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British air assets assisted the Irish Coast Guard with two medical evacuations off the Irish coast within a two-day period.

A British Coast Guard Rescue99 aircraft provided support for the Shannon-based Rescue 115 Irish Coast Guard helicopter on Sunday (June 9) in a medical evacuation.

The long-range evacuation was from a merchant vessel approximately 160 nautical miles off the southwest Irish coast at 9 am on Sunday.

In a statement, the Irish Coast Guard said the merchant vessel had contacted the Irish Coast Guard on Friday, June 7th, reporting a seriously ill crew member.

“Following a link call coordinated by the Valentia Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Centre between the vessel and MEDICO Cork, it was determined that a medical evacuation was required at the earliest opportunity,” it said in the statement issued through the Department of Transport press office.

“After proceeding to within range of the coast the vessel rendezvoused with Rescue 115 helicopter approximately 160 nautical miles from the SW coast. The UK Coastguard aircraft RESCUE99 provided top cover support for the helicopter operating at long range,” it said.

“The Irish Coast Guard can confirm that the crew member was landed safely at Kerry University Hospital in the south-west for medical attention later on Sunday morning, and the vessel resumed passage,” it said.

“This is the second long-range medical evacuation coordinated by the Irish Coast Guard in recent days,”it said.

“On Friday, the Waterford Coast Guard Rescue 117 helicopter - using Cork Airport to extend range – successfully completed a medical evacuation of an ill crew member from another merchant vessel,” it said.

“This operation was coordinated with and supported by the UK and Danish authorities following an alert from the vessel,”it said.

The statement did not comment on press reports over the weekend that the Air Corps did not have an aircraft available for top cover for the June 7th mission to evacuate a crew member from a Danish merchant vessel.

The UK Defence Journal reported that a Royal Air Force P-8 Poseidon aircraft was “urgently deployed to aid in a maritime rescue operation off the coast of Cork … due to the unavailability of suitable Irish aircraft”.

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Ahead of the May holiday weekend, Water Safety Ireland, the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI are jointly appealing to people to be safe and summer-ready when planning an activity on or near the water.

The organisations are urging people to ensure that boats and other watercraft, including kayaks and canoes, are checked and in good working order following the winter period. Engines should be serviced and all equipment, particularly lifejackets, should be in good condition.

If out on a boat, or other water vessel:

  • Wear a lifejacket, carry a reliable means of communication – a VHF radio and ideally a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) with mobile phone backup in a watertight case
  • Ensure that you tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back

If planning activities on the water:

  • Always bring a means of effectively communicating distress
  • Use readily available sources of information to check the environmental conditions (weather and tides) in advance of your trip
  • Seek help immediately if you see somebody in trouble on the water or along the coast, or think they are in trouble, by using Marine VHF channel 16 or Dialling 112 and asking for the Coast Guard

If you are swimming:

  • Water temperatures are still cold at this time of the year, consider wearing a wetsuit to stay warm
  • Acclimatise slowly
  • Wear a bright swimming cap and consider a tow float to increase your visibility
  • Never swim alone and always ensure that your activity is being monitored by a colleague

Kevin Whitney, Operations Manager at the Coast Guard reminded everyone to ‘Plan & Prepare’ before considering any water-based or coastal activity ahead of and during the summer months: ‘Do not use inflatable toys in open water or swim out after anything drifting as things can quickly go wrong. Be aware of potential dangers and well prepared before engaging in any water-based activities. The Be Summer-Ready website at www.gov.ie/summerready provides good water safety advice and we urge the public to read this before venturing out on the water.’

Roger Sweeney, Deputy CEO at Water Safety Ireland said: ‘An average of five people drown in Ireland every fortnight and cold water is often a factor. Sudden immersion can cause a shock to your body, a loss of breathing control, dizziness, and panic. Hypothermia and muscle cooling soon makes swimming difficult or impossible, particularly for children who have less body fat. Keep cold water swims short and enter the water slowly, staying within your depth. Shore anglers should always wear a lifejacket and walkers should carry a mobile phone and keep a close eye on incoming tides to avoid being stranded.’

Linda-Gene Byrne, RNLI Water Safety Lead said: ‘Many people will be taking vessels to the water for the first time this year so this is a good time to think about checking your equipment, especially your lifejacket so that it is fit for purpose.’

‘Others may be planning a trip to the beach and a swim in the sea. We would encourage swimmers to be mindful of rip currents which can be difficult to spot, but are sometimes identified by a channel of churning, choppy water on the sea's surface. Even the most experienced beachgoers can be caught out by rips so remember don’t try to swim against it or you’ll get exhausted. If you can stand, wade 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 somebody in trouble on the water or along the coast, or think they are in trouble, use Marine VHF channel 16 or Dial 112 and ask for the Coast Guard.

Published in Coastguard

Three European agencies have initiated the first Coast Guard “capacity building” and training exchange at European level.

The European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA), the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) are working on an initiative to bolster the development of an academy and training network.

They also aim to implement an exchange programme between administrations from different countries.

“The exchange programme facilitates the exchange of theoretical and practical knowledge and best practices among authorities engaged in coast guard functions,”they state.

“ By doing so, the project contributes to preparing staff for joint missions and operations, benefiting EU member states, European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries and Schengen associated countries' coast guard authorities and entities,”they state.

This programme is also very relevant for the EU Maritime Security Strategy and Action Plan[1], which seeks to strengthen Europe's autonomy amid growing threats to maritime security.

The first exchange took place in Sarzana, Italy, with participants from the Icelandic Coast Guard and the Portuguese Maritime Life Saving Institute in the Italian Coast Guard's Rescue Swimmer Course, with a week dedicated to theoretical and practical lessons.

Overall, there were 86 candidates that were assigned to an exchange and 34 candidates to reserve lists. The next exchanges for this semester involve authorities from Croatia, Finland, France, Italy, Romania, Portugal, Poland and Spain

"The programme sets sail on a journey of collaboration, learning, and empowerment, striving to shape the future of coast guard functions across Europe,” EFCA executive director Susan Steele says.

More information is on the Coast Guard Portal here

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Philip Bartlett has been appointed Bristow Ireland’s director of Irish search and rescue (SAR) helicopter and fixed-wing aviation.

“Bartlett will be responsible for leading the Bristow Ireland team responsible for delivering life-saving missions across the country,” the company says.

Bristow Ireland is due to take over provision of rotary and fixed-wing aviation services for the Irish Coast Guard, and received its air operator certificate from the Irish Aviation Authority earlier this year.

As part of the contract with the Department of Transport, the company will run six SAR-configured AW189 helicopters from dedicated bases in Shannon, Sligo, Waterford, and Weston.

The new contract will include a day and night fixed-wing service operating out of Shannon.

Bartlett has 33 years of experience in Irish and British aviation, and was most recently chief technical officer for Shannon Technical Services.

Before that, Bartlett was a technical operations manager for Nordic Aviation Capital, where Bristow Ireland says he “gained a perspective on the regional aircraft leasing business, including managing aircraft deliveries and returns, to and from various international airlines”.

He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering (Hons) in aircraft engineering, aerodynamics, business, and quality from Kingston University.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society; an incorporated engineer with the British Engineering Council; and holds an EASA Part 66 and national aircraft maintenance engineer’s license from the Irish Aviation Authority.

Published in Coastguard

Minister of State with responsibility for the Irish Coast Guard Jack Chambers will turn the sod on a new Coast Guard station for Westport in south Mayo on Thursday (March 27).

Members of the Coast Guard will join the junior minister to break ground on the new project at the Quay at Cloonmonad, Westport.

The proposed building will consist of a two-storey accommodation block and a single-storey boathouse with vehicle storage along with changing rooms, a meeting room and staff facilities.

Westport’s Coast Guard unit currently operates from a small, temporary facility. Completing the new building will take 18 months.

Mayo Fine Gael TD Michael Ring had said the new building is “vital” for the success of the Coast Guard’s ongoing work as a unit.

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Five crew members were rescued by the Irish Coast Guard after their fishing vessel ran aground on the northern side of Inis Mór, on the Aran Islands. The emergency call was received by the Valentia Coast Guard shortly before 5am this morning.

The 21-metre fishing vessel had five crew members on board who initially abandoned the vessel into a life raft. Shannon-based Coast Guard Helicopter R115, Aran Islands RNLI lifeboat, and North Aran Coast Guard Unit were all immediately dispatched to the scene to assist with the rescue operation.

The lifeboat from the Aran Islands stood by during a rescue operation off the north coast of Inis Mor for a grounded vising vesselThe RNLI lifeboat from the Aran Islands stood by during a rescue operation off the north coast of Inis Mor for a grounded vising vessel

The crew members were subsequently winched to safety by R115 with the Aran Islands lifeboat standing by. They were then transferred to University Hospital Galway for further medical evaluation.

Despite the ordeal, the five-person crew were reported to be in good spirits after receiving medical attention. The swift response of the Coast Guard teams was praised by local authorities and the community at large.

RNLI adds: 

Aran Islands RNLI responded to a Mayday in the early hours of this morning (Sunday 3 March) to rescue the crew of a fishing vessel that had run aground. It was the second call out in two days for the station’s volunteers.

The all-weather crew were requested to launch their lifeboat at 4.51am by the Irish Coast Guard following a Mayday call from the crew of a fishing boat that had ran aground at An Coirnéal Port Eochla on the north side of Inis Mór. The lifeboat launched shortly after with six crew onboard.

In the 20 minutes it took to get to the scene, the fishing vessel had started to take on water and was beginning to list to the left. Arriving, the lifeboat crew observed that all five fishermen had abandoned their 21m trawler and were in a life raft alongside the vessel. All were safe and well and in good spirits.

Weather on scene at the time was blowing a force 5 north west wind which was easing and there was a moderate sea of 2m and good visibility.

The Irish Coast Guard helicopter, Rescue 115 from Shannon was also tasked along with Coast Guard and Fire Service units to the shore side.

Having assessed the situation, a decision was made by Aran Islands RNLI Coxswain Declan Branigan to launch the lifeboat’s smaller daughter inflatable lifeboat should it be needed to access closer to shore. On arrival of Rescue 115, the situation was further assessed and it was agreed that the safest option was to winch the five fishermen to safety. The lifeboat stood by until all casualties were accounted for before returning to Kilronan Pier at 7.30am this morning.

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In a long-range mission coordinated by the Malin Head Coast Guard Coordination Centre, the Dublin-based Coast Guard Helicopter R116 successfully evacuated a seriously ill fisherman from a Norwegian vessel 160 miles west of Erris Head, Co. Mayo. The evacuation, carried out in collaboration with the UK and Norwegian Coast Guards.

The Shannon-based Coast Guard Helicopter R115 was also deployed as a secondary support asset, shadowing R116 throughout the mission.

The rescuers battled strong winds and rough seas to reach the stricken vessel and airlift the casualty onboard.

After being winched aboard R116 at 12:50pm, the fisherman was immediately transported to University Hospital Galway, where he was transferred into the care of the HSE.

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In a joint operation between the Marine Rescue Sub-Centre in Valentia and the UK Coast Guard, a casualty from a merchant vessel was successfully rescued from 120 miles off the South West Coast.

The mission was carried out by the Shannon-based Coast Guard Helicopter R115, which received top cover support from a UK Coastguard fixed-wing aircraft.

The operation was carefully planned by Valentia and UK colleagues, who had been collaborating since late yesterday afternoon as the vessel transited from the Atlantic.

The casualty was safely landed at Cork Airport and then transferred to Cork University Hospital by ambulance.

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The Minister of State responsible for the Irish Coast Guard, Jack Chambers TD, officially opened the newly constructed Coast Guard station in Bonmahon, Co. Waterford today.

Following a significant investment by the Department of Transport of €5.2m, the volunteers at the Bonmahon Coast Guard unit will now take up residency at their new facility. Over the past three years, the Bonmahon Coast Guard Unit has attended 89 incidents, and this new facility will enhance the Coast Guard activities undertaken by the unit.

(Above and below) The Minister of State responsible for the Irish Coast Guard, Jack Chambers TD, officially opened the newly constructed Coast Guard station in Bonmahon, Co. Waterford today in the presence of Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan and local TD Mary Butler(Above and below) The Minister of State responsible for the Irish Coast Guard, Jack Chambers TD, officially opened the newly constructed Coast Guard station in Bonmahon, Co. Waterford today in the presence of Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan and local TD Mary Butler

(Above and below) The Minister of State responsible for the Irish Coast Guard, Jack Chambers TD, officially opened the newly constructed Coast Guard station in Bonmahon, Co. Waterford today in the presence of Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan and local TD Mary Butler

As Afloat reported previously, the first sod was turned on the building in September 2022.

Minister of State Chambers commented: “The men and women of our Coast Guard undertake incredible, lifesaving work - often in the very worst conditions - and it is essential they are supported in their role, which is at the very heart of our coastal communities."

"The opening of this €5.2m station house, which is the first new Coast Guard building since 2014, marks the ongoing commitment by the Department of Transport in developing the volunteer service. The Coast Guard, through the building programme is committed to the ongoing construction of rescue stations around the coast."

"The new station provides state-of-the-art facilities, including training rooms, operations rooms, offices, garage space, welfare facilities and vehicle parking. It will serve the Bonmahon Coast Guard unit and the public for many decades to come.”

The new Bonmahon Coastguard station provides state-of-the-art facilitiesThe new Bonmahon Coastguard station provides state-of-the-art facilities

Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan said:

“On behalf of my colleagues in the OPW, I am pleased to announce that the construction of the new Coast Guard station in Bonmahon is now complete. This purpose-built facility will provide the Unit and volunteers with modern accommodation and significantly improved storage facilities."

“The commitment and dedication of the volunteers is second to none, and I am delighted that this new facility will assist them in delivering this invaluable service along the South East Coast.”

As Minister of State with responsibility for the Coast Guard, Minister Chambers presented the 200th-year commemorative ‘Proof of Service at a Wreck’ tokens to the Bonmahon unit to acknowledge the IRCG’s 200th anniversary since 1822.

Ahead of presenting the tokens, Minister Chambers said:

“These tokens are a symbol of appreciation for the work the volunteers do in search and rescue. And as the final unit of the 44 units to be awarded these tokens, I am delighted it coincides with the opening of this new station.”

(Above and below) As Minister of State with responsibility for the Coast Guard, Minister Chambers (left) presented the 200th-year commemorative ‘Proof of Service at a Wreck’ tokens to the Bonmahon unit to acknowledge the IRCG’s 200th anniversary since 1822(Above and below) As Minister of State with responsibility for the Coast Guard, Minister Chambers (left) presented the 200th-year commemorative ‘Proof of Service at a Wreck’ tokens to the Bonmahon unit to acknowledge the IRCG’s 200th anniversary since 1822

(Above and below) As Minister of State with responsibility for the Coast Guard, Minister Chambers (left) presented the 200th-year commemorative ‘Proof of Service at a Wreck’ tokens to the Bonmahon unit to acknowledge the IRCG’s 200th anniversary since 1822

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As the inquest into the death of Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitriona Lucas continues, the court has heard how she was both fastidious and dedicated.

Health and Safety Authority (HSA) inspector Helen McCarthy told the coroner John McNamara and jury that she had seen Ms Lucas’s Irish Coast Guard logbook during her time with the Doolin unit.

“I have never seen anything quite so meticulous,” she told the Limerick coroner John McNamara at Kilmallock courthouse.

Simon Mills, senior counsel for the Department of Transport and Irish Coast Guard, said Ms Lucas was “an absolutely fantastic member of the Coast Guard”.

A senior officer with the Irish Coast Guard’s Kilkee unit told the third day of the inquest on Wednesday that its D-class rescue craft could have been on scene within ten minutes if she had the trained crew to launch it.

Orla Hassett, Kilkee Coast Guard deputy officer-in-charge (OIC) and a paramedic with the National Ambulance Service, also said that numbers in the Kilkee unit had dwindled so much that they had to seek help from “flanking stations” – including the Doolin unit, which Ms Lucas was a volunteer with.

Responding to questions from marine expert Michael Kingston, representing the Lucas family, Ms Hassett said she had informed Irish Coast Guard management the previous March (2016) of “escalating issues” which could affect rescue taskings due to “inter-personal” relations.

She said that Kilkee volunteer numbers had fallen from 30 in 2010 to 12 by 2013, and “four very experienced members” left in the weeks before the incident.

Ms Lucas (41), an advanced coxswain with Doolin Coast Guard and mother of two, died after the Kilkee Coast Guard Delta RIB she was helping out with as crew capsized during a search for a missing man on September 12, 2016.

She was the first Irish Coast Guard volunteer to lose her life during a tasking.

A consultant pathologist Dr Teresa Laszlo told the inquest that cause of death was due to drowning, but said that a skull injury which could cause temporary loss of consciousness could have been a contributory factor.

HSA inspector Ms McCarthy confirmed that her employer had to seek legal advice before it could start its investigation, which delayed it by nine months, and she did not have immediate access to Ms Lucas’s personal protective equipment (PPE).

The HSA was able to establish that a Coast Guard RIB was a place of work under existing legislation, and that the Irish Coast Guard has a duty of care to all its staff and volunteers.

PPE was given to the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB ), which did permit her to photograph Ms Lucas’s drysuit but she could not take it in evidence, she said.

She did not see Ms Lucas’s helmet, and was sent a “cutoff” of the Irish Coast Guard logo from the drysuit by the Irish Coast Guard. The court heard the drysuit was disposed of in a skip.

Ms McCarthy said that no risk assessment had been prepared of the area where the capsize occurred in Lookout Bay, which can be affected in certain conditions by unexpected waves in neighbouring Intrinsic Bay.

She said her investigation also showed that there were ongoing issues with the VHF radio on board the RIB that capsized, the coxswain was not trained for this position, according to Irish Coast Guard records, and personal locator beacons worn by the three crew failed to function.

Ms Lucas had been conscious in the sea for 17 minutes after the capsize, the inquest heard earlier this week.

The inquest continues.

Read the Irish Examiner here

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The Round Britain & Ireland Race

The 2022 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race will feature a wide variety of yachts racing under the IRC rating rule as well as one design and open classes, such as IMOCA, Class40 and Multihulls. The majority of the fleet will race fully crewed, but with the popularity of the Two-Handed class in recent years, the race is expected to have a record entry.

The Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race starts on Sunday 7th August 2022 from Cowes, Isle of Wight, UK.

The 2022 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race is organised by The Royal Ocean Racing Club in association with The Royal Yacht Squadron.

It is run every four years. There have been nine editions of the Round Britain and Ireland Race which started in 1976 Sevenstar has sponsored the race four times - 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018 and has committed to a longterm partnership with the RORC

The 2022 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race is a fully crewed non-stop race covering 1,805 nautical miles and is open to IRC, IRC Two Handed, IMOCA 60s, Class40s, Volvo 65s and Multihulls that will race around Britain and Ireland, starting from the Royal Yacht Squadron line in Cowes on the Isle of Wight starting after Cowes Week on Sunday 7 August 2022

The last edition of the race in 2018 attracted 28 teams with crews from 18 nations. Giles Redpath's British Lombard 46 saw over victory and Phil Sharp's Class40 Imerys Clean Energy established a new world record for 40ft and under, completing the course in 8 days 4 hrs 14 mins 49 secs.

The 1,805nm course will take competitors around some of the busiest and most tactically challenging sailing waters in the world. It attracts a diverse range of yachts and crew, most of which are enticed by the challenge it offers as well as the diversity and beauty of the route around Britain and Ireland with spectacular scenery and wildlife.

Most sailors agree that this race is one of the toughest tests as it is nearly as long as an Atlantic crossing, but the changes of direction at headlands will mean constant breaks in the watch system for sail changes and sail trim

Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race Records:

  • Outright - OMA07 Musandam-Oman Sail, MOD 70, Sidney Gavignet, 2014: 3 days 03:32:36
  • Monohull - Azzam Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, VO 65, Ian Walker, 2014: 4 days 13:10:28
  • Monohull All-Female - Team SCA, VO 65, Samantha Davies, 2014: 4 days 21:00:39
  • Monohull 60ft or less - Artemis Team Endeavour, IMOCA 60, Brian Thompson/Artemis Ocean Racing, 2014: 5 days 14:00:54
  • Monohull 40ft or less – Imerys Clean Energy, Class40, Phil Sharp, 2018: 8 days 4:14:49