Irish Coast Guard
The Irish Coast Guard is Ireland's 4th Blue Light service (along with An Garda Síochána, the Ambulance Service and the Fire Service). It provides a nationwide maritime emergency organisation as well as a variety of services to shipping and other government agencies.
The purpose of the Irish Coast Guard is to promote safety and security standards, and by doing so, prevent as far as possible, the loss of life at sea, and on inland waters, mountains and caves, and to provide effective emergency response services and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.
The Irish Coast Guard has responsibility for Ireland's system of marine communications, surveillance and emergency management in Ireland's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and certain inland waterways.
It is responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue and counter-pollution and ship casualty operations. It also has responsibility for vessel traffic monitoring.
Operations in respect of maritime security, illegal drug trafficking, illegal migration and fisheries enforcement are co-ordinated by other bodies within the Irish Government.
On average, each year, the Irish Coast Guard is expected to:
- handle 3,000 marine emergencies
- assist 4,500 people and save about 200 lives
- task Coast Guard helicopters on missions around 2000 times (40 times to assist mountain rescues and 200 times to carry out aeromedical HEMS missions on behalf of the HSE), Coast Guard volunteer units will respond 1000 times and RNLI and community lifeboats will be tasked by our Coordination Centres about 950 times
- evacuate medical patients off our Islands to hospital on 100 occasions
- assist other nations' Coast Guards about 200 times
- make around 6,000 maritime safety broadcasts to shipping, fishing and leisure craft users
- carry out a safety on the water campaign that targets primary schools and leisure craft users, including at sea and beach patrols
- investigate approximately 50 maritime pollution reports
The Coast Guard has been around in some form in Ireland since 1908.
List of Coast Guard Units in Ireland
- Achill, Co. Mayo
- Ardmore, Co. Waterford
- Arklow, Co. Wicklow
- Ballybunion, Co. Kerry
- Ballycotton, Co. Cork
- Ballyglass, Co. Mayo
- Bonmahon, Co. Waterford
- Bunbeg, Co. Donegal
- Carnsore, Co. Wexford
- Castlefreake, Co. Cork
- Castletownbere, Co. Cork
- Cleggan, Co. Galway
- Clogherhead, Co. Louth
- Costelloe Bay, Co. Galway
- Courtown, Co. Wexford
- Crosshaven, Co. Cork
- Curracloe, Co. Wexford
- Dingle, Co. Kerry
- Doolin, Co. Clare
- Drogheda, Co. Louth
- Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
- Dunmore East, Co. Waterford
- Fethard, Co. Wexford
- Glandore, Co. Cork
- Glenderry, Co. Kerry
- Goleen, Co. Cork
- Greencastle, Co. Donegal
- Greenore, Co. Louth
- Greystones, Co. Wicklow
- Guileen, Co. Cork
- Howth, Co. Dublin
- Kilkee, Co. Clare
- Killala, Co. Mayo
- Killybegs, Co. Donegal
- Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford
- Knightstown, Co. Kerry
- Mulroy, Co. Donegal
- North Aran, Co. Galway
- Old Head Of Kinsale, Co. Cork
- Oysterhaven, Co. Cork
- Rosslare, Co. Wexford
- Seven Heads, Co. Cork
- Skerries, Co. Dublin
- Summercove, Co. Cork
- Toe Head, Co. Cork
- Tory Island, Co. Donegal
- Tramore, Co. Waterford
- Waterville, Co. Kerry
- Westport, Co. Mayo
- Youghal, Co. Cork
The roles of the Irish Coast Guard
The main roles of the Irish Coast Guard are to rescue people from danger at sea or on land, to organise immediate medical transport and to assist boats and ships within the country's jurisdiction.
Each year the Irish Coast Guard co-ordinates the response to thousands of incidents at sea and on the cliffs and beaches of Ireland. It does this through its Marine Rescue Centres which are currently based in:
- Malin Head (Co Donegal)
- Valentia Island (Co Kerry).
Each centre is responsible for search and rescue operations.
The Dublin National Maritime Operations Centre (NMOC) provides marine search and rescue response services and co-ordinates the response to marine casualty incidents within the Irish Pollution Responsibility Zone/EEZ.
The Marine Rescue Sub Centre (MRSC) Valentia and MRSC Malin Head are 24/7 centres co-ordinating search and rescue response in their areas of responsibility.
The Marine Rescue Sub Centre (MRSC) Valentia is the contact point for routine operational matters in the area between Ballycotton and Clifden.
MRSC Malin Head is the contact point for routine operational matters in the area between Clifden and Lough Foyle.
MRCC Dublin is the contact point for routine operational matters in the area between Carlingford Lough and Ballycotton.
Each MRCC/MRSC broadcasts maritime safety information on VHF and, in some cases, MF radio in accordance with published schedules.
Maritime safety information that is broadcast by the three Marine Rescue Sub-centres includes:
- navigational warnings as issued by the UK Hydrographic Office
- gale warnings, shipping forecasts, local inshore forecasts, strong wind warnings and small craft warnings as issued by the Irish Meteorological Office.
Coast Guard helicopters
The Irish Coast Guard has contracted five medium-lift Sikorsky Search and Rescue helicopters deployed at bases in Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo.
The helicopters are designated wheels up from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours and 45 minutes at night. One aircraft is fitted and its crew trained for under slung cargo operations up to 3000kgs and is available on short notice based at Waterford.
These aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains of Ireland (32 counties).
They can also be used for assistance in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and aerial surveillance during daylight hours, lifting and passenger operations and other operations as authorised by the Coast Guard within appropriate regulations.
The Coast Guard can contract specialised aerial surveillance or dispersant spraying aircraft at short notice internationally.
Helicopter tasks include:
- the location of marine and aviation incident survivors by homing onto aviation and marine radio distress transmissions, by guidance from other agencies, and by visual, electronic and electro-optical search
- the evacuation of survivors from the sea, and medical evacuees from all manner of vessels including high-sided passenger and cargo vessels and from the islands
- the evacuation of personnel from ships facing potential disaster
- search and or rescue in mountainous areas, caves, rivers, lakes and waterways
- the transport of offshore fire-fighters (MFRTs) or ambulance teams (MARTs) and their equipment following a request for assistance
- the provision of safety cover for other search and rescue units including other Marine Emergency Service helicopters
- pollution, casualty and salvage inspections and surveillance and the transport of associated personnel and equipment
- inter-agency training in all relevant aspects of the primary role
- onshore emergency medical service, including evacuation and air ambulance tasks
- relief of the islands and of areas suffering from flooding or deep snow
The secondary roles of the helicopter are:
- the exercise of the primary search, rescue and evacuation roles in adjacent search and rescue regions
- assistance to onshore emergency services, such as in the evacuation of high-rise buildings
- public safety awareness displays and demonstrations
- providing helicopter expertise for seminars and training courses
The Irish Coast Guard provides aeronautical assets for search and rescue in the mountains of Ireland. Requests for Irish Coast Guard assets are made to the Marine Rescue Centres.
Requests are accepted from An Garda Síochána and nominated persons in Mountain Rescue Teams.
Information courtesy of Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (July 2019)