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Displaying items by tag: Coastguard

Over the past number of weeks, there has been a noted increase in the number of incidents in relation to open water swimming resulting in increased demands being placed on SAR organisations including Coast Guard and RNLI. Over the past week, eight separate incidents arose in the Dublin Wicklow area alone, with a number of other incidents being reported around the country. Most people who participate in open water swimming do so safely but some and in particular those who are new to the sport may be unaware of important safety measures which can help them avoid getting into difficulty.

Mindful of the increased level of participation in open water swimming and an increased demand being placed on SAR services, the Coast Guard and the RNLI are asking the public to familiarise themselves with key safety measures before engaging in the activity. Open water swimming is a relatively safe activity when done with the correct knowledge and some preparation. Also, those who are new to the sport can protect their own well-being by observing some key safety precautions.

Commenting on the increase in activity Coast Guard Head of Operations, Gerard O’Flynn said, ‘At the outset, we are grateful that anybody who sees someone in trouble or thinks they may be in trouble, dials 112 and alerts the Coast Guard. Seasoned open water swimmers have a great deal of experience and do observe proper safety precautions. However the dangers this time of the year far outweigh the challenges that apply in summer time.’

RNLI Water Safety Lead Kevin Rahill added, ‘Cold water and currents can tire a swimmer quickly and make it harder to return to shore. Lifeboat crews are seeing a lot more callouts to people who are taking part in water based activities by themselves and while it is great to enjoy our beautiful waters, this time of year, the water temperature drops and of course it is dark for longer.’

The Coast Guard and RNLI have shared the following safety advice for swimmers, highlighting the dangers of swimming alone and the importance of being monitored from the shore.

  • Always check the weather forecast and understand the local effects of wind, tides and currents.
  • Never swim alone and have somebody ashore who is familiar with your plans and ideally can observe your progress.
  • Only swim in sheltered areas with which you are familiar and swim parallel to the shore.
  • Ensure that you are visible from the shore. Wear a brightly coloured swim cap or use a tow float to increase your visibility in the water.
  • Wearing a wetsuit is advisable to help stay warm.
  • Slowly acclimatise to cold water to reduce the risk of cold water shock.
  • Get warmed up afterwards. Wrap up well in extra layers of clothing
  • If in doubt, don’t go out!
  • Tell someone else where you’re going and when you are due back.
Published in Coastguard
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The Irish Coast Guard (IRCG), a division of the Department of Transport, provides a nationwide maritime emergency service as well as a variety of services to shipping and other government agencies.

The Aviation Manager will occupy a senior management post within the Irish Coast Guard and provide leadership and management to the Irish Coast Guard on aviation matters, driving value for money and ensuring that contracts and procurement are within Public Procurement Guidelines.

The Aviation Manager will manage the current and future development of aviation and related contract(s) including managing the Coast Guard contracts portfolio.

Closing date: 3 pm, Thursday, 3rd December 2020

For more information and how to apply, visit: https://bit.ly/Afloat_Ad_AviationManager

We are committed to a policy of equal opportunity and encourage applications under all nine grounds of the Employment Equality Act.

Published in Coastguard
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Rescue agencies are reporting a record year for incidents on the water as thousands of people turned to the coastline, lakes and rivers during Covid-19.

The Irish Coast Guard, RNLI and Water Safety Ireland have all been under pressure to comply with Covid-19 protective measures and to cope with the large number of emergency alerts.

A total of 500 people were rescued by lifeguards this season, compared to 260 last year.

The last time figures were this high was in 2013, when there were 430 rescues.

There were also no confirmed cases of lifeguards testing positive for the Covid-19.

Water Safety Ireland (WSI) has recorded the lowest number of accidental drownings, at 37 to date, compared to 62 accidental drownings in 2019.

The RNLI said its lifeboat crews have been “exceptionally busy”, with 730 call outs to date this year compared to just over 1,000 launches in the Republic last year.

Dun Laoghaire RNLI is busiest

The busiest station has been at Dun Laoghaire Harbour, Co Dublin, with nearly 100 call outs for this year so far, according to RNLI Lifesaving Lead for Ireland Owen Medland.

Both organisations had to put special Covid 19 avoidance measures in place for volunteers and lifeguards employed by local authorities.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly is calling for publication of an Irish Coast Guard analysis of one of the most high profile rescues – that of paddleboarders Sara Feeney (23) and Ellen Glynn (17) in Galway Bay on August 13th last.

Ms Connolly is among those who have paid tribute to Claddagh fisherman Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan for their rescue of Ms Feeney and Ms Glynn after 15 hours at sea. She said, however, that "lessons needed to be learned" about the search pattern in the inner bay, rather than out towards the Aran islands, and co-ordination of volunteers onshore.

In a Dáil reply to a question tabled by Ms Connolly, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said the initial search was focused along the northern shore to ascertain if they were attempting to get ashore or had got ashore.

He said the RNLI Galway lifeboat was tasked within three minutes of the initial report at 10.05 pm and the RNLI Aran lifeboat was tasked at 11.19 pm.

He said the Shannon based Coast Guard helicopter was tasked to the scene at 11.02 pm and was recorded as proceeding at 11.25 pm.

Mr Ryan said the search was moving to the south-west of Galway Bay and the Aran Islands, with aerial surface and coastal searches off the islands on the morning of their rescue, and a member of the public alerted Valentia Coast Guard to a possible sighting after 11 am on August 13th, he said.

Visibility had been very poor in the early part of the day with fog at sea till mid-morning.

Published in Water Safety
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Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has appointed a new review board into the Air Accident Investigation Unit’s (AAIU) final report on the Rescue 116 helicopter crash.

As The Irish Independent reports today, the review experienced a setback last month when the technical advisor Philip Hanson, an aviation expert with the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency, stood down over a potential conflict of interest.

However, Mr Ryan has established a new board to review aspects of the unpublished AAIU final report into the crash, which claimed the lives of Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, Capt Mark Duffy and winch team Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith off the north Mayo coast in March 2017.

The minister has opted to re-appoint senior counsel Patrick McCann as chairman and sole member of the review, following legal advice from the Attorney-General.

Mr McCann was chair of the previous review which was established by former transport minister Shane Ross earlier this year, and Mr Hanson was appointed as technical expert.

In a parliamentary response to Galway West Independent TD Catherine Connolly, the transport minister says the new timeframe for the re-examination of the final report is “ a matter for the chairperson to determine” as the board is “entirely independent in its work”.

Relatives of the four air crew are now waiting over three-and-a-half years for the final report into the Sikorsky S-92 collision, which occurred at Blackrock island, Co Mayo, while the helicopter was approaching Blacksod lighthouse to refuel.

The four Dublin-based crew were providing “top” cover” or support to a medical evacuation off the west coast by the Sligo-based Rescue 118 helicopter.

The bodies of the two winch crew have not been found in spite of extensive searches.

A draft of the final report was given last November to the families of the four crew and stakeholders including their employer, CHC Ireland, with a 60-day period for submissions or comments.

However, its publication had to be put on hold when Mr Ross acceded to a request for a “notice of re-examination” by an unidentified stakeholder.

Under Ireland’s Air Navigation (Notification and Investigation of Accidents, Serious Incidents and Incidents) Regulations 2009, a review can be applied for by an “interested party” in relation to “findings and conclusions that appear to reflect adversely on the person’s reputation”.

A Department of Transport spokeswoman said the minister was notified of Mr Hanson’s alleged conflict of interest on September 22nd. She said Mr Hanson did not receive any payment for his work on the review board over the past six months.

CHC Ireland has declined to say whether it sought the review. It was the first request of its type in the AAIU’s history of undertaking air crash investigations.

The AAIU had ruled out mechanical fault early on, and made recommendations in a preliminary report published a month after the helicopter crash, relating to anomalies in chart information software and a flaw in installation of locator beacons on crew life-jackets.

In its first interim report, the AAIU highlighted failures of oversight for search and rescue by the State.

It also recommended a review of safety management systems by CHC Ireland; and it identified a software issue with data recorded, which was not directly relevant to the cause of the crash.

It recommended a thorough review of search and rescue aviation operations in Ireland, which former minister Mr Ross commissioned.

Read more here

Published in Rescue
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The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency's (MCA) annual report for April 2019 – March 2020 has been published this week, highlighting the work of the Agency for the 12 month period.

Although the report doesn’t cover the period where the effects of COVID-19 were felt most, it’s clear that the MCA still had a number of challenges to deal with in terms of maritime.

Her Majesty’s Coastguard, the search and rescue service of the MCA responded to more than 31,000 incidents at the coast. The Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre – which responds to incidents where aviation support is needed - responded to 3,800 incidents during the annual report’s period of data collection; rescuing over 1,900 people in the process.

As well as frontline search and rescue, HM Coastguard has delivered a number of major projects including making the Channel Navigation Information Service national across its network. This means that, from now on, 24-hour radio and radar coastal vessel traffic data is available at all Coastguard Operations Centres – not just Dover – to help and support vessels navigate waters safely.

Away from HM Coastguard, the MCA’s Maritime Regulatory Compliance Team successfully prosecuted ten cases.

And the UK Maritime Services Team, incorporating the UK Ship Register, continues to move more of its work to digital platforms. The UK Ship Register is now able to process registration and vessel information online and had recorded 77 new ship registrations by the end of March.

The survey and inspection side of the Maritime Services Team has completed its Transformation Programme giving surveyors and customers more flexibility of working. In addition to that, a successful surveyors’ recruitment drive saw the MCA place a minimum of 85 qualified Port State Control Officers in positions by 31st March of this year – meeting its target.

Seafarer training and certification faced a number of challenges at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic but the team worked to find solutions including offering extensions and training online.

The MCA continues to work hard to provide a good workplace and continues to drive equality in its workforce. In the annual report, it shows there has been an increase of just over 15 per cent in the number of female staff holding senior roles within the organisation.

Brian Johnson, Chief Executive of the MCA, said: “I’m proud of all those who work and serve with and for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. They continue to carry through the commitment to driving forward maritime safety in all aspects of our work

“As this report demonstrates, we – as an agency – continue to keep protecting the general public with our first-class search and rescue service. Elsewhere, exciting work has and is continuing to take place across the board, with important steps being made in many areas, such as Survey and Inspection and enhanced experiences for UK Ship Register customers.

“The final month of this year’s report was affected by Covid-19, in which the Agency had to react and adapt quickly to new challenges. We did so effectively, working closely with and supporting our emergency service partners and local resilience forums, whilst maintaining full capability to operate. This work also extended to supporting the shipping industry during a difficult period and doing our bit to make sure that important services have been able to resume as close to normal as possible in most cases.”

Link to the report is here

Published in Rescue
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In a major mobilisation of rescue services off the south-east coast this evening, the Irish Coast Guard is coordinating assistance being provided to a cargo vessel that has lost power off the Waterford Harbour.

The Coast Guard said in a statement this evening, The ship, which is carrying a cargo of coal reported to MRCC Dublin earlier this afternoon that it had lost power.

RNLI Lifeboats from Dunmore East, Kilmore Quay and Rosslare, as well as the Waterford based Coast Guard Helicopter and Fethard Coast Guard unit, were immediately tasked. A Waterford based tug is expected on scene shortly after 6 pm.

Coal ship trackThe track of the 99-metre ship which was on its way to New Ross from Germany when it lost power off the Waterford coast.

The Coast Guard has described the situation as stable and the vessel with Lifeboat assistance is drifting in an Easterly direction pending arrival of the Tug.

More news on this as it becomes available

Published in Ports & Shipping
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The Irish Coast Guard has asked the Government to include fixed-wing aircraft and use of drones in the new State contract for search and rescue.

As The Sunday Times reports today, tender offers for the new air/sea service, which will replace the existing €60 million a year contract, may be asked to suggest how a mixture of helicopters, fixed-wing and drones could be used – without necessarily being tied to four helicopter bases.

CHC Ireland, which operates a fleet of Sikorsky S-92 helicopters from bases at Shannon, Sligo, Dublin and Waterford for the Irish Coast Guard at a cost of €60 million annually, has been given a one-year extension to its ten-year contract to 2023.

A recent industry briefing in advance of the publication of a tender for the new service from 2024 specified that bidders should be able to deploy a helicopter to anywhere in Ireland or within 12 nautical miles of the coast in 45 minutes of being airborne and be capable of search and rescue in the Irish exclusive economic zone.

It also specified providing one Coast Guard search and surveillance aircraft - which could be fixed wing or drones - on 24-hour standby.

This would reduce the flying time and fuel expenditure of search and rescue helicopters

Questions are being asked within military circles about the need – and possible extra expense of – a dedicated fixed-wing aircraft under the control of the Irish Coast Guard, which could push the contract price up considerably.

The Air Corps is due to take delivery of two new Casa maritime patrol aircraft at a cost of €235 million.

Earlier this month, however, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney ruled out a role for the Air Corps in search and rescue.

The Air Corps pioneered helicopter rescue off this coast 40 years ago, with long-range missions undertaken by the British RAF and Royal Navy, but it was withdrawn from search and rescue in 2003 by then defence minister Michael Smith.

The Air Corps currently flies the emergency aeromedical service (EAS), based in Athlone, Co Westmeath, which recently marked a milestone by airlifting its 3000th patient.

The Irish Coast Guard flew 54 medical missions this year, with an additional two paediatric transfers to Britain. It also serves the islands and flew 91 medical evacuations from offshore communities.

Read more in The Sunday Times here

Published in Coastguard
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A €108m allocation from the Department of Transport will support the work of the Irish Coast Guard it was announced in today's 2021 Budget.

The funding will also provide for the services of the Maritime Safety Policy Division, the Marine Survey Office, the Mercantile Marine Office, the Marine Radio Affairs Unit and the Department’s contribution towards the net cost of the Commissioners of Irish Lights operations all of which are responsible for ensuring the productive and safe use of Ireland’s seas.

In addition, funding is provided to the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) to allow it to carry out its functions to examine and if necessary carry out investigations into all types of marine casualties to, or onboard, Irish registered vessels worldwide and other vessels in Irish territorial waters and inland waterways.

Published in Budget
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"The Killala Coast Guard Unit is operational and available in the event of a call-out, but is 'off-the-board' for boat search-and-rescue."

That statement was made by the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, whose Department is responsible for the Coast Guard, in answer to a Parliamentary Question by former Marine Minister, Mayo TD Dara Calleary.

Coastguard resignations

It means that the Unit cannot engage in search-and-rescue on the water, but can undertake training. It has been reduced in volunteer numbers because of personnel problems. The Unit was involved ashore but not afloat in the recent when kayakers got into difficulties near Enniscrone, within the Unit's operational area. Two were rescued by the Coast Guard helicopter from Sligo. One made his own way ashore.

The involvement of an independent company in an attempt to resolve the issues has not been successful. There have been other dismissals and resignations in Coast Guard Units around the coast because of personnel issues.

This is one of a number of several marine sector issues at present.

Fishing industry fighting penalty points

The fishing industry is fighting the reintroduction of penalty points by the Taoiseach and the Marine Minister, though both politicians opposed the system and led to its defeat in the Dáil previously. It was also defeated in a legal challenge by the industry in the Supreme Court.

Padraig MacLochlainn, Sinn Fein Spokesman on the MarinePadraig MacLochlainn, Sinn Fein Spokesman on the Marine

Sinn Fein has claimed that the reintroduction is because Marine Department officials are deciding policy, not the Government and has called for a "root-and-branch" review of the Department: Padraig MacLochlainn, Sinn Fein Spokesman on the Marine says that "the potential of the seas around this island nation is not being fully recognised by the Department which is not engaged in development."

Teresa Morrissey, Aquaculture Executive of the IFATeresa Morrissey, Aquaculture Executive of the IFA

The powerful Irish Farmers' Association has joined in on behalf of aquaculture farmers who it represents. Teresa Morrissey, Aquaculture Executive said there is "a failure at Government level to realise the importance of the aquaculture sector as a food source and as an economic asset of the nation. There is a big contrast by what they say when they talk about its potential and what they actually do."

Covid restrictions on sailing

Fortunately, Irish Sailing has managed to chart a path through the difficulty of pandemic restrictions to keep the sport going, though the impact of the latest in Dublin has cleared the Bay of competitive sailing at present. In Cork, there are worries about the possibility of more restrictions.

In Cork, there are worries about the possibility of more restrictions and how they might affect the rest of the sailing season.

Listen to the Podcast below

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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Galway student Sara Feeney (23) has said she is “overwhelmed” with gratitude for the hundreds of people who searched overnight when she and her cousin Ellen Glynn (17) were swept out to the mouth of Galway Bay on paddleboards last week.

In a Sunday Times interview, Ms Feeney also pays tribute to her cousin, who was due to be released from University Hospital Galway this weekend.

“We didn’t even verbalise what might happen, or what we might both be thinking,” Ms Feeney, who was able to return home on the night of her rescue, says.

“I think if we had panicked at all, things could have been very different. I know if Ellen had panicked, I would have found it very difficult,” she says.

Ellen Glynn, who has also paid tribute to the rescue agencies, volunteers and Claddagh mariners Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan who found them tethered to crab pot floats, says that the sight of meteor showers and phosphorescence on the sea sustained them during the night.

They also sighted a small pod of dolphins off the Aran island of Inis Oírr the following morning.

Former Irish Coast Guard search and rescue pilot Dave Courtney, author of the memoir Nine Lives, says that questions need to be asked as to why the rescue took so long.

"sea-faring gut instinct"

“The whole country rejoiced when the two women were found alive after 15 hours at sea.,” Courtney said, paying tribute to the enormous rescue effort.

“ But tide and search probability computer technology, and three of the country’s four rescue helicopters - the most modern and best equipped in the world, armed with heat-seeking cameras - were no match for the sea-faring gut instinct of Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan,” he said.

The Olivers had noted the wind and “headed like a bloodhound straight to the survivors’ location”, Courtney said.

“The ocean is a cruel place....there was no loss of life in this incident, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons to be learned,” he said.

“ The term ‘looking for a needle in a haystack’ is valid except that the FLIR / Forward-Looking Infra-Red camera on the Coast Guard helicopter can see the heat of human life relatively easily in sultry summer weather,” he said.

“Was it used effectively during the search? Were search assets duplicating each other’s efforts, instead of extending the search area as time and tidal drift and wind effect would have necessitated?” Courtney asked.

Irish Coast Guard

The Irish Coast Guard has said the search for the two women covered a 200 square mile sea area, and said it was using SAR MAP - the US software used effectively by Valentia Coast Guard in 2011 to track the probable location of the crew of the yacht Rambler which capsized in the Fastnet yacht race off West Cork.

The SAR MAP search area generated two scenarios which were used to co-ordinate all assets, including fishing vessels and commercial craft, it says.

It is understood that the helicopters and lifeboats were receiving frequent reports of “targets of interest”, which they had to divert to.

The Irish Coast Guard says that if the two women were not falling under the focused spectrum of the Sikorsky S-92 night sun or FLIR camera they would be “difficult to spot”, particularly as they had no wetsuits to provide an extra heat source.

“ The search was just moving into the south-west of the Inis Oirr sector ...with both aviation and surface assets when the fishing vessel Johnny Ó came upon them. It is highly likely they would have been detected within the following one to two hours as it was daylight,” it says.

More on The Sunday Times here

Published in Galway Harbour
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The Irish Coast Guard

The Irish Coast Guard is Ireland's fourth '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

The Coast Guard has been around in some form in Ireland since 1908.

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.

Irish Coastguard FAQs

The Irish Coast Guard provides nationwide maritime emergency response, while also promoting safety and security standards. It aims to prevent the loss of life at sea, on inland waters, on mountains and in caves; and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The main role of the Irish Coast Guard is 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. It has three marine rescue centres in Dublin, Malin Head, Co Donegal, and Valentia Island, Co Kerry. The Dublin National Maritime Operations centre provides marine search and rescue responses and coordinates the response to marine casualty incidents with the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Yes, effectively, it is the fourth "blue light" service. The Marine Rescue Sub-Centre (MRSC) Valentia is the contact point for the coastal area between Ballycotton, Co Cork and Clifden, Co Galway. At the same time, the MRSC Malin Head covers the area between Clifden and Lough Foyle. Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) Dublin covers Carlingford Lough, Co Louth to Ballycotton, Co Cork. Each MRCC/MRSC also broadcasts maritime safety information on VHF and MF radio, including navigational and gale warnings, shipping forecasts, local inshore forecasts, strong wind warnings and small craft warnings.

The Irish Coast Guard handles about 3,000 marine emergencies annually, and assists 4,500 people - saving an estimated 200 lives, according to the Department of Transport. In 2016, Irish Coast Guard helicopters completed 1,000 missions in a single year for the first time.

Yes, Irish Coast Guard helicopters evacuate medical patients from offshore islands to hospital on average about 100 times a year. In September 2017, the Department of Health announced that search and rescue pilots who work 24-hour duties would not be expected to perform any inter-hospital patient transfers. The Air Corps flies the Emergency Aeromedical Service, established in 2012 and using an AW139 twin-engine helicopter. Known by its call sign "Air Corps 112", it airlifted its 3,000th patient in autumn 2020.

The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is responsible for the Northern Irish coast.

The Irish Coast Guard is a State-funded service, with both paid management personnel and volunteers, and is under the auspices of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. It is allocated approximately 74 million euro annually in funding, some 85 per cent of which pays for a helicopter contract that costs 60 million euro annually. The overall funding figure is "variable", an Oireachtas committee was told in 2019. Other significant expenditure items include volunteer training exercises, equipment, maintenance, renewal, and information technology.

The Irish Coast Guard has four search and rescue helicopter bases at Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo, run on a contract worth 50 million euro annually with an additional 10 million euro in costs by CHC Ireland. It provides five medium-lift Sikorsky S-92 helicopters and trained crew. The 44 Irish Coast Guard coastal units with 1,000 volunteers are classed as onshore search units, with 23 of the 44 units having rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) and 17 units having cliff rescue capability. The Irish Coast Guard has 60 buildings in total around the coast, and units have search vehicles fitted with blue lights, all-terrain vehicles or quads, first aid equipment, generators and area lighting, search equipment, marine radios, pyrotechnics and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Community Rescue Boats Ireland also provide lifeboats and crews to assist in search and rescue. The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the Garda Siochána, National Ambulance Service, Naval Service and Air Corps, Civil Defence, while fishing vessels, ships and other craft at sea offer assistance in search operations.

The helicopters are designated as airborne from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours, and 45 minutes at night. The aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, on inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains and cover the 32 counties. They can also assist in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and can transport offshore firefighters and ambulance teams. The Irish Coast Guard volunteers units are expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time of departing from the station house in ten minutes from notification during daylight and 20 minutes at night. They are also expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time to the scene of the incident in less than 60 minutes from notification by day and 75 minutes at night, subject to geographical limitations.

Units are managed by an officer-in-charge (three stripes on the uniform) and a deputy officer in charge (two stripes). Each team is trained in search skills, first aid, setting up helicopter landing sites and a range of maritime skills, while certain units are also trained in cliff rescue.

Volunteers receive an allowance for time spent on exercises and call-outs. What is the difference between the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI? The RNLI is a registered charity which has been saving lives at sea since 1824, and runs a 24/7 volunteer lifeboat service around the British and Irish coasts. It is a declared asset of the British Maritime and Coast Guard Agency and the Irish Coast Guard. Community Rescue Boats Ireland is a community rescue network of volunteers under the auspices of Water Safety Ireland.

No, it does not charge for rescue and nor do the RNLI or Community Rescue Boats Ireland.

The marine rescue centres maintain 19 VHF voice and DSC radio sites around the Irish coastline and a digital paging system. There are two VHF repeater test sites, four MF radio sites and two NAVTEX transmitter sites. Does Ireland have a national search and rescue plan? The first national search and rescue plan was published in July, 2019. It establishes the national framework for the overall development, deployment and improvement of search and rescue services within the Irish Search and Rescue Region and to meet domestic and international commitments. The purpose of the national search and rescue plan is to promote a planned and nationally coordinated search and rescue response to persons in distress at sea, in the air or on land.

Yes, the Irish Coast Guard is responsible for responding to spills of oil and other hazardous substances with the Irish pollution responsibility zone, along with providing an effective response to marine casualties and monitoring or intervening in marine salvage operations. It provides and maintains a 24-hour marine pollution notification at the three marine rescue centres. It coordinates exercises and tests of national and local pollution response plans.

The first Irish Coast Guard volunteer to die on duty was Caitriona Lucas, a highly trained member of the Doolin Coast Guard unit, while assisting in a search for a missing man by the Kilkee unit in September 2016. Six months later, four Irish Coast Guard helicopter crew – Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith -died when their Sikorsky S-92 struck Blackrock island off the Mayo coast on March 14, 2017. The Dublin-based Rescue 116 crew were providing "top cover" or communications for a medical emergency off the west coast and had been approaching Blacksod to refuel. Up until the five fatalities, the Irish Coast Guard recorded that more than a million "man hours" had been spent on more than 30,000 rescue missions since 1991.

Several investigations were initiated into each incident. The Marine Casualty Investigation Board was critical of the Irish Coast Guard in its final report into the death of Caitriona Lucas, while a separate Health and Safety Authority investigation has been completed, but not published. The Air Accident Investigation Unit final report into the Rescue 116 helicopter crash has not yet been published.

The Irish Coast Guard in its present form dates back to 1991, when the Irish Marine Emergency Service was formed after a campaign initiated by Dr Joan McGinley to improve air/sea rescue services on the west Irish coast. Before Irish independence, the British Admiralty was responsible for a Coast Guard (formerly the Water Guard or Preventative Boat Service) dating back to 1809. The West Coast Search and Rescue Action Committee was initiated with a public meeting in Killybegs, Co Donegal, in 1988 and the group was so effective that a Government report was commissioned, which recommended setting up a new division of the Department of the Marine to run the Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre (MRCC), then based at Shannon, along with the existing coast radio service, and coast and cliff rescue. A medium-range helicopter base was established at Shannon within two years. Initially, the base was served by the Air Corps.

The first director of what was then IMES was Capt Liam Kirwan, who had spent 20 years at sea and latterly worked with the Marine Survey Office. Capt Kirwan transformed a poorly funded voluntary coast and cliff rescue service into a trained network of cliff and sea rescue units – largely voluntary, but with paid management. The MRCC was relocated from Shannon to an IMES headquarters at the then Department of the Marine (now Department of Transport) in Leeson Lane, Dublin. The coast radio stations at Valentia, Co Kerry, and Malin Head, Co Donegal, became marine rescue-sub-centres.

The current director is Chris Reynolds, who has been in place since August 2007 and was formerly with the Naval Service. He has been seconded to the head of mission with the EUCAP Somalia - which has a mandate to enhance Somalia's maritime civilian law enforcement capacity – since January 2019.

  • 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
  • Wicklow
  • Youghal, Co. Cork

Sources: Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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