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Displaying items by tag: RNLI

On Tuesday last week (7 September), Merwyn Hanna MBE, president of Kilkeel RNLI and chair of the lifeboat station’s fundraising branch, received a cheque for £1,347.65 from Raymond “Speedy” Newell following a successful fishing competition off the Co Down coast.

When the fog lifted, 14 boats took part in the annual Kilkeel RNLI Boat Fishing Competition and after two hours a total of 382kg of mackerel was landed.

The winning boat Tuskar, with skipper WM Kearney, landed 81.74kg. In second place, Dawn Mist with skipper Stephen Jones landed 72.4kg and third place went to Harvey Jake, with skipper Shane Maginn, landing 53.44kg.

There was a tie for the heaviest fish caught and prizes were given to skipper Joshua Hillis on the Hannah Hillis and Stephen Jones on the Dawn Mist.

John Fisher, Kilkeel RNLI’s lifeboat operations manager, said: “The weather during the day wasn’t promising but when the fog lifted, we had a great turnout of boats.

“We would like to thank Russ Shepcar of DR Marine for the use of his store, those who took part and the ladies for the burgers and drinks.

“Thanks to the volunteer crew for ensuring the event was carried out safely and finally a special thanks to Speedy Newell for organising the event. All in all, it was a great community effort.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Clifden RNLI assisted six people yesterday evening (Tuesday 14 September) after their vessel broke down in Ballyconneely Bay.

Just after 6pm, the Connemara town’s all-weather and inshore lifeboats launched in response to reports that a 14ft vessel with multiple people onboard had suffered engine failure a few kilometres from shore.

The volunteer crews arrived on scene at 6.53pm and after assessed the situation and ensursing the six passengers were safe and well, a tow line was set up.

The all-weather lifeboat then towed the casualty vessel alongside the inshore lifeboat and transported the six passengers safely to shore on Ballyconeely Beach.

Clifden RNLI’s lifeboat operations manager John Brittain commended the volunteer crew for a timely response and successful outcome and reminded people to take all necessary precautions when going to sea.

“Plan your route in advance, carry out regular checks on your vessel prior to and during your journey,” he said. “Have means of calling for assistance if you find yourself in trouble, and everyone onboard should always be wearing lifejackets.”

The inshore lifeboat crew on this callout were helm Alan Pryce, Chris Nee, Brian Ward and Killian Whelan. The all-weather lifeboat crew included coxswain John Mullen, Joe Acton, Owen Hayes, Andy Bell, Thomas Davis and Kevin Ryan.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Over the weekend Fethard RNLI marked the 25th anniversary of the reopening of their lifeboat station, with an impressive search and rescue display off Baginbun Beach in Wexford. The search and rescue demonstration involved Fethard RNLI and their flanking lifeboat stations, Dunmore East RNLI and Kilmore Quay RNLI along with Fethard Coast Guard and Rescue 117. The Wexford based lifeboat station had been off service for a period of 82 years before locals were successful in getting the historic lifeboat station reopened with an inshore lifeboat in 1996.

As the weather held off, a crowd gathered to observe lifeboat crews from Fethard, Dunmore East and Kilmore Quay, carry out a scenario which saw the three RNLI lifeboat crews work as a team to form search patterns to locate survivors of a fictional light aircraft, which had reportedly come down just off Baginbun Head. When located, the casualties were brought ashore where the volunteer crew of Fethard Lifeboat administered casualty care and transferred them into the care of Fethard Coast Guard. In the final part of the exercise, Waterford based Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 117 flew overhead; in this scenario the helicopter crew would have airlifted the casualties onboard to receive more urgent medical care and transport to hospital.

Also present on the day were members of the RNLI’s Water Safety team, who provided advice and handed out waterproof pouches to water sports enthusiasts for the safe keeping of their mobile phones when they are out on the water.

Speaking about the joint exercise to mark the 25th anniversary, Volunteer Lifeboat Operations Manager for Fethard RNLI, Walter Foley said, ‘This major exercise between the three RNLI lifeboat stations, Fethard Coast Guard and Rescue117 shows the public the services that are available to them when things go wrong. It highlights the importance of always carrying a means of calling for help on your person and to call 999 or 112 if you or someone else gets into trouble.’

Walter continued saying ‘We, at Fethard RNLI, would like to thank all the volunteers who gave up their time to take part in the exercise, and we would especially like to thank the public, our supporters, who came out even when the weather was not looking too great. It’s been an incredible 25 years and we look forward to serving our community for many more years to come.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Courtmacsherry RNLI launched their all-weather lifeboat yesterday evening (Saturday 11 September) to go to the aid of a 21ft pleasure boat with engine failure off the Barrels Rocks near Garrettstown in West Cork.

Under coxswain Mark John Gannon and a crew of five, the Trent class lifeboat Frederick Storey Cockburn launched around 6pm and was quickly on scene with the casualty vessel, Alanna, which had been on passage from Courtmacsherry to Kinsale with two people and a dog on board.

With a strong southwest wind blowing towards the nearby rocks and shore cliffs, the decision was made to take the pleasure boat under tow to the nearest port of Courtmacsherry.

The casualty vessel was able to use its anchor to keep it away from the nearby breaking Barrel Rocks, and another pleasure boat stood by to provide safety backup until the lifeboat were in position to set up the tow.

Then at a slow and safe speed, the broken-down boat was brought to the safe surrounds of the harbour pontoon at Kinsale by 7.15 pm. The two crew from Alanna expressed their extreme thanks to all involved in he rescue.

Courtmacherry RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat and the pleasure boat with engine failure arrive safely into Courtmacsherry Harbour | Credit: RNLI/CourtmacsherryCourtmacherry RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat and the pleasure boat with engine failure arrive safely into Courtmacsherry Harbour | Credit: RNLI/Courtmacsherry

Courtmacsherry RNLI’s deputy launching authority Philip White said: “With winds blowing strongly towards the dangerous shoreline today, it was great to reach the causality quickly and perform a smooth rescue.

“Again, thanks to all the volunteers today, with some leaving their TV sets midway through the All Ireland football final to help others in trouble at sea.”

Along with coxswain Mark John Gannon, the volunteer crew involved in this callout were mechanic Chris Guy and crew members Donal Young, Dave Philips, Evin O’Sullivan and Jim O’Donnell.

Yesterday was supposed to be a well-earned rest and recovery day for O’Donnell as he had just completed a week-long climb of the Seven Peaks across the UK and Ireland on Friday, in aid of the emergency services including his beloved Courtmacsherry RNLI Lifeboat Station.

But he put the champagne on ice and ran to the station once his bleeper was activated.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Carrybridge RNLI’s inshore lifeboat was launched yesterday afternoon (Friday 10 September) to assess a cabin cruiser with two people on board which had broken down some two miles southeast of Knockninny in Co Fermanagh.

Once on scene on Upper Lough Erne, the volunteers established that the casualty vessel had suffered fuel issues and drifted into reeds in a small bay.

After a full review of the situation, lifeboat helm Chris Cathcart deemed the safest option was to carefully tow the vessel into deeper water, and then to proceed to tow it back to the nearest safe berth which was Knockninny public jetty.

With the owner’s permission, a stern tow was established from the lifeboat to the casualty vessel, and it was taken back to Knockninny where it was safely secured at the jetty.

Speaking following the callout, Cathcart echoed his previous advice for boat users, many of whom will be making the most of the remaining weeks of the 2021 cruising season.

“Before setting out on your journey, please plan your route and carry out regular checks of their vessels prior to going afloat and also throughout your journey,” he said.

“Have a means of calling for assistance if you find yourself in trouble, have lifejackets for all on board and plan their journey using the relevant charts.

“If you see someone in trouble on the water or are in difficulties yourself the number to dial is 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Achill Island RNLI is delighted to welcome Ciaran Needham, a native of Sáile as the station’s new Lifeboat Operations Manager. Ciaran succeeds Tony McNamara, who recently retired from the role.

Ciaran is an electrician by trade and is also a member of Achill GAA where he trains regularly with his club mates. While Ciaran loves all things GAA, he is also an avid surfer, and it is his passion for surfing that has instilled a deep respect in him for the sea and how it can change in an instant.

Having lived in Sydney, Australia, for 10 years where he worked as an electrician and spent a lot of time surfing, Ciaran returned home to Achill Island two years ago, where he now lives with his partner, Mary Ellen Daly. While in Sydney, Ciaran was aware of the full-time lifeguards that patrolled Sydney’s sprawling beaches as he surfed. Back at home, he has always appreciated the role of the lifeboat and the unique volunteer nature of the RNLI, a charity reliant on the generous donations from the public.

Talking about why he joined Achill Island RNLI as Lifeboat Operations Manager, Ciaran said: ‘I’ve been involved with the sea for my whole life and knowing that there is a volunteer lifeboat crew always ready and willing to come to the assistance of anyone who needs it has always meant so much to me. It made sense to volunteer with Achill Island RNLI when this role became available, with the realisation that I could have been a potential casualty many times in the past, or indeed, at some stage in the future.’

As the Lifeboat Operations Manager, Ciaran is responsible for operational activities at the lifeboat station, authorising the launch of the lifeboat and the day-to-day management of the station.

When speaking about his vision for the lifeboat station in the years ahead, Ciaran said that he was looking forward to welcoming new members to Achill Island RNLI. Describing this as a new chapter for the station, he said: ‘I would like to welcome Martin Reilly as an additional Deputy Launching Authority and Eilish Power as our new Lifeboat Press Officer and I look forward to working with them in their new roles. I’m also looking forward to welcoming new lifeboat crew to the station and our new team will benefit from the experience that already exists in Marie Kilbane as Deputy Launching Authority, Dave Curtis as Coxswain and Michael Cattigan as mechanic, as well as all the existing volunteer crew.’

Ciaran reflected on the challenges presented by Covid restrictions over the past 18 months. Regular meetings with the crew, welcoming the public for open days and essential fundraising activities have all been interrupted and missed, but Ciaran looks forward to activities at the station beginning to return to normal. When speaking about what he admires most about the RNLI, Ciaran said: ‘It’s that volunteer aspect; that has to be admired above all else. The amount of training that our crew participate in, their commitment and dedication, it’s immense. And it wouldn’t be possible without the tireless work and effort by our always enthusiastic and hugely devoted fundraising branch.’

Meanwhile, Rob King, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager, welcomed Ciaran and wished him well in his new role: ‘I would like to thank Ciaran for accepting the role of Lifeboat Operations Manager with Achill Island RNLI and I very much look forward to supporting him and the Achill team.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Fifty-one years to the day after he was rescued from a capsized dinghy and inspired to join a lifeboat crew, Stephen Wynne is retiring as Dun Laoghaire Harbour RNLI’s Lifeboat Operations Manager, a position he has held for over three decades. Stephen will however, continue to volunteer for the lifeboat station as Deputy Launching Authority.

Recalling his own rescue by the RNLI on the 10 September 1970, Stephen said it was fitting that he chose the anniversary that inspired him to get involved with the charity as the day he would hand over the reins:

‘I was rescued from a capsized dinghy outside Dun Laoghaire by the then Coxswain, the late Eric Offer and his crew on the Waveney class lifeboat which was the first class of lifeboats operated by the RNLI capable of operating at speeds in excess of 10 knots. While I was too young to join at the time, I made a decision then when I came out of hospital that when I met the age eligibility, I was going to become a volunteer crew member.’

True to his word, Stephen joined the RNLI lifeboat community in 1975 and became a crew member in 1977. He later became a Deputy Launching Authority in 1987 and became Honorary Secretary, a position known now as Lifeboat Operations Manager, in 1990.

For the last 31 years in this role, Stephen has been responsible for managing all operational activities, authorising the launch of both the all-weather and inshore lifeboats and the day-to-day management of the station.

It is a position he has relished and one which he will miss: ‘Volunteers have always been at the heart of the RNLI and essential in saving lives at sea. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve first as a crew member, then as Deputy Launching Authority and later Lifeboat Operations Manager. My contribution over the years however, has been part of a wider team effort and I want to thank the dedicated team around me in Dun Laoghaire for all that they do - the lifeboat crew, shore crew, station officers, management and fundraisers. I also want to thank the many members of the public who always give their support so generously and donate what they can to power Dun Laoghaire RNLI’s lifesaving work.’

Peter Harty, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager, paid tribute to Stephen: ‘Stephen is the epitome of an RNLI volunteer. Utterly dedicated to saving lives at sea, he has lived the RNLI’s core values of selflessness, dependability, trustworthiness and courage in all that he does. He joined the lifeboat community at Dun Laoghaire in 1975, after he was rescued at sea. During this time, he has provided outstanding leadership and support to operational lifesavers. We are delighted that Stephen is not lost to us as he will be remaining with Dun Laoghaire RNLI as a Deputy Launching Authority.’

Ed Totterdell, also a Deputy Launching Authority, will take up the role as the new Lifeboat Operations Manager.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Sligo Bay RNLI reminds sea swimmers of the importance of not struggling against rip currents after two people were rescued from a strong current at the ominously named Deadman’s Point.

The volunteer crew were requested to launch their inshore lifeboat shortly after 5.40pm on Tuesday evening (7 September) following a report that two swimmers had got into difficulty in the waters adjacent to Sligo Yacht Club.

Weather conditions at the time were described as good with light winds, good visibility but with a very strong incoming tide.

The lifeboat launched under helm Daryl Ewing and with David Bradley, Ross Palmer and Owen McLoughlin onboard. On arrival at the scene, the crew observed that both swimmers were wearing tow floats which had helped to keep them afloat until the lifeboat reached them.

The lifeboat crew checked that the swimmers were safe and well before taking them onboard and bringing them back to the lifeboat station where they were made comfortable.

Speaking following the callout, Sligo Bay RNLI helm Daryl Ewing said: “Thankfully both swimmers were safe but they were shocked at how quickly they were taken out by the rip current.

“Rip currents can be difficulty to spot, but are sometimes identified by a channel of churning, choppy water on the sea’s surface. Even the most experienced beachgoers and swimmers can be caught out by rips so never be afraid to ask for advice and read any local signage.

“If you do get caught in a rip, don’t try to swim against it or you will get exhausted. If you can stand, wade and don’t swim. If you can, swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore. Always raise your hand and shout for help.

“If you see someone who you think might be in trouble, don't delay: dial 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

This was the second rescue for the Sligo Bay lifeboat this week, after the volunteer crew launch to the aid of an injured fisherman on a charter vessel on Sunday 5 September, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Portaferry RNLI came to the aid of two men this morning (Wednesday 8 September) after their 9m rib took on water and was in danger of sinking off St John’s Point Lighthouse in county Down. Newcastle RNLI also responded.

The volunteer crew at Portaferry RNLI were requested to launch their inshore lifeboat by Belfast Coastguard at 11.06 am following a Pan Pan alert. The report was that the vessel was sinking one mile west of St John’s Point. Meanwhile, Newcastle RNLI was requested to launch their all-weather lifeboat.

The inshore lifeboat from Portaferry helmed by Chris Adair and with crew members, Simon Exley, George Toma and Ian Sands onboard, launched immediately and made its way to the scene approximately 25 minutes away.

Weather conditions at the time were good with clear skies, moderate visibility due to a sea fog, smooth seas and a light breeze.

Arriving first on scene, the Portaferry lifeboat crew observed that the men onboard the boat were safe and well and were already using their own salvage pump to deal with the ingress of water.

The lifeboat helm transferred a crew member onboard the boat with another salvage pump should it be required. However, having assessed the situation and with the crew’s own pump coping well with the intake of water, a decision was made to escort the vessel to the nearest safe port at Ardglass Harbour. Newcastle RNLI was subsequently stood down. On arrival at Ardglass, the vessel was assisted by the Newcastle Coastguard team.

Speaking following the call out, Portaferry RNLI Helm Chris Adair said: ‘The men onboard the vessel acted quickly this morning which ensured that help was with them in good time should the situation have deteriorated. We would like to commend them for doing everything right in raising the alarm early on when they knew they were in difficulty, for wearing their lifejackets and for being prepared for the situation they encountered and using their own salvage pump. All these factors helped in keeping them safe and we were delighted to escort them back to Ardglass.’

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Helvick Head RNLI came to the aid of four people on Monday evening (6 September) after their 14ft open pleasure boat broke down at Cunnigar Point.

The volunteer crew were requested to launch their inshore lifeboat at 7.19 pm following a request from the Irish Coast Guard to assess the situation where the boat with two men and two women onboard, had suffered engine failure at Cunnigar Point, a 5km sand spit that juts across from An Rinn to Dungarvan Bay.

The lifeboat helmed by Alan Kelly and with crew members, Paudie Walsh, Richard Haynes and Joe Foley onboard, launched immediately and made its way to the scene.

Weather conditions at the time were bright and sunny with a flat calm sea and an easterly Force 1 wind.

On arrival, the lifeboat crew first ensured that all onboard were safe and well before assessing the situation and deciding to tow the vessel to the nearest safe port at Ballynagaul.

Speaking following the call out, Sean Walsh, Helvick Head RNLI Deputy Launching Authority said: ‘We would like to commend the group who had taken the necessary safety precautions for their trip. They were all wearing their lifejackets and were at anchor when the lifeboat arrived.’

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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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