with a perfect location for our clubhouse, 100 metres from the harbour," says Commodore, Diarmuid O'Donovan. "It has been the Club's aim to have a clubhouse since its formation in 1985 and a lot of effort has been put into acquiring one which will undoubtedly add to the sailing attractions of Glandore. We have come a long way over the past few years and membership has grown significantly."

The club sailing programme caters for Cruisers, Dragons, Squibs and other dinghies and extensive training programmes include ISA training courses and a sailing programme for local schools each summer. There are club racing fixtures from May to September. The clubhouse will add to the harbour facilities when the CH Marine Classic Regatta is held there from July 20 to 26. This regatta was first run in 1992.

"We have a programme to encompass all classic boat lovers - from those who simply want to watch from the shore, to the most dedicated of boat owners," said the Commodore who has invited all interested sailors to pre-register on the club's website for monthly newsletter updates. Glandore has been given a €25,000 grant for remedial works, including disabled access. It has trained 10 new instructors for summer sailing courses.


There are 55 salmon fisheries open and 59 closed for the angling season which has just begun and 32 rivers classed for "catch-and-release". For the first time since 2007 the River Liffey from Islandbridge in Dublin to Leixlip Dam in Kildare falls into this category. Recommended guidelines for catch-and-release have been published. Copies of a 20-minute video, "Catch and Release – The Future in Your Hands," is available free from Inland Fisheries Ireland, Balheary Road, Swords, Co.Dublin – phone 01 8842600.

Marine Environment – JELLYFISH STUDIES

Marine scientists will be carrying out further studies of jellyfish as a result of what have been described as "plagues of jellyfish" on the Mediterranean coastline last summer. There have been eight summers in a row of such "plagues" though previously these had occurred only once in every decade. Investigations will examine whether climate change is associated with the cause.

Fishing Industry – FENIT MEMORIAL

A memorial depicting the bronze statue of a fisherman is to be erected in Fenit, County Kerry, dedicated to local fishermen who lost their lives at sea. Seamus Connolly, a leading bronze sculptor, has been chosen to make the statute which will show a fisherman mending his net. The memorial will include an "area for reflection" incorporating memorial plaques.

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Tom MacSweeney on Twitter: @TomMacSweeney

Published in Island Nation
31st December 2012

Recession is Affecting Sailing

This week in THIS ISLAND NATION .... recession affects sailing ... when is it safe for ships to leave port ... an Irish refuge for skates... offshore exploration to increase and new protection for whales ...


As we face into a New Year I hear from sailing clubs in a number of places around the country that maintaining membership in the recession is likely to be a major challenge in the months ahead, while others involved in the marine leisure sector are also preparing plans for coping with its effects. The pattern appears to vary from one location to another, with some evidence that boatyards and marinas are also experiencing different affects, as are boat sales.

From what I am being told – and I would be interested to hear the views of readers – it seems that, where good cost deals can be found, some owners are opting to keep their boats in the water at marinas offering special occupancy rates for winter where berths, vacant because regular holders have hauled out. At the same time some yards seem to be finding that 'hauling-out' numbers are down, while others tell me regular customers are continuing to store afloat for the winter. There is also some evidence of cutbacks on spending for improvements or even maintenance where owners are opting to do it themselves when they had not done so before. As I say, the pattern is uneven around the coast, but it is not surprising that costs are determining decisions by owners.

From around the country I hear that club committees are giving particular attention to maintaining membership. Several clubs have told me that membership fees have not been changed for a few years and that this approach will be maintained. The Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven which last year introduced a monthly membership system as a response to the economic problems is taking a pro-active approach following a membership survey and a members' forum. Overall membership numbers are holding up reasonably well, but they have been examining the mix within categories and found, as is the case in other clubs, that the costs of family membership are a concern.

A number of clubs have told me that that, where previously an entire family would join and even the non-sailors would be included, it has become noticeable that only the family members who are active in sailing are joining. This reflects families watching expenditure closely, a situation likely to get more intense when the Government's swingeing Budgetary attacks on family incomes come into effect. All clubs need to hold onto current members and encourage new ones, particularly younger entrants to the sport, which has an ageing profile in several parts of the coast. The RCYC has decided to respond by reducing the costs of family and ordinary membership. Members over 65 face an increase of 50 per cent as a result, but their cost will still be less than half that of younger members. Those over 75 are not charged a membership fee.

"We have recognised concerns expressed by members and are making the adjustments," RCYC Admiral Peter Deasy has said.

The recessionary financial impacts are, without doubt, going to make 2013 a difficult one in monetary circumstances for many families and individuals. As a result, sporting activities and the costs of them may feel the impact.


Ireland has one of the most favourable financial arrangements for oil and gas exploration in the world. No matter what 'spin' the Government puts on the issue that is the reality. The Government can justify these arrangements on the basis that four decades of drilling has yielded just two major commercial finds – Kinsale Gas and the Corrib Field. Exploration is an expensive business and commercial returns need some degree of assurance. At present profits from oil and gas production in Irish waters are taxed at 25 per cent, twice the standard corporate rate, but could increase to 40 per cent for a particularly lucrative find. However, that taxation level is levied only after companies are able to write-off considerable levels of costs involved in the exploration. In the coming year it will be interesting to see how things develop as there have been undeveloped finds in Irish waters which were not considered commercial in the past, but the different energy world of today is changing how those discoveries are now viewed.

The Providence discovery of the Barryroe Field off West Cork and the prediction that it could provide at least 280 million barrels of oil has raised considerable interest. Exxon Mobil, the major oil and gas group which owns over 27 per cent of what is known as the Dunquin Prospect in the southern part of the Porcupine Basin, has indicated that it will undertake exploratory drilling about a hundred miles off the south-west coast in Block 44. Indications are that this could cost in the region of €70m. or more. That is a lot of investment money but the company's profits in 2011 were put at 41 billion dollars. The Barryroe Field is on Block 48. In the 80s there was quite a bit of exploratory drilling around the Celtic Sea off the South Coast, with a few indication of hydrocarbons being present. Market conditions prevailing then – energy prices and other cost factors – decided the companies involved that it was not worth pursuing the prospects. But times are different now, so 2013 could be an interesting year for exploration and how the Government of this cash-strapped nation will be proved right or wrong in the financial attractions it has offered to exploration companies.


Marine scientists from Bangor and Queen's Universities in the North and the Marine Institute in Galway have discovered a natural refuge for the endangered species of flapper skate in the Celtic Sea. Small areas of seabed which have below-average fishing because of uneven areas that make trawling difficult are providing the refuge in the North-East of the Celtic Sea. EU regulations require fishermen to put back into the sea any flapper skate which are caught. However, the major problem is that slow growth and reproduction biological patterns amongst these fish mean that even low levels of fishing mortality are a serious danger to the future of the species.

Shipping – WHEN TO SAIL

Pressures on Ships' Captains from owners to sail even in bad weather is a contentious issue, as to whether the Master of the vessel has the overall authority of making the decision or the commercial demands of the owner dictate. Now a Russian shipowner has been charged with causing the deaths of nine crew aboard a cargoship that sank in the Sea of Okhotsk in November. The 611 dwt. vessel is alleged to have been overloaded and authorities in Russia have said that the charges follow on the owner's insistence that the ship sail despite bad weather and improper cargo procedures.


Whales are to get more protection off the Californian coast in the USA where the United Nations' safety at sea body, the International Maritime Organisation, has approved new ship traffic rules designed to protect slow-moving endangered whales from ship collisions. These make changes on the approaches to San Francisco Bay and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and in the Santa Barbara Channel.

Migrating blue, fin and humpback whales are prone to ship strikes since they are often lured to the California shoreline by plentiful krill. All three species are endangered. In 2010, five whales died in ship accidents in the area outside San Francisco Bay. Los Angeles and Long Beach ports handle more than twice as much shipping container traffic as any other USA port.

"This is a win-win situation for maritime safety and whale protection," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries in the USA.

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Tom MacSweeney on Twitter: @TomMacSweeney

Published in Island Nation

#islandnation – This week on THIS ISLAND NATION .... coastal communities beat Coast Guard management for the second time; when will the Government realise the economic value of sailing; sea snails have an acidic message; shipping emotion; seafood is doing well..


For the second time management of the Irish Coast Guard has been defeated in their attempts to close the coastal radio stations at Malin Head and on Valentia Island. Sense has prevailed and safety of life at sea has been recognised as more important than bureaucracy. It is a victory for the good sense of coastal communities and recognition of the vital importance of local knowledge when life is in danger at sea as well as the importance of routine day-to-day operations of maritime radio.

The decision is commonsense as well as recognising that whoever closed the stations could face serious criticism should it result in controversy as a result of any subsequent loss of life at sea.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar in announcing his decision, appeared to be disgruntled about the manner in which the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications questioned Coast Guard management at a hearing about the issue. In his Dail statement he said the reviews into the Coast Guard services are ongoing, but he wanted to assure local communities that the three coastguard centres would not be closed. He said he was disappointed at the treatment of officials from his department at the Joint Committee meeting and claimed that there were a small number of members whose contribution was deeply unfair and unjustified.

It was this Committee which revealed several serious issues about the way in which the Fisher Report about the Coast Guard was handled, matters which still require an answer into the transparency and independence of examinations of State services.

It was revealed at that Oireachtas hearing that the original draft of the report had recommended what the Minister has now approved, that both Valentia and Malin remain open, but this was changed subsequently. By whose pressure and for what reason has not been disclosed. Who interfered with the consultants' report at that stage and sought to change it? Where is transparency and accountability to the public interest in that regard? Neither has Coast Guard management explained why the recommended upgrading of the stations was delayed after the last failed attempt to close them in 2009?

The battle to protect Malin and Valentia does not in any way reflect on the work or value placed of the Dublin radio base, but the correct decision is that there should be three stations working together for the benefit of saving life at sea and maritime radio communications in the widest sense. Coast Guard management was, once again, wrong in what it tried to do and should now learn its lesson. There was even an original proposal this time to replace Malin and Valentia with a station in the Minister's own constituency, at Blanchardstown. It would be difficult for any politician to defend such a proposal.

I have seen the complete Fisher Report and the responses of Coast Guard management to it, from which there are questions remaining to be answered.

It is now time for senior management to concentrate on responding by developing the service in the best interests of safety of life at sea and stop trying to close Malin and Valentia coastal radio stations.


Through the windows of the Cork Port company's board room I could see the branches of the Christmas trees swaying in the wind as the weather brought in the first signs of an impending gale, with rain driving down on a ship moored across the river. The words of Fr. Christy Fitzgerald came across the room: "In this weather who would want to be a seafarer? Who would like to be on a ship in tough weather conditions like today, out at sea, where crews are dependent entirely on themselves? It is a calling that many people would not do. There are families today who will be thinking about the conditions in which their family members may be at sea somewhere in the oceans of the world. We need seafarers, let us remember them.

Then, across the room came the singing of the congregation and the words: "Eternal Father strong to save, whose arm hath bound the restless waves, o hear us when we cry to thee, for those in peril on the sea."

I was at the annual ecumenical remembrance service for seafarers organised in Cork by the Southern Branch of the Maritime Institute of Ireland, an emotional, evocative occasion as the names of those who had died in the past year on the southern coastline were remembered. It was the biggest turn-out I have seen at the ceremony in recent years, with all maritime organisations, professional and leisure, represented. I thought of those who in Dublin at the same time would be holding the national ceremony to remember seafarers at the memorial on City Quay.

We should always remember and appreciate seafarers.


The enormous economic benefit which a well-developed national sailing approach could yield for Ireland is shown in the report about this year's Volvo Race in Galway. Compiled by the J.E.Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway it has shown that the event was worth €60.5 million to the economy. Over 500,000 visitors attended events during the race festival from June 30 to July 8, of which 16 per cent came from outside Ireland. The organisers and Galway City invested €7.6m. so the overall nett benefit was considerable.

"The magnitude of the event in terms of the economy of the Galway area was exceptional," said Dr.Patrick Collins of NUI Galway's Whitaker Institute. "Direct expenditure was €35.5 million, with indirect spend of €25m."

There was discussion after the previous Volvo visit in 2009 about what legacy it would leave behind for prolonged benefit. Now there is a second confirmation of the value of sailing as an economic earner. Yet our Government fails to adequately support such commitment.


While Irish weather is chilling the bones and wetting the bodies four Cork sailors are in much better weather, taking part in the ARC, the annual transatlantic rally from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to Rodney Bay at Saint Lucia in the Caribbean. Royal Cork YC member Aidan Heffernan has the crew of Joleen Cronin, Denis Nagle and John Hanley aboard his Dehler 36 Indulgence which he races in Cork Harbour and along the south coast. There are 200 boats altogether taking part in the 2,700-nautical mile event which is regarded as "a friendly race for cruising yachts" and can take between 14 and 21 days to complete, depending upon weather conditions.


Despite the recession the Irish seafood sector is doing reasonably well, "holding its own" I am told from the industry. Sales reached an estimated €749 million last year. For the first half of this year exports are up 20 per cent in value to €253m. compared with the first half of last year. The latest development is that Breizon Ltd., an Irish seafood company in Connemara has established a joint venture company with two French partners based in Lorient. Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) has assisted the development of the new venture which will involve an agreement with Keem Bay Fish Products to supply seafood (shellfish from Breizon and smoked seafood from Keem) to meet increasing demand in the French market. The joint operation will deliver fresh Irish seafood direct to retailers, restaurants and fishmongers. The French partners are Argis Galacsea and Les Viviers de Keroman in Lorient.

BIM Chief Executive Jason Whooley said there are 180 registered seafood companies now with processing facilities in Ireland. While many Irish operations are small-scale with turnovers between €3m. and €10m., European competitors have a turn-over five times that. Lack of scale is the biggest factor regarded as limiting the profitability of the Irish seafood sector. BIM says it is working with the industry to support business development.

Environment  – ACIDIC SEAS ALERT

The shells of some marine snails are dissolving as the seas around Antarctica become more acidic. That is according to a study published in the journal, Nature Geoscience. As CO2 levels in the air increase from the burning of fossil fuels, so the seas are becoming more acidic.


There are around 195 bottlenose dolphins permanently on the East Coast of Scotland who regularly feed in the Moray Firth Special Area of Conservation where they are a tourist attraction. Scientists studying them have concluded that the small and isolated nature of their population makes them prone to being disturbed so organisations have joined forces to understand the impact of boat movements.

A computer model has been developed by the University of Aberdeen to predict effects on dolphins from planned offshore renewables facilities at Nigg and Whiteness and associated vessel movements. Tour boats and other marine traffic have also been assessed and the results show that boats which behave predictably are less likely to have an adverse effect on dolphins compared to those which follow the animals. The results were published this week by the Scottish Natural Heritage organisation.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @TomMacSweeney

Published in Island Nation

#islandnation – A major world shipping shock, a Corkman Figaro-ing, a tall ship crew drawing their guns in port, remembering 235 dead sailors in Donegal, seaweed kayaking and an Irish Volvo crewman goes it alone around the world, all in your THIS ISLAND NATION round-up this week.


More than a thousand ships owned by Maersk sail the world's oceans every day, so the decision by this huge Danish conglomerate, A.P. Moeller-Maersk, not to continue investing in shipping has shocked the industry. The world's biggest container ship operator announced this week that it will instead focus on its oil, drilling rigs and ports units.

"We will move away from the shipping side of things and go towards the higher profit generators and more stable businesses," the company's Chief Executive, Nils Andersen, said announcing this major shift in strategy. The company's container business has been affected by a slowdown in routes between Europe and Asia where it has cut capacity amid a volatile outlook for the industry.

Maersk Line, the conglomerate's container shipping unit, has struggled with profitability due to the global economic slowdown and an oversupply of vessels for world trade of which its size makes it a barometer. The Maersk fleet carries more than 15 per cent of all sea-borne containers. Last year it suffered a net loss of $540 million, while the oil division reported a profit of $2.1 billion, the drilling unit earned $495 million and ports which it owns made $649 million.

"Over the next five years we are not going to invest significant amounts in Maersk Line. We have sufficient capacity to grow in line with the market. We will move away from shipping towards the higher profit generators," Nils Andersen said.

Most shipowners are experiencing difficulties in the current economic situation. Some of have been trying to raise their rates, as well as cutting costs to counter falling ship charters due to the over-supply of vessels. It is feared that this situation will continue.


It is great to see another Irish sailor launching himself onto the international short-handed offshore racing scene. Twenty-one-year-old Cork sailor David Kenefick from Currabinny and a member of the Royal Cork Yacht Club at Crosshaven where he learned the sport has entered the French Figaro sailing programme, the tough arena where top Irish sailor Damian Foxall first came to prominence. Shorthanded offshore sailing is popular in France with big races like the Vendée Globe and Route de Rhum enjoying major media coverage and attracting thousands of spectators. Winning sailors become household names. A frequent visitor to Irish ports the Figaro has been sailed for 44 years. Next year will be only the fourth time an Irish sailor is involved. Three Irish skippers have competed in the past Damian Foxall (1997 & 1998); Marcus Hutchinson (1998 & 2000); Paul O'Riain (2007). Damian has since won the two-handed Round-the-World Barcelona non-stop race and been on this year's winning Volvo Round the World yacht.

"I'm really excited about the Figaro campaign," David said. "The number of offshore legends that have taken part is unbelievable. I know how tough it is going to be. I am beginning to appreciate the complexity and the need to manage myself, my fitness and my commercial programme," David said.

The sport of shorthanded offshore racing requires total commitment and years of practice, preparation and competition before skippers get to competitive level.


With the Argentinean rugby team in Ireland, the country's tall ship, Libertad, used as a training vessel by their Navy, is detained in the port of Tema in Ghana after a USA hedge fund took legal action. NML Capital, owned by billionaire Paul Singer, claims to be owed $370 million since the Argentine Government's default on bonds dating back to 2001. It wants $20m. before the ship is released but has been described by the Argentineans as a "vulture fund" which refused a restructuring deal last year that would have imposed losses of 65 per cent on bondholders.


Ghana has been accused of breaking maritime law and Argentina is taking the detention of Libertad to the International Court of Justice and the United Nations. Sailors aboard Libertad drew guns to prevent Tema harbour authorities moving the ship to a less busy part of the port to allow other ships access. The authorities then cut off the ship's power and water supplies, described by Argentina's Minister for Defence as "a violation of the most basic human rights." The crew is being moved off the ship and brought home. Libertad has visited Ireland several times. Argentina has lost court battles in the USA against paying bondholders. On December 2 next it has said it will pay $3 billion but only to bondholders who accepted restructuring of their debts at a loss.


The 235 officers and crew of HMS Saldanha which was shipwrecked in Lough Swilly in December 1811 will be remembered by the people of Donegal at a ceremony on Sunday, December 2 at 3 pm. A graveside memorial will be dedicated and Portsalon Golf Club is helping to host and run the event to which the organising committee say that everyone is welcome.


I have met kayakers in various places during my sailing along the West Cork coastline. Close to the water, impelled by the power of their arms, they seemed quite cheerful about their exploits and the sport in which they were taking part. At anchor on a pleasant evening in Castletownshend this summer a group passed by, the scene lit by moonlight, the gentle sound of their paddles on the water, the swish of hulls as their kayaks caressed the sea, they seemed to be nocturnal water people, melting away under the stars, leaving only a gradually disappearing trail of phosphorescence behind them.

Jim Kennedy who owns and runs Atlantic Sea Kayaking Based at Reen Pier near Union Hall since 1995 and operating courses all around the coast is a strong enthusiast for the sport for which he says no one is too old. Next year, one of the courses he plans is "Foraging for seaweed from a Kayak," using the kayaks to access t areas where sea vegetables grow in abundance, identify "and learn how to sustainably harvest cook some of the seaweeds we find from the natural organic food source by which we are surrounded."


Chinese sailor Guo Chuan was the media crew member on the Irish entry, Green Dragon, in the 2008-2009 Volvo Race, becoming the first person from China to sail around the world. Now he is doing another circumnavigation, this time alone, having set out this week from Qingdao, the coastal city in east China's Shandong province, where during the Volvo he had been given a hero's welcome when the Irish/Chinese entry arrived there. This time he is on a solo, non-stop sail around the globe at the age of 47. He was in Galway this summer at the Volvo Race with his boat to promote the voyage plan - across the Pacific to Cape Horn in Chile, into the Atlantic, then the Indian Ocean via the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa before crossing the islands of Indonesia to return to the starting point in Qingdao.

"I have been preparing for this for about three years. It has been step-by-step, learning the skills, finding the right boat, preparing the boat and training with a coach," he said.

Guo holds a Master's Degree in aircraft control from the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics and worked on China's commercial satellite launch projects. His life changed on a trip to Hong Kong in 2000 and a day's sailing at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club - the first time he had ever been out on a boat.

"I had no real idea about sailing but I really knew in my heart straight away from that day that I wanted to learn," he said.

Your comments on THIS ISLAND NATION are very welcome. Email: [email protected]

TWITTER @TomMacSweeney

Published in Island Nation
Page 7 of 12

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 

Messe Düsseldorf GmbH
40474 Düsseldorf
Tel: +49 211 4560-01
Fax: +49 211 4560-668

The first boats and yachts will once again be arriving in December via the Rhine.

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