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Cove Saling Club’s brand new marina pontoons have been put to immediate use in Cork Harbour with yachts and motorboats occupying the new berths since the opening up of sailing activity on 8th June.

Coronavirus restrictions delayed the original expected completion date in April, but the berthing pontoons are fully assembled and connected to the gangway that was installed earlier this year.

Cobh Marina pontoonsNew Cove Marina

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the Cork Harbour club has also been working on upgrades to its dinghy park facilities including a new meeting room, office and kitchen at Whitepoint in Cobh.

Cove Sailing Club dinghy parking faciltiesCove Sailing Club dinghy parking facilities Photo: Bob Bateman

Published in Cork Harbour
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On 15th June the Northern Ireland Executive announced further relaxations to the Coronavirus Regulations and subsequently Bangor Marina updated its information yesterday on Northern Ireland Marinas and Harbours. These developments make some changes to the information here.

From 26th June, caravan parks, campsites and self-contained tourist accommodation will be able to reopen. With this in mind, the Marina believes that from 26th June, leisure boat owners should be able to overnight onboard their vessels. The same goes for Carrickfergus and Glenarm Marinas.

The position with Belfast, Ballycastle and Portrush remains the same - open to resident berth holders only, no visiting boats and no overnighting. Rathlin and the Copeland Islands remain closed. In Strangford Lough, Portaferry status is the same - open to resident and visiting boat owners, no overnighting until further notice. Further round the Down coast Ardglass is only open to resident berth holders only and no overnighting.

Isle of Man Marinas

Across the Irish Sea the Isle of Man borders are closed so there is no access to Peel, Ramsay, Port St Mary, Castletown, Port Erin, Douglas, Laxey, and Derby Haven. Vessels may transit through IOM waters and lie at anchor but you are not permitted to go ashore – you may be put into forced quarantine. On 20th March a 26-year-old arriving on the island by ferry was arrested for failing to self-isolate against Coronavirus. He faces a fine of up to £10,000 and a possible three-month jail sentence.

Scottish Marinas

In an update from Scotland, Portpatrick Harbour remains closed. The marinas at Troon, Largs, Rhu, Kip, Ardfern are open to residents only, no visitors at present, no overnighting. Harbour Master Kevin Baird adds “ We have been told that Scottish marinas and leisure harbours are expected to open 15th July (approx.) but this could change as they progress along the road to recovery”.

Welsh Marinas

And in Wales Aberystwyth, Conwy, Pwllheli, Milford, Neyland, Penarth, Cardiff and Swansea are open to residents only who live within a 5-mile radius of the marina site, no visitors at present, no overnighting. It is understood the Welsh Government plans to offer further guidance on the lifting of COVID19 restrictions.

Published in Irish Marinas
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The situation around the opening of marinas and harbours in Northern Ireland in COVID-19 appears fluid but the latest news is good for those wanting to relax, sail and visit.

Bangor Harbour Master Kevin Baird says that Bangor, Carrickfergus, and Glenarm marinas and harbours are open to visitors but for short stay only – no overnighting.

Also open to all are the Ards and North Down harbours but the Copeland Islands off Donaghadee are completely closed. Marinas and harbours in the Newry and Mourne Council areas are open on the same basis – short stay only.

Belfast Harbour Marina has confirmed that it is open for residents only.

Going north all the Causeway Coast and Glens Marinas and Harbours are now open but only to residents, with the exception of Rathlin Island. It will remain closed for in the short term to all vessels, including visitors. John Morton, Ballycastle Harbour Master, has clarified, “We are not open for any visiting vessels at this time, only resident ones. This will be reviewed over the coming weeks”.

In Strangford Lough, Portaferry Marina has been open for residents and visitors since 25th May but there is no news on Strangford town pontoon or on Foyle Marina in Derry.

The current Foyle Port website posts a Notice to Mariners stating that Foyle Port Marina is closed to visiting vessels and crafts. A further notice will be issued when the marina has re-opened to all.

On the subject of crews, Kevin Baird says, “ Our understanding is that groups of up to six people who do not share a household can meet up outdoors and onboard boats while maintaining social distancing, i.e. two metres”.

Published in Irish Marinas
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As well as Bangor Marina opening, also nearly back to normal is Carrickfergus across Belfast Lough, Glenarm on the Antrim Coast Road and the inland marina at Portglenone on the River Bann. 

In a Notice to Mariners Harbour Master Billy Withers from Carrickfergus said that Mid and East Antrim Harbours and Marinas are moving to the restoration of services and facilities. He goes on to reiterate that as elsewhere, health and safety of everyone involved are paramount and social distancing must be maintained.

The Notice states “We have spoken with Harbour Masters and Marina Managers from around Great Britain and Northern Ireland, considered the advice of the British Marine Federation, The UK Harbour Masters Association, RYA NI, and the Coastguard as well as consulting with health and safety staff”.

Boat owners will now be able to go to sea. This includes launching and recovery from the Council’s Harbours, Marinas, and slipways. The advice is that this is for a limited time and during daylight hours (3-4 hours maximum is recommended). Belfast Coastguard should be notified on leaving and returning to the harbour/marina/slipway. At this stage boats from outside the Mid & East Antrim harbours/marinas will not be able to access the facilities. Overnighting on board is not permitted at this stage unless it is the owner’s permanent residence.

The details on access to the Marina are clear:- Priority should be given to berth holders coming up the main access ramps ie exiting. At this stage the Marinas will be open between 8am and 8pm every day. However, the number going to any one boat should be limited. The Marina reserves the right to limit the number of people on the pontoons if social distancing is not being observed or not possible. Access is currently by the buzzer on the gate. It is hoped that fob access will be restored by next week at the latest to all those who have returned contracts. The West Gate, adjacent to the Windrose, remains closed.

The marina reception will remain closed in the meantime, but please telephone, radio, email the office for any enquiries as staff are available during normal office hours.

Toilets, Wash Hand Basins & Showers

The toilets, urinals, wash hand basins and showers have been opened in the berth holder facilities, however please do not use the individual units that have been cordoned off to create more space between users.

On the Pontoons

When passing on the pontoons, practice safe navigation, port to port and pass well clear, using the pontoon fingers to get that extra clearance distance.
Contractors Working On Site

If a berth holder requires a contractor to conduct work on a boat, then it is down to him/her to ensure that they and the contractor observe social distancing and that the contractor has adequate PPE.

Authorised contractors are required to contact the marina office in advance.

RYA Guidance which is widely publicised and should be adhered to.

Other Considerations to Minimise the Risk of Transfer of virus.

Berth holders must take responsibility for their own safety and this now includes using PPE where appropriate. To minimise the risk of any transfer and berth holders are urged to maintain high levels of hygiene on their boats and especially when using taps, hoses, rails, gates etc. on the pontoons and entrances.

The situation will continue to be regularly monitored in line with government guidelines, and advice and communications that we are receiving from the British Marine Federation, the UK Harbour Masters Association and RYA NI.

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Boat owners will get the chance to perform safety and maintenance checks after a two-month absence from their craft from Monday, May 18th as marinas across the country open to berth holders. 

The easing of restrictions plus the lifting of the Coastguard advisory requesting the public not to take part in any water-based activity on or in the sea means that limited boating subject to social distancing guidelines will be possible.

While marinas have, in general, remained open, manned and fully functioning throughout the lockdown period, guidelines meant berth holders could not access their boats.

As part of the Government Return to Work programme, the marinas will open but with limitations as the responsibility on organisations for contact tracing during the 'Return to Work' period is onerous.

There are approximately 4,190 coastal marina berths across Ireland in 60 marinas or more, supporting 1,530 full-time jobs in coastal communities around our coast, according to Tourism Development International.

Access is largely limited to berth holders only and boat owners living over 5 km from marinas or boat owners ‘cocooning’ should not travel.

Irish Marina operators have put a lot of hard work in behind the scenes to ensure they are ready for 'Phase 1', according to Irish Marine Federation (IMF) Chairman Paal Janson.

Paal Janson 1433 Irish Marine Federation (IMF) Chairman Paal Janson is General Manager of Dun Laoghaire Marina Photo: Afloat

The IMF has worked with world marina body ICOMIA to issue Irish marinas with guidelines.

"With the good weather forecast for next week, boat owners will need to be conscious for their own responsibilities within the government guidelines, 5km limit for travel, the possible increased demand on emergency services and social distancing", Janson told Afloat.

Janson, who is the General Manager of the country's biggest marina at Dun Laoghaire, also says: 'The pandemic has not finished, we are just at the beginning of the very first phase of restrictions being eased and we all need to act in a responsible and safe way and promote the very best aspects of boating life".

Howth Yacht Club Marina

Howth Yacht Club marina in north Dublin will open on Monday but the clubhouse will remain closed. Commodore Ian Byrne has issued a reminder that HYC Members should arrive with gloves and masks and adhere strictly to the two-metre physical distancing and hand washing etiquette. 

Howth Harbour and Marina in north County DublinHowth Harbour and Marina in north County Dublin

Overnight stays on the HYC marina will not be permitted and members must be off the premises by 9 pm.

Dun Laoghaire Marina

As Afloat previously reported, Dun Laoghaire Marina, closed to berth holders since March 27, will also reopen to its 500 plus owners.

Dun Laoghaire Marina is asking that family-units only visit boats initially 'as boats do not readily allow physical distancing to be maintained'.

Marina pontoon 4382A marina pontoon at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Afloat

The Marina will keep toilets, changing rooms & laundry shut to avoid cross-contamination for the moment, subject to review. 'We want to ensure that all our berth holders, guests and staff can use the marina in a safe and responsible manner and that their health not be put at undue risk at any time', a notice to berth holders says.

Dun Laoghaire Marina's fuel berth will reopen on May 18th and the marina asks that payments are made by card.

General Manager Paal Janson has told berth holders, 'We would reiterate that boating is a safe and responsible outdoor activity and there is now a clear pathway to getting back to normality. We would like you now to get full enjoyment from your boat and make 2020 a summer to remember, instead of a year to forget'.

Greystones Harbour Marina

Greystones Harbour Marina will continue to be open to berth holders. Berth holders and their families are expected to strictly adhere to the government guidelines relating to Social Distancing and Hygiene and observe Irish Sailing’s guidelines in terms of going back on the water, according to Marina operator,  James Kirwan of BJ Marine.

Greystones Harbour MarinaGreystones Harbour Marina in County Wicklow

"For those that can’t travel to their boat, the marina team remain on-site daily and are contactable by phone and email to assist in any way possible, says Kirwan.

"Our community has pulled together brilliantly in staying apart and we look forward to seeing our berth holders more regularly, both on the pontoons and on the water, Kirwan told Afloat.

Royal Cork Yacht Club Marina

In Cork Harbour, Royal Cork Yacht Club marina to members for boat access only. The club bar-restaurant and changing facilities will remain closed. 

Club dinghy activities will not be undertaken for now, according to Marina Manager Mark Ring. 'We feel it is best to start off slowly as we don't want to knock back activity as the weeks' progress', Ring told Afloat. 

Royal Cork Yacht Club Marina in Cork HarbourRoyal Cork Yacht Club Marina in Cork Harbour Photo: Bob Bateman

RCYC is preparing for opening with several COVID-19 measures being put in place this weekend. A policy document will be circulated to members and staff also this weekend.

Crosshaven Boatyard Marina

Likewise at neighbouring Crosshaven Boatyard Marina where General Manager Matt Foley expects to launch upwards of 30 boats next week as the marina reopens to berth holders in Cork Harbour.

Kinsale Yacht Club Marina

In West Cork, Kinsale Yacht Club Commodore Mike Walsh confirmed the club marina is open to members living within 5km of the facility from Monday, with 'sailing for household units' from that date too. With the country in lockdown, renovations were recently completed on the KYC marina. Last extended in 2003, sections of new marina replaced pontoons dating back to the original build in 1978.

Kinsale Yacht Club MarinaKinsale Yacht Club Marina Photo: Bob Bateman

The much cherished and frequently used accessibility pontoon has also been replaced and will continue to allow Kinsale’s Sailability programme to develop.

Port of Galway Marina

As Afloat reported earlierPort of Galway harbourmaster Capt Brian Sheridan has said the port’s public slipway and its marina will be open to those living within five kilometres.

Galway Marina 0024Boats in Galway Marina and Docks Photo: Afloat

Bangor Marina

In Northern Ireland, Bangor Marina may still be closed but Harbour Master Kevin Baird has given berth holders a very clear and concise set of guidance notes detailing what to expect when it reopens and indeed something to look forward to after the weeks of shutdown. As Afloat reported previously, Baird says “ We have been considering how we may enable berth holders to use the Marina facilities whilst adhering to the Health Protection Regulations and the new government guidelines.

Bangor MarinafBangor Marina

Published in Irish Marinas
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With the current COVID-19 pandemic forcing Northern Ireland into lockdown, the RYA has received a considerable number of enquiries from members who are not able to gain access to their boats now that most marinas have closed.

The governing body is acutely aware that members currently have valid concerns about the inability to undertake checks in respect of security and essential maintenance. In response, the RYA is writing to key Government Ministers seeking definitive guidance that will give a clear and practical way forward to give owners immediate access to their boats whilst respecting current measures to control COVID-19.

Over recent weeks the RYA has been in discussions with the Government officials making the case for limited and controlled access to boats locked down in marinas. The RYA believes that visiting marinas and spending time working on a boat that is moored or ashore can be readily achieved within the parameters of the existing core Government advice regarding hygiene and social distancing. With representations to date not delivering a solution to what is evidently a critical issue for affected members, the RYA is taking the case to Ministers and calling for the support of Members of Parliament.

Boat owners need access to their property to undertake essential maintenance, for example, checks for water ingress, maintenance of engines and electrical installations that cannot be undertaken by marina staff. Many boat owners are also obligated by their insurers to visit their vessel regularly to avoid cover being refused in respect of maintenance related claims. The RYA’s advice to members is that you should check this aspect of your insurance policy with your insurers no matter what the policy states. A lockdown insurance update has also been published on the RYA website.

Sarah Treseder, RYA Chief Executive, says: “We acknowledge and appreciate that marina operators are working as hard as possible under difficult circumstances, and are doing their best to take care of boats during the lockdown. However, marina staff obviously cannot undertake the sort of essential maintenance that responsible owners would do. The significant number of approaches that the RYA has received from members demonstrates that this is a critical issue for boat owners. We believe there are measures that could be permitted immediately within the existing Government guidance to allow access for essential maintenance.

All are predicated on the overarching need to keep people socially distant from those outside their immediate household, to shield the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions and prevent unnecessary travel”.

Concerned members should contact [email protected] and use the RYA Coronavirus hub, which outlines current advice and information for recreational boaters.”

With all sports starting to consider recovery, the RYA is developing a ‘Return to Boating’ strategy aimed at getting the message over that there is a very strong case for boating to be one of the first activities that could be resumed safely within any necessary parameters for social distancing, once we start to see a relaxation of the current restrictions.

Bangor Marina tells Afloat that the staff are very busy acting upon requests to check berth holders’ boats.

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With the country in lockdown, it’s heartening to see major renovations recently completed on the marina by Kinsale Yacht Club.

Many readers will be familiar with Kinsale Yacht Club marina, which is right in the centre of town and guarded by its historic forts.

Last extended in 2003, sections of new marina replaced pontoons dating back to the original build in 1978.

The much cherished and frequently used accessibility pontoon has also been replaced and will continue to allow Kinsale’s Sailability programme to develop and flourish.

Commenting on the marina renovations, rear commodore Tony Scannell said “we are delighted to see these works carried out in such a timely and efficient manner. There was minimal disruption to berth holders and the new sections will make the marina, safer and more secure for its users. Special thanks to suppliers and contractors Inland & Coastal Marine Systems along with our own marina team of manager Paul Murphy and Richard McKinley”

Due to the Covid 19 crisis, unfortunately, the yacht club remains closed and barring the Custom Rigging Frostbites, the sailing season has yet to really kick off in earnest.

Vice Commodore with responsibility for sailing Matthias Hellstern told Afloat: “We are closely following Government and HSE guidelines with regard to our club and sailing calendar.  Unfortunately, we have had to postpone the Squib nationals until 2021 but currently, we are planning as normal for the Dragon Gold Cup in September and will make a final decision in June. I think it’s fair to say that we all miss our club and the ability to go racing, however, our primary concern is the safety of our staff and members and all of our thoughts here in Kinsale are with those affected by this crisis”.

Published in Irish Marinas
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Largs Yacht Haven in Ayrshire has been awarded the marina industry’s top accreditation, the Five Gold Anchor award, for the fourth time in a row.

The Gold Anchor award scheme rates the quality, level of service and overall standard of a marina’s offering. Marinas are assessed every three years meaning that Largs Yacht Haven has now carried the industry’s highest accreditation for over 12 years.

In 2017, as previously reported by Afloat, Largs Yacht Haven won the UK's Coastal Marina of the Year Award.

Since their previous inspection, Largs Yacht Haven has had major capital investment to ensure the marina remained at a high level. Recent investments included a new surfaced car park with a number plate recognition service for berth holders, new finger pontoons and an upgrade of all Wi-Fi hardware and infrastructure. These investments have helped ensure the marina remains an option for national and international events with various sailing fleets visiting Largs over the past few years.

New for this year’s assessment, marinas are highly scrutinised over their environmental impact. Particular attention is paid to the range of events and general awareness of environmental impacts. The assessor paid credit to Largs’ efforts in this area saying;

“Largs Yacht Haven is a true water sports centre; a nautical village in its own right. Largs Yacht Haven and Largs Sailing Club have helped put Largs on the map as a water sports destination with international allure. Largs Yacht Haven breathes respect for nature… it is green in both the literal and figurative sense. Environmental awareness is obvious throughout the marina, while the marina manager and marina team lead by example.”

– TYHA Assessor, 2019

Marina Manager Carolyn Elder has managed Largs Yacht Haven for over 30 years. Carolyn believes this year’s accreditation is extra special due to the current economic climate; “Just like many other businesses, we’re being forced to find new ways to attract customers, while working more efficiently and ensuring our business is as environmentally-aware as possible. Marinas need constant care, maintenance and improvement so we’re delighted that our efforts have been recognised across the board.”

Next year promises to be another exciting year at Largs Yacht Haven. The Visit Scotland Year of Coast And Water 2020 will coincide with the return of Fife Regatta in June, as well as D Zero Nationals, Optimist Nationals, Largs Regatta Festival and the RYA Zone Championships.

Published in Scottish Waters
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Shandon's senior men's eight were the fastest rowing crew at the Skibbereen Head of the River at the Marina in Cork on Saturday. They covered the course in nine minutes 4.97 seconds.  

Andrew Sheehan of Lee, a junior 18 competitor, was the fastest single sculler in 11 minutes 29.22 seconds. Junior women’s sculler Hannah Gahan of Cork Boat Club topped the rankings. 

Cork Boat Club's women's eight (bow number 268) were the fastest women's crew.

The head was held in very good conditions, though there was some difficulty due to bigger craft earlier in the day.

Published in Rowing

Last week the ICOMIA World Marinas Conference 2018 was held in Athens, hosted by the Greek Marinas Association who provided a  programme of topics, speakers and events under the theme: “Cross Sea Challenge for Marinas – Setting the Scene for Collective Development and Growth”. 

The Irish Marina Operators Association who represent over 20 Irish coastal installations and who are members of ICOMIA, did not attend this year's tenth such event.

Marina managers of the world met at the World Marina Conference in Athens to discuss the importance of marinas and waterfront redevelopment for economies, with a particular emphasis on how marina development can support the growth of boating, tourism and manufacturing markets. The conference is the only one of its kind, focusing in-depth on the marina industry on a global scale.

A conference for marina managers

The ICOMIA Marinas Group works hard to allow and encourage the exchange of technical, environmental and marketing information; educate government on the economic importance and environmental compatibility of boating facilities and creating a network so that information can be pooled for the common good. Additionally, the group organises the biennial ICOMIA Marinas Conference. 

Through the work of IMG, and collaboration during the ICOMIA Marinas Conference, marinas from across the world work towards a less bureaucratic industry, and a more straightforward approach to the expansion and improvement of boating infrastructure. With international pressures on boating and associated industry, from steel tariffs to environmental legislation, it has never been more important to develop an international forum, and have a unified body to allow the industry to speak with one voice.

A conference for investors

Marinas are very long-term businesses, and it is common for investors to expect a long and slow payback period. It is important that governments understand this, otherwise, there is a great risk that short-term leases will affect the viability of the industry. That is why the advocacy work of ICOMIA is so important, and the attendance of those working in government and politics at the World Marinas Conference is sure to have a positive impact on the industry.

Published in Irish Marinas
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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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