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Dubin's Lord Mayor opened a Tall Ship and Youth Sail Training Workshop with an agenda to seek a solution to the current Irish Sail Training impasse caused by the loss of sailing's Asgard II and Lord Rank.

Over 70 delegtes including many of the 'top brass' of the Irish Tall Ship commuunity attended the meeting held at the offices of Dublin Port Company on Saturday (26th March). The meeting inlcuded members of Coiste an Asgard, port companies, education, tourism and other sailing interests.

The meeting was formally opened by Dublin Lord Mayor and Port Admiral, Gerry Breen who introduced the chairman Lord Glentoran and the Facilitator Michael Counahan.

Tallshipschairmen

From (Left to right)  Seamus McLoughlin, Dublin Port Head of Operations,  Enda Connellan, Chairman Tall Ships Dublin 2012, Des Whelan, Chair Tall Ships Waterford 2011,  Lord Glentoran (Robin Dixon) Chair Tall Ships Belfast 1992,  Dr. Gerard O'Hare, Chair Tall Ships Belfast 2009,  Ted Crosbie, Tall Ships Cork and  Enda O'Coineen, LetsdoitGlobal.

Des Whelan gave an excellent talk and presentation on Tall Ships Waterford which was followed by a discussion on the massive economic benefits of bringing Tall Ships Festivals To Dublin, Cork and Belfast. Chairman of Tall Ships Dublin 2012 Enda Connellan and Ted Crosbie of Tall Ships Cork and Dr. Gerard O' Hare of Tall Ships Belfast discussed the incredible success stories from their respective ports festivals.
Several presentations and discussions followed regarding the role of Tall Ships in Sail Training, the connection between a vessel for Ireland and running events here. The question of who are the stakeholders and how can benefits be quantified was also discussed.
The meeting was hosted by Dublin Port Company who provided a warm welcome, excellent facilities, refreshments and a wonderful lunch with senior management attending to everyone's needs.
After lunch there were further discussions on what is the most suitable vessel, who should run the organisation and what would work best for Ireland.

Jimmy Tyrrell gave a short, eloquent and emotional account of Asgard II and the realisation of his father's dream which was fulfilled beyond all expectation by that legendary vessel and those who were privileged to sail on her. He affirmed his own belief that the way forward was with an All-Ireland Tall Ship and even suggested that she be called Spirit of Ireland. There were other suggestions for a name inlcuding 'Ireland's Call'.

A view was also expressed that politics and religion have no place in Sail Trail Training and the future lay in an All-Ireland Commercial/Charitable Trust Venture.

The prohibitive nature of current legislation and the total lack of awareness of the maritime sector by the Government was mentioned several times.

Ocean Youth Club NI provided four young sail trainees to address the gathering on the benefits of Sail Training from their perspective and representatives from education, tourism Tall Ships International and "Association Of Tall Ships Organisations" also contributed.

The general consensus was the need to develop and promote, as a matter of urgency, a plan for a Tall Ship For Ireland linking Youth, Maritime Education, Business and Tourism.

Another workshop will be held in Belfast in April and the collective input of both meetings will be considered going forward.

A Tall Order for Ireland? HERE

Regular updates on Irish Tall Ship sailing news HERE

More on Asgard II HERE

Published in Tall Ships

Cork sailor Simon Coveney (38) has been appointed as Minister of Agriculture, Food and Marine in the new cabinet of the Fine Gael/Labour Government formed yesterday.

The announcement has been welcomed by various marine interests pleased to see Marine back at the cabinet for the first time since the Department was dismantled by Fianna Fail's Bertie Ahern in 2002.

Coveney_Howth_Harbour

Marine Minister Simon Coveney TD

The appointment means Taoiseach Enda Kenny has kept good an election promise to reinstate the Marine department. A decade of lost opportunties has meant the sector has suffered through lack of infrastructure and coastline planning.

_coveney81Y4848

Simon Coveney at the helm of his yacht Wavetrain. Photo: Bob Bateman

"Simon is someone who understands the Sea as a sailor himself but also in his work as an MEP where he was involved in a number of major European maritime projects. This is a great opportuinty for the Marine. We look forward to working with him to develop this untapped resource." said David O'Brien of the Irish Marine Federation.

Simon was first elected to the Dáil in 1998 as one of Fine Gael's youngest TD's aged 26. He replaced his father Hugh Coveney TD following his untimely death.

Simon follows his father in to the post of Marine Minister. Hugh held the post in 1994.

Simon holds a B.Sc. in Agriculture and Land Management from Royal Agriculture College, Gloucestershire. He was also educated at Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare; University College Cork, and Gurteen Agricultural College, County Tipperary.

A keen fan of all competitive sport he has worked as a sailing instructor at his club Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven and been involved in many sailing regattas.

In 1997/8 he led the "Sail Chernobyl Project" which involved sailing a boat 30,000 miles around the world and raising €650,000 for charity.

In 2006 he contributed to RTE's series The Harbour and in a memorable quote, the Cork TD and former MEP said: "When somebody asks me the question, what's the one thing that's special about Cork?, I'd say the harbour."

Published in News Update
The new Government's plans to merge marine responsibilities into a single department has received a guarded welcome from Ireland's maritime bodies.
In today's Irish Times, the Irish Marine Federation is quoted as saying a "single maritime authority is essential for an island people".
Federation of Irish Fishermen chairman Seán O'Donoghue also welcomes the merger plans, but not if it becomes a subset of a larger department.
Fergus Cahill, chairman of the Irish Offshore Operators' Association, which represents oil and gas companies, said the splitting-up of the Department of Marine in 2002 was a "disaster".
He welcomed the new programme's promise to promote offshore drilling and "streamline" the regulatory process for developing mineral resources.

The new Government's plans to merge marine responsibilities into a single department has received a guarded welcome from Ireland's marine trade bodies.

In today's Irish Times, the Irish Marine Federation is quoted as saying a "single maritime authority is essential for an island people".

Federation of Irish Fishermen chairman Seán O'Donoghue also welcomed the merger plans, but not if it becomes a subset of a larger department.

Fergus Cahill, chairman of the Irish Offshore Operators' Association, which represents oil and gas companies, said the splitting-up of the Department of Marine in 2002 was a "disaster". 

He welcomed the new programme's promise to promote offshore drilling and "streamline" the regulatory process for developing mineral resources.

Published in Marine Federation
As I write this week's blog there is still no definite word emanating from the closed cloisters inhabited at present by the leading negotiating lights of Fine Gael and the Labour Party on the future governing of this island nation. It is unlikely that the future of the marine sphere is foremost in the minds of the negotiators and I wonder what will be the priority attached to the marine when the new Government is announced.

Fine Gael can, logically from the support which the party garnered in the General Election, be expected to dominate a Coalition Government. In that context, the question arises as to whether they will deliver on their pre-election manifesto commitment to re-establish the Department of the Marine?

The promise to do so was unequivocal, a clear undertaking that the situation created by the former Fianna Fail and Green Party Coalition which had decimated maritime issues by spreading them over several Departments of State, would be changed and all would be contained in one Department.

In the event of a Coalition being formed will we hear that "circumstances" have changed and adjustments must be made in the context of Coalition arrangements?

I had the opportunity to question Joan Burton of the Labour Party, one of the party negotiators, prior to the election at an event organised by the European Association of Journalists. She accepted that politicians had not paid enough attention to the marine sphere and said that this attitude should be changed and accepted that the nation could benefit economically as a result.

I hope that I am not being overly cynical towards politicians, born of long years of journalistic experience, in fearing that pre-election promises may be subjected to change.

• This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie
Published in Island Nation
Barry Conwell from Killybegs, Co. Donegal is the National Maritime College of Ireland Best Bachelor Degree Student and the Best Honours Degree Student is Ian Ray Heffernan from Crosshaven, Co. Cork.

CIT's Dr Barry O'Connor, Registrar and Vice President for Academic Affairs, congratulated the students on their outstanding academic achievements across undergraduate and postgraduate level programmes which are nationally, internationally, and professionally accredited.

Published in Jobs
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is holding a public meeting in Belfast on Thursday 3rd March 2011, about the proposed Coastguard modernisation programme.

The meeting will provide an opportunity for the community around the existing Belfast Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) to hear more about the proposals, ask questions of MCA representatives and air their views.

The meeting at Marine Court Hotel, 18-20 Quay Street, Bangor. BT20 5ED will be independently chaired and begin at 7:30pm. The meeting is expecting to draw to a close by 9:00pm.

The proposals for Coastguard modernisation, together with the consultation documents, can be found on the MCA website at www.mcga.gov.uk  and www.dft.gov.uk

Published in Coastguard
18th February 2011

Now There is None

I remember the pride I felt when describing on television the Parade of the Tall Ships down the River Suir from Waterford in 2005. Three Irish tall ships led it. First was ASGARD II, Ireland's national tall ship; followed by the DUNBRODY from New Ross and then the JEANIE JOHNSTON from Kerry.

What a magnificent sight it was as the three Tall Ships, each flying the Tricolour, headed the fleet of the gracious ships of sail from all over the world.

How different it will be in July when the world's Tall Ships again parade down the Suir. There will be no Irish national sailing ship to lead the parade. A number of private Irish entries are expected at Waterford from June 30–July 3 amongst the 70 vessels from around the world when the city has the honour starting the race. In 2005 about half-a-million people visited the city while the Tall Ships were there.

The lack of a national tall ship is another example of governmental maritime neglect, directly due to the decision of former Defence Minister Willie O'Dea, T.D. After the sinking of ASGARD he publicly committed the Government to its replacement, but after receiving insurance compensation money for its loss, he put the money into coffers of the Department of Finance and closed down the national sail training programme. There was a big difference between what he promised and what he did, a disregard for the maritime sphere which it is hard to forgive. I also recall how former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern did not visit Waterford during the 2005 race, when it was the biggest tourist event in the country. When I broadcast my report expressing astonishment at this snub government sources and Fianna Fail didn't like it. Truth in the news can be painful!

The organisers made contacts about the DUNBRODY, which continues to earn income at the New Ross quayside where it is moored as a tourist attraction and with the JEANIE JOHNSTON, moored at the Dublin Docklands.

However, neither will be taking part, the organisers have confirmed, tough they said that it was expected that about 100 young Irish trainees would sail aboard tall ships in the race, half of them with funding support from local authority, business and other sources. A group of Irish sailors have also indicated they are making arrangements to charter a UK-registered vessel the JOHANNA LUCRETIA for the event.

Once again the Irish Government has sunk to the bottom where maritime matters are concerned.

It was announced this week in Waterford that Fáilte Ireland has made a significant financial and marketing commitment to this year's event, though the financial figure was not disclosed .A free festival programme will feature street acts; comedy; international and home-grown artists, nightly fireworks, an artisan food village and an atmosphere which the organisers say "will thrill people of all ages and nationalities."

• This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie

Published in Island Nation
To further assist the development of the marine sector, responsibility for maritime policy will, as far as is practicable, be concentrated in one department. That's according to the Labour Party 2011 General Election manifesto and it's the clearest indication yet from any political party that the Department of the Marine could be reinstated.

Fine Gael has told Afloat.ie details of its marine policy will be published in its manifesto tomorrow. If that's the case things are looking up for anyone interested in seeing Ireland develop the valuable waters that surround it.

After searching for references to 'sea', 'marine' or 'maritime' only the Labour party has so far made the only significant written commitment to the marine sector in its programme for government. Its manifesto acknowledges that Coastal Communities, Fisheries and the Marine face major challenges in the years ahead, but it is also an area of major economic potential.

Fianna Fail merely says on page 21 of its manifesto that it will ensure that 'an inter-departmental strategy is in place to improve the leisure potential of our harbours and increase marine tourism'.

The Green Party 'Renewing Ireland' document says it will promote the creation of marinas and youth and child friendly water sports to encourage activity and awareness of our maritime country. It also says Ireland will participates in the North Seas Offshore Grid Plan.

There is no reference to the marine in the Sinn Fein 'There is a Better Way' manifesto.

Four party manifestos are available to download below.

Labour's priority will be to develop Ireland as a European hub for seafood processing, which will create sustainable, value-added jobs in coastal communities.

Labour will also develop an Irish seafood strategy to grow the market profile and demand for Irish seafood products. We will support the development of sustainable aquaculture and fish farms by streamlining the licensing process and reducing, as much as possible, the associated bureaucracy. To further assist the development of the sector, responsibility for maritime policy will, as far as is practicable, be concentrated in one department.

Labour will establish a Sea Fisheries Sustainability Impact Assessment based on consultation with all major stakeholders. This report will be brought before the Dáil on an annual basis before EU fisheries negotiations commence, and will ensure that there is a regular evaluation of Irish fish stocks and the effectiveness of current policy and quotas.

Labour is open to the experience and expertise of those whose livelihoods depend on maritime activity. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will engage in an ongoing structured consultation with industry representatives, the marine scientific community and other stakeholders to enable them to contribute to national maritime policy.

Finally, safety at sea and decent working conditions must underpin the development of the fisheries sector. Labour in government will ensure that the Irish Coast Guard has access to an Emergency Towing Vessel.

Dun Laoghaire People before Profit candidate Richard Boyd Barrett who has campaigned under a 'Save our Seafront' banner in the last council elections, is holding a meeting tomorrow night in Dun Laoghaire, the country's largest boating centre to protest against the possible 'privatisation' of the town's harbour.

We're tracking the progress of maritime affairs in the general election and posting details on afloat.ie. Whether you're a candidate or a vote please get in touch with your #ge11 marine news. Contact us via facebook, twitter or our website.

Published in News Update

There are those who don't like sailing – and even some in the sport itself – who have described watching a sailing race as "about as interesting as watching paint dry. While exciting pictures have been available from the Volvo Round the World Race and match racing has proved watchable, these were exceptional highlights compared with the more mundane aspects of yacht racing. Raising public interest in the sport has been a permanent difficulty.

The Olympic Games have fared no better. The last Olympics in China were difficult for sailing where the racing was not regarded as of sufficiently high quality, courses were perceived as often poor and there were even difficulties in finding enough clear water at times due to silting and other problems.

With tickets due to go on sail in two month's time for the London Olympic Games in 2012, controversy is flaring over a decision to impose charges to watch sailing.

The 2012 Games will be the first in Olympic history to charge spectators for sailing races, with temporary seating being provided for up to 4,600 paying customers at Weymouth's Nothe Gardens, a local beauty spot which overlooks one of the racing areas at Newton's Cove. Weymouth and Portland Council received official notification about the plan a week before Christmas. This was more than two months after the London organising committee, Locog, announced ticket prices for the Games, including sailing.

The spectator experience at previous Games has been confined to a glimpse of sails through a pair of binoculars, but by bringing the action close to shore, Locog believes it can turn sailing into an exciting spectator sport.

They are hoping that ticket sales will be encouraged by the introduction of new events such as women's match-racing — a series of 20-minute head-to-head races between two boats. This will begin with a round-robin phase before turning into a knockout competition and is intended to form the core of the programme on the Nothe course. It will be supplemented by races involving two of what are regarded as spectacular classes - including the 49ers and the windsurfers.

In the second week of the Games, the course will play host to the final medal races in all boat classes.

This concept of bringing the sport to the fans onshore has the full backing of the International Sailing Federation, which will be hoping for capacity crowds in the temporary stands, where spectators will be asked to pay up to stg£55 each to watch the sailing.

However, local people in Weymouth and Portland are angered by the intention to turn their public park into a ticketed venue. The Council has accused the organisers of not discussing their plans in advance and local councillors claim people are outraged that they will be barred from the park for several weeks.

Locog has defended its decision to sell tickets, saying that, for the first time, sailing will be presented as a true onshore spectator experience, which the International Sailing Federation is keen to develop. The organisers also cite safety concerns, with a ticketed venue allowing them to predict crowd numbers. They insist the move is not motivated by financial gain, but that is, clearly, being questioned.

For those unwilling to pay, there will still be one or two free vantage points near Newton's Cove as well a free site with a big video screen and stage on Weymouth Beach.

Sailing competitions will take place on five courses but only at Newton's Cove will spectators be able to watch from land with the naked eye. Tickets, which will go on sale in March, will range from stg£20 for preliminary races to stg£55 for medal races. Discounts will be offered for children and over-60s.

Locog said councillors were invited to a meeting about Nothe Gardens in October. It added that there would be a public consultation later this year prior to submitting a formal planning application for the use of the park for charged viewing. It will be interesting to see how the Council reacts to that application!

One thing the controversy is doing is, at least, is to highlight the sailing events!

• An interesting sidelight about public interest in sailing is that, while sailing has difficulty in getting television coverage, a total of 506,000 people watched USA TV personality, Oprah Winfrey and the star of the film, 'Master and Commander,' Russell Crowe when they presented a sailing programme from Sydney Harbour.

  • This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie
Published in Island Nation

I had to read the figures twice to make sure that I was seeing them correctly. The second reading made me even more angry than the first.

They were, at last, a definitive figure of how much the stupidity of Irish politicians and the ignorance and disregard of the maritime sphere by the Government have cost this nation – over a billion Euros in one year.

There is no way the Government can weasel its way out of this revelation, nor any excuse the un-named civil servants responsible can make to avoid the accusation that this is a massive economic waste.

The Marine Institute is the Government's own respected authority on maritime affairs, the voice of the State on marine research and it has valued the total available catch of fish off Ireland last year at €1.18 billion, for a total of 994,155 tonnes.

That is an enormous figure, indicating huge potential wealth for this cash-strapped nation in the middle of an economic disaster. But of this total value of seafood, Ireland was only entitled to catch €0.19 billion. Foreign fishing fleets had exclusive rights to take the rest of the fish from Irish waters.

No wonder I had to read the figures a second time to make sure I was seeing them correctly at a time when the value of our food exports has been shown to be one of the top earners for the nation. How much more could have been earned if Irish fishermen could catch all that fish and have it processed in Ireland, creating onshore jobs in ancillary businesses as well as at sea?

The total value for 2010 could be even higher than €1.18 billion because the Institute prepared its figures in advance of the annual fisheries negotiations in Brussels in December. Ireland as a nation and the country's fishing industry in particular are likely to have lost out even more heavily to other EU countries.

Effectively, Ireland handed over around €1billion of its natural economic resources to other EU countries. Mark McCarthy, Editor of The Marine Times, the national fishing industry paper, described the figures as "truly frightening."

"This is a nation with some of the richest fishing grounds in the world where the coastal communities are being financially starved and frustrated through their inability to catch their own fish, because they are not allowed to do so."

It is hardly any wonder that Irish fishermen, forced to tie up their boats at the quaysides of Irish fishing ports and watch as foreign vessels unload into those ports, are bitter and frustrated.

Ebbie Sheehan of Castletownbere, Chairman of the Irish Fishermen's Organisation, asks why fishermen are "so badly treated when we look at the economic situation today?"

The Marine Institute, our national maritime scientific and research organisation, says that its estimate of the value of fishing opportunities in Irish waters is "conservative" and that, in order to prepare the figures in early December, it based them on 2009 values

That would make the total value even higher and the Institute pointed out that of the total catch of 994,155 tonnes, Ireland's fishermen were entitled to take only 18 per cent of the catch. This was only 16 per cent of the total value.

"These figures exclude valuable inshore fisheries, such as lobster and whelk which are not currently managed by total allowable catches within the Common Fisheries Policy," the Institute pointed out.

As Mark McCarthy described it, when one considers the importance of using our natural resources for the benefit of Irish people and the failure of our political leaders to see and understand this, what has been revealed is "truly frightening".

  • This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie
Published in Island Nation
Page 8 of 9

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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