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The Irish Coast Guard is reminding mariners of its planned changes to the VHF working channels currently used for communications with the public.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, upgrades of radio equipment at a number of remote locations around the coast will be made over a 10-week period scheduled to begin tomorrow, Tuesday 6 October.

Notwithstanding the changes, which are also outlined in the previous report, Channel 16 will remain available at each site for distress, safety and calling.

Channel 67 is also available when required but may not be actively monitored at all times.

Updates as the work progresses will be made on the coastguard’s social media accounts in Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as well as on the gov.ie and Safety on the Water websites.

Published in Coastguard

The Irish Coast Guard has proposed a series of changes to its VHF working channels later this year.

The move follows amendments to transmitting frequencies in order to harmonise the VHF maritime mobile band internationally, which also require the coastguard to upgrade its radio equipment at a number of sites.

These upgrades are expected to take place between Monday 5 October and mid December, with dates for the channel changeovers yet to be confirmed. The affected remote sites are listed below:

Site

Radio Call Sign

Current Channel

New Channel

Howth Hts

Dublin Coast Guard

CH 83

CH 03

Rosslare Hts

Rosslare Coast Guard

CH 23

CH 05

Mine Hd Hts

Mine Head Coast Guard

CH 83

CH 03

Cork Hts

Cork Coast Guard

CH 26

CH 02

Bantry Hts

Bantry Coast Guard

CH 23

CH 05

Valentia Hts

Valentia Coast Guard

CH 24

CH 62

Shannon Hts

Shannon Coast Guard

CH 28

CH 64

Belmullet Hts

Belmullet Coast Guard

CH 83

CH 63

Clifden Hts

Clifden Coast Guard

CH 26

CH 03

Malin Hd Hts

Malin Head Coast Guard

CH 23

CH 05

Scalp Mountain

Malin Head Coast Guard

CH 85

CH 01

Glen Hd Hts

Glen Head Coast Guard

CH 24

CH 03

The remaining sites of Carlingford, Wicklow, Mizen Head, Galway, Clew Bay, Donegal Bay, Galley Head, Lough Ree and Lough Derg will retain their currently assigned channel.

Channel 16 will remain available at each remote site for distress, safety and calling and will not be affected by these changes. Channel 67is also available when required but may not be actively monitored at all times.

As the upgrade work progresses, the Irish Coast Guard will inform the public that a channel has changed by the following means:

  • By broadcasting on the channel that will be changing in the days leading up to the switchover
  • The Irish Coast Guard’s social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
  • Updated information on the gov.ie website and the Safety on the Water website.

Further queries are directed to the coastguard at [email protected]

Published in Coastguard

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Published in Marine Trade

Boaters and mariners have been reminded of the limitations of using mobile phones for emergency communication at sea.

Marine Notice No 40 of 2019 emphasises that mobile phones “should not be considered as a suitable substitute” for marine VHF equipment, which it urges all users of recreational craft to carry.

“Mobile phone coverage at sea is limited and unreliable. Mobile phones are also highly susceptible to failure due to water ingress,” the notice states.

The use of VHF, however, “makes it possible to broadcast to, and receive from, all vessels and coast stations within the vicinity in the event of an emergency”.

Where practicable, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) says recreational craft should maintain a continuous listening watch on VHF channel 16 and DSC watch on VHF channel 70.

Further details are included in Marine Notice No 40 of 2019, a PDF of which is available to read or download HERE.

Published in Water Safety

#INSS - Anyone who wants to get certified in the use of short-range VHF marine radio should look to the Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School (INSS) in Dun Laoghaire, which is running its next course from Monday.

The four-evening course taking place next Monday 22, Tuesday 23, Thursday 25 and Friday 26 October (from 6.30pm to 9.30pm each session) will put you hands-on with a real VHF radio rather than a computer-based simulator.

The INSS promises that no more than two people will share a radio at any one stage of the course which, along with the complimentary set of course notes, will equip you to pass the short exam and leave as “a hugely competent user of VHF radio”.

Over the four evenings you will learn the NATO phonetic alphabet, how to conduct day-to-day communications and make emergency or distress calls, and the workings of the GMDSS network and system.

This course is also a prerequisite for many other practical courses, and is a legal requirement for anyone who plans to use a VHF radio set.

Places are still available for next week’s course but dates are also open in the new year in late January, February and March, as well as four other courses scheduled for 2019.

For booking details see the INSS website HERE.

Published in INSS
Tagged under

#VHF - UK Coastguard is reminding all boat owners, shipping companies and anyone who puts out to sea to make sure they are ready for the pending changeover of some VHF channels used to contact emergency services.

As reported earlier this year on Afloat.ie, changes to Appendix 18 (Marine VHF) of the Radio Regulations it will mean that VHF channels 23, 84 and 86 will no longer be used for either Maritime Safety Information (MSI) or Radio Medical Advice.

The channels to use from next month (September 2017) will be VHF 62, 63 and 64. The use of VHF Channel 10 for MSI and pollution control (back up) is unchanged.

“This is an absolute changeover so people do need to be ready to start using the channels from 10am on 6 September,” said Mark Lawson from the Maritime & Coastguard Agency.

“Although the MCA will keep the existing channels for about a year, they will not be routinely monitored. Your existing VHF radios should already have the new channels, but owners should check.”

Why are the channels changing?
The changes are as a result of the World Radio Conference where it was decided that some channels should be removed and allocated for digital use. It’s a simple change to other VHF frequencies.

What difference will it make to boat owners and operators?
There will be no difference to the service provided. MSI broadcasts will still go out at the existing published times, just on the new channels. Those listening on Channel 16 will be directed to the appropriate channel, when the forthcoming broadcast is to be made.

What will happen if I use the old channels after 6 September?
The old channels will be retained by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency for about a year. However, they will not be routinely monitored as the MCA will redirect people to the appropriate channel that the MSI broadcast will be made on. Boat owners requiring Radio Medical Advice should initially call on Channel 16. They will then be directed to a working channel (62, 63 or 64).

What should boat owners and operators be doing?
Make a note of the replacement channels so that they are ready for the changeover day. Your existing VHF radios should already have the new channels, but owners should check.

Published in Water Safety
Tagged under

Boat owners, shipping companies and anyone who puts out to sea are being informed about a change in some of the VHF channel numbers used to contact UK Coastguard.

As a result of changes to Appendix 18 (Marine VHF) of the Radio Regulations it will mean that VHF channels 23, 84 and 86 will no longer be used for either Maritime Safety Information (MSI) or Radio Medical Advice.

The channels to use from September 2017 will be VHF 62, 63 and 64. The use of VHF Channel 10 for MSI and pollution control (back up) is unchanged.

Mark Lawson from the Maritime & Coastguard Agency said: 'Although it’s not happening until September, when it happens the changeover will be absolute and we want to make people aware of this changeover in good time given our commitment to deliver maritime safety and wider support to the maritime community.

'The exact date of change will be announced as soon as possible. In the meantime, we suggest anyone who uses any type of vessel makes a careful note of these replacement channels so they are ready when it does happen.'

Published in Coastguard
Tagged under

#WaterSafety - A new case that turns a smartphone into a VHF radio could revolutionise safety on the water, as the Irish Examiner reports.

The VHF Casemate is the brainchild of Dublin-based product designer Seán Toomey, who developed the idea as his degree thesis at the Dublin Institute of Technology.

As he explains, it's a solution to the problem of boaters taking mobile phones out on the water as their only means of communication, despite poor network coverage even a short distance from the shore.

His design, which offers all a standard waterproof case provides, comes with a built-in VHF radio operated by app that also signals distress to any other vessels in the vicinity.

And it could soon be on the market, once Toomey finds a partner to help put his final design into production.

The Irish Examiner has more on the story HERE.

Published in Water Safety
Tagged under

#MARINE WARNING - The latest Marine Notice from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) advises on preliminary work on the East-West interconnector power cable in the Irish Sea between Ireland and Wales over the next few weeks.

Briggs Marine commenced pre-lay grapnel runs along the line of the cable route on Sunday 1 April, and this work will be carried out over three weeks from the vessel Kingdom of Fife (call sign 2BKR2).

This work will continue on a 24-hour basis, and the vessel will display appropriate day shapes and lights as required, with a continuous watch on VHF Channel 16 and DSC.

Complete details including co-ordinates of the work area are included in Marine Notice No 14 of 2012, a PDF of which is available to read and download HERE.

Published in Marine Warning

#NEWS UPDATE - The latest Marine Notice from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) advises on a pipeline survey in the Celtic Sea next month.

PSE Kinsale Energy Limited will be commencing the survey of the 24" Gas Export Pipeline on 6 March 2012 using the Marine Institute vessel RV Celtic Voyager (call sign EIQN). The survey is expected to last 1 to 2 days, depending on weather conditions.

The survey will take place along the existing pipeline route in the Celtic Sea, between the shoreline at Inch Beach in Co Cork and gas platform 'Alpha'.

The RV Celtic Voyager will display appropriate lights and signals, and will be towing side scan sonar with cables of up to 200m long. A Radio Navigation Warning will be issued via the Irish Coast Guard (schedule Bravo, four times a day) prior to the vessel's arrival at the survey area. The vessel will also keep a listening watch on VHF Channel 16.

All vessels, particularly those engaged in fishing, are requested to give the RV Celtic Voyager and her towed equipment a wide berth and keep a sharp lookout in the relevant areas.

Further details for seafarers, including relevant co-ordinates, are included in Marine Notice No 7 of 2012, a PDF of which is available to read and download HERE.

Published in News Update
Page 1 of 2

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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