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As the Easter weekend approaches, the Coast Guard, RNLI, and Water Safety Ireland are urging the public to take precautions to stay safe during water activities. With longer and brighter evenings, more people are expected to visit the coast or engage in water-based activities. Knowing basic water safety advice could help prevent accidents or tragedies.

Mixed weather conditions are expected over the weekend, with sunny periods followed by rain and showers. Water temperatures are relatively cold at this time of year, and inexperienced or occasional open water swimmers should take care to acclimatise slowly and manage their time in the water carefully. It is crucial to always be alert to the risk of cold water shock.

The organisations are encouraging people to follow some basic precautions to reduce the risk of accidents when visiting the coast or engaging in water activities. Some of these precautions include wearing a lifejacket, checking weather forecasts, staying away from the edge, and avoiding alcohol before or during water activities.

If sailing or motorboating:

  • Always wear an appropriate lifejacket
  • Always carry a means of calling and signalling for help
  • When engaging on any type of boating activity; Ensure there is an emergency action plan in place, and everybody has an onboard briefing
  • Get the right level of training for your craft
  • Always check the weather and tide times
  • Make sure someone on the shore knows where you are going and who to call if you don’t return on time.
  • Always operate your boat at a speed that is appropriate to the weather conditions and to the environment you are operating in.

Attention is also drawn to the Code of Practice for the Safe Operation of Recreational Craft a valuable source of information, advice and best practice operational guidance for owners, masters, operators and users of a range of pleasure and recreational craft operating in Irish coastal and inland waters. It can be viewed at www.safetyonthewater.gov.ie

Gerard O’Flynn, Coast Guard Operations Manager said: ‘After a protracted period of broken weather and with the advent of longer evening daylight from Sunday, many people are looking forward to getting out and about along the coast or on the water. Always check the weather forecast, ensure that you have a means of communication, plan your activity and ensure that a colleague is aware of your plans and expected return time. Please also be alert to the risk of becoming isolated by incoming tides on beaches or coastal area particularly if setting out during lower tides.’

Roger Sweeney, Water Safety Ireland’s Deputy CEO said: ‘Over the course of five Easter holiday periods, 12 people drowned accidentally, mainly while swimming, angling, or after falling in while walking. To stay safe, keep cold water swims brief and shallow, wear a lifejacket when angling on the shoreline or riverbanks, and stay away from the water's edge when out walking. With nearly one million children on school holidays, and many visiting friends and family living on farms and near lakes, rivers, canals, and beaches, constant adult supervision is essential for their safety.’

Linda-Gene Byrne, RNLI Water Safety Lead added: ‘We are approaching the time of year when we will see boats back on the water and many are now looking forward to a season of sailing. While we want everyone to enjoy themselves, we want them to do so safely. Mechanical failure is the single biggest cause of rescue call outs to sailing and motor cruisers, accounting for nearly 20% of all our lifeboat launches. Knowing your boat, carrying spares and being able to fit them could make the difference between having to call for help and being able to help yourself.’

If you see somebody in trouble on the water or along the coast or think that they are in trouble, use marine VHF radio Ch 16 or dial 112 and ask for the Coast Guard.

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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The Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) is a Division within the Irish Maritime Directorate of the Department of Transport. Its mission is to deliver a world-class search and rescue, maritime casualty, and pollution response service.

The IRCG currently have vacancies for Function Support Officers in their Coast Guard Units & Support (CGU&S) section, based in Department of Transport, Leeson Lane, Dublin 2.

The Function Support Officer is a new grade within the IRCG. The duties of the role will include assisting and supporting the Operations and Training Officer to further develop search, cliff, boat and drone functions. The role will also involve working closely with volunteer Coast Guard Units, Coast Guard and Maritime Administration personnel and other internal/external stakeholders.

Closing date: 3 pm on Thursday 4th April 2024.

We are committed to a policy of equal opportunity and encourage applications under all nine grounds of the Employment Equality Act.

For more information and to how to apply, visit: https://bit.ly/AO_Ad_FSOICG

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Bristow Ireland says it won’t comment on a new legal challenge pursued by CHC Ireland over the new Irish Coast Guard search and rescue (SAR) helicopter contract.

As The Irish Independent reports, CHC Ireland claims that there has been a “modification” of the contract awarded to Bristow Ireland, which is due to be implemented in the coming year.

The fresh challenge, which may come before court later this month, claims that the minister failed to conduct a new procurement procedure for the modified contract.

Details of the latest challenge reported in The Irish Independent says modifications differ materially from the contract that was awarded to Bristow last year.

CHC Ireland, the current holder of the SAR contract, claims that Bristow does not have to build a new hangar in Shannon airport as proposed in the original tender, and that staff were told this in a meeting on February 20th last.

CHC also claims the modifications mean Bristow is no longer required to operate the service from Shannon airport as of October 31st next.

It also claims Bristow is no longer required to complete the appropriate transfer of personnel who are currently employed by CHC under EU “transfer of undertakings” obligations.

CHC Ireland claims these modifications are highly material and would have a bearing on price and would undermine scores awarded in the tender process.

The new proceedings have been admitted to the Commercial Court, and Bristow has been joined as a notice party in the proceedings.

Last year, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan awarded the new ten-year contract valued at 670 million euro excluding VAT to Bristow Ireland.

The transport department said that under the new contract, Bristow Ireland Ltd would operate six AW189 helicopters from four dedicated bases in Sligo, Shannon, Waterford and Dublin.

The new contract which is due to be fully operational by 2025 includes providing for two King Air fixed wing aircraft at Shannon, for five years- allowing for the possibility that the Air Corps, Ireland’s air defence wing, may then assume responsibility for the fixed wing element.

CHC Ireland issued legal proceedings last year over “a number of flaws” in relation to the tender competition, and these proceedings are still in train.

Asked for a comment on the new challenge, a spokesperson for Bristow Ireland said “regarding the recent announcement about legal action, we don’t comment on ongoing litigation matters”.

“We are confident in our world-class service and being selected to provide this critical life-saving service on behalf of the Irish Coast Guard,” the Bristow Ireland spokesperson said.

Asked to comment about the claims in relation to a hangar at Shannon, the spokesperson said: “Bristow has a robust transition plan in place”.

“ We are in the early phases of the plan. We have not provided specific details about those plans publicly,”the spokesperson said.

“ I can say we are in regular communication with all the airports selected as part of our winning bid to deliver aviation services to the Irish Coast Guard. We’ll provide updates and progress toward the transition when necessary and appropriate throughout the process,”the spokesperson said.

Read The Irish Independent here

Published in Coastguard
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The Irish Coast Guard has released images of the new livery for its next generation of search and rescue aircraft.

The livery has been designed for the AW189 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, which will be provided under the new ten-year contract for search and rescue with Bristow Ireland Ltd.

Transition for the new service, which Bristow will take over from CHC Ireland, is due to start later this year.

A fleet of six search and rescue (SAR) configured AW189 helicopters located in Dublin, Shannon, Sligo and Waterford, and the first ever fixed wing service on private contract will be provided by 2EXCEL Ireland (2EI) located at Shannon airport.

For the first time, the Irish Coast Guard will also have dedicated Fixed Wing service provided by 2EXCEL Ireland (2EI) located at Shannon Airport. The Fixed Wing capability will enhance the Coast Guard’s capacity to coordinate Search and Rescue missions and conduct environmental and ship casualty monitoring of Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone, an area encompassing approximately 132,000 square miles. For the first time, the Irish Coast Guard will also have dedicated Fixed Wing service provided by 2EXCEL Ireland (2EI) located at Shannon Airport. The Fixed Wing capability will enhance the Coast Guard’s capacity to coordinate Search and Rescue missions and conduct environmental and ship casualty monitoring of Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone, an area encompassing approximately 132,000 square miles

“The fixed wing capability will enhance the Coast Guard’s capacity to coordinate search and rescue missions and conduct environmental and ship casualty monitoring of Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone, an area encompassing approximately 132,000 square miles,” the Irish Coast Guard and Department of Transport said.

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Jack Chambers, said, “The Irish Coast Guard is an essential state service, and this new contract represents an exciting time for the organisation”.

“The new service will be introduced gradually over a phased basis with particular attention being paid to enable a smooth transition from the current operator to Bristow Ireland Ltd,”he said.

The new 10-year contract was awarded to Bristow Ireland Limited (BIL) by the Department of Transport in August 2023 and provides for year-round, day and night Search and Rescue helicopter services. This service will be delivered through a fleet of six search and rescue (SAR) configured AW189 helicopters located in Dublin, Shannon, Sligo and Waterford. The new 10-year contract was awarded to Bristow Ireland Limited (BIL) by the Department of Transport in August 2023 and provides for year-round, day and night Search and Rescue helicopter services. This service will be delivered through a fleet of six search and rescue (SAR) configured AW189 helicopters located in Dublin, Shannon, Sligo and Waterford

“The release today of this livery for the new specialist aircraft which will replace the existing fleet marks another important step on the transition of our Coast Guard to the new service provision,” he said.

Earlier this month, Bristow was awarded an air operators’ certificate by the Irish Aviation Authority for the new contract.

Published in Coastguard
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Bristow Ireland Ltd has taken another step towards fulfilling its Irish Coast Guard contract with approval of an air operator certificate by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA).

The air operator certificate is a “fundamental requirement to provide search and rescue in Ireland," Neil Ebberson, Bristow director of government services said.

"It was awarded after the successful completion of a lengthy application and assessment process run by the IAA, and ensures the highest standards of professionalism and safety are met in the country,” he said.

Bristow Ireland was required to demonstrate that its AW189 helicopters will meet the Irish regulator's requirements for safe and compliant operations as part of the approval procedure.

It also had to submit detailed documentation to show that it can safely manage continued airworthiness; demonstrate that it can safely operate the AW189 to the required standards; and carry out a proving flight with the AW189 in Ireland.

Ebberson said that Bristow’s fixed-wing partners, TOEXCEL Ireland Ltd, are “working in parallel for the award of a fixed-wing air operator certificate.

“We are looking forward to reporting more progress as we move towards the initial transition to the new service in late 2024,”Ebberson said.

Bristow is due to take over the Irish Coast Guard helicopter search and rescue contract from CHC Ireland next year. It has air operating certificates covering 11 jurisdictions.

Published in Coastguard
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The year in figures

  • August was the busiest month in 2023.
  • The 44 Coast Guard Units were mobilised on 1,278 separate occasions.
  • Coast Guard Helicopters conducted 796 missions.
  • Royal National Lifeboat Institution lifeboats were tasked on 850 occasion
  • Community inshore rescue service boats were tasked on 76 occasions.
  • Critical assistance was provided to 665 people.
  • CG helicopters conducted 174 air ambulance flights in support of the offshore island communities

In 2023, the Irish Coast Guard coordinated responses to 2,788 incidents which is the second highest number in 5 years (2,976 in 2021). August was the busiest month with a total of 391 incidents. The incident count covers the range of services provided by the Coast Guard. Services include search and rescue, maritime casualty support and pollution preparedness and response.

IRCG also provides air ambulance services to the HSE, including day and night aeromedical services to the offshore islands, assists An Garda Síochána with missing person searches, including inland and mountain rescue, as well as provision of other support to the Emergency Services.

Critical assistance was provided to a total of 665 people. This number reflects interventions that prevented loss of life or serious injury, and emergency transfers to hospitals, including offshore, coastal, and inland incidents and offshore island aero medical support.

Following Government approval, a contract for provision of a new Coast Guard aviation contract was signed in August 2023. The contract provides for retention of day and night SAR helicopter services, located at Sligo, Shannon, Waterford, and Dublin. The contract also provides for the provision of a day and night Fixed Wing service located at Shannon.

The Fixed Wing service will enhance the Coast Guard’s Search and Rescue and environmental monitoring capability. The helicopter service will be delivered by a fleet of six AW189 helicopters. The first such helicopter is scheduled to enter service in Shannon in late 2024, to be followed by Sligo, Waterford and Dublin in the first six months of 2025.

Minister of State with special responsibility for the Irish Coast Guard, Jack Chambers, TD, said: “As we reach the end of another busy year for the Coast Guard, I want to thank all the IRCG volunteers and staff for their professionalism and commitment. I want to particularly recognise the work of the Watch Officers at Rescue Coordination Centres in Malin, Valentia and MRCC Dublin.

“During the year I had the opportunity to visit several Volunteer Coast Guard Units around the country that enabled me to recognise the services they provide to their communities and view firsthand the various challenges that they encounter.

“The opening of the volunteer Coast Guard station in Bonmahon, Co. Waterford was a particular highlight and I am committed to delivering a series of other similar developments commencing with Westport and Greystones.”

The capacity to Raise the Alarm and Stay Afloat, are central to the prevention of drownings at sea, along the coast and on inland waterways. The Coast Guard’s core safety message Stay Afloat – Stay in Touch highlights the importance of never engaging in any commercial or recreational boating activity without wearing a life jacket or Personal Flotation Device (PFD), coupled with a capacity to raise the alarm via means such as a VHF radio, Personal Locator Beacon or EPIRB.

A recent incident in Donegal where four fishers were rescued highlighted the value of wearing a PLB, because it proved to be the only means of raising the alarm, thus enabling the Coast Guard to mount a successful search and rescue mission.

Any maritime or coastal activity should be supported by informing shore-based colleagues of intended activity and anticipated return time. Mobile phones should not be considered as a suitable substitute or be relied upon as the only means of emergency communication at sea.

The Coast Guard looks forward to launching a Safety on the Water App in 2024 as an element of gov.ie - Safety on the water, which will provide members of the public with immediate access to water safety information for planning coastal and water-based activities. This app will be launched under the slogan of ‘Think Water Safety – Plan and Prepare’.

The Coast Guard wishes everybody a Happy and Safe New Year and thanks the public for their ongoing support and cooperation.

Published in Coastguard
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The Coast Guard, Water Safety Ireland and the RNLI have issued a joint appeal for the festive season, urging people to be mindful of the potential risks with their chosen activity and attend to their personal safety in planning and participating in any water based or coastal activities.

The increase in popularity of festive dips and open water swimming will see a lot of people taking to the water over the next few weeks. Many people will also avail of the opportunity to participate in coastal walks and hikes. The three maritime organisations are asking people to check that they have the right information to safely enjoy these activities and that they know what to do in the event of an emergency.

For those taking part in winter dips and swims the advice is:

  • Never swim alone.
  • Ensure that somebody ashore is monitoring your activity.
  • Acclimatise slowly.
  • Stay within your depth.
  • Always be seen.
  • Organisers of Christmas day or New year swims are advised to have suitably trained personnel in attendance and to appoint a Safety Officer.

Water-based activities at this or any time of year are not limited to swimming as the popularity of kayaking, canoeing, boating, and paddle-boarding remains high. The safety advice for these activities includes:

  • Always have a means for calling for help and make sure you can access it when you are out on the water.
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return.
  • Wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid.
  • Always check the weather forecast and sea conditions before you set off.
  • If you're exploring somewhere new, seek knowledge from experienced practitioners in the area.

Water Safety Ireland’s Deputy CEO Roger Sweeney said “A full moon during Christmas week (Dec 27th) will heighten the risks for walkers and swimmers as the resulting higher high tides will make our coastline more precarious. Stay away from the water’s edge on family walks and swimmers should watch out for stronger rip currents. Stranding will also be a risk for many walkers as the lower low tides caused by the full moon will expose even greater areas of the coastline. Children are often tempted to explore these sandbanks but risk being surrounded by an incoming tide. Parents and guardians should provide constant undistracted adult supervision of their children at all times.”

RNLI Water Safety Lead Linda Gene Byrne added “This time of year sees a huge increase in people doing seasonal swims and dips, particularly for charity. We would urge people when they decide to take to the water, to make time to ensure they are doing it safely and with the correct knowledge and equipment. That time taken could save a life or another person’s life. If you need to call for help, everything that you have done to keep afloat could make all the difference.”

Coast Guard Operations manager Gerard O’Flynn commented “Please plan your activity, whether it be on the water or along the coast and only swim or walk in areas with which you are familiar. Be mindful that less busy walkways may have suffered erosion since the summertime. Always carry a means of communication, such as VHF radio or a personal locator beacon especially if going afloat. PLBs attached to a lifejacket are proven to be lifesavers”.

The Coast Guard, Water Safety Ireland and RNLI would also like to thank all the volunteers and staff of the search and rescue organisations, who keep people safe on the water all year round and whose actions have saved many lives and wish them and their families a SAFE, happy Christmas and a peaceful new year.

If you see somebody in trouble on the water or along the coast, or think they are in trouble, dial 112 or 999 and ask for the Coast Guard

Published in Coastguard

Former head of the Irish Coast Guard, Chris Reynolds, has claimed that staffing cuts by the Department of Transport were contributory factors in the death of Caitriona Lucas and the Rescue 116 helicopter crash, which claimed four lives.

As The Sunday Independent reports, Chris Reynolds, who was director of the Irish Coast Guard from 2007 to 2016, says the State’s search and rescue section is “being blamed unfairly” for the deaths due to a failure to appoint a safety systems manager recommended by consultants four years before the two incidents.

Independent Clare TD Michael McNamara called for a statutory inquiry into Lucas’s death, stating that the recent inquest into her death had highlighted “a number of very disturbing features”.

Lucas (41), a mother of two and an advanced coxswain with Doolin Coast Guard, died after the rigid inflatable boat (RIB) she was crewing on with the neighbouring Kilkee unit capsized off the Clare coast on September 12th, 2016.

The week-long inquest at Kilmallock court, Co Limerick returned a verdict of misadventure and made seven recommendations relating to Coast Guard safety, management and training.

During the inquest, the Coast Guard’s failure to appoint a safety systems manager recommended in 2012, four years before Lucas’s death, was cited by her family’s legal team, as were internal difficulties within the Kilkee unit which had led to crewing shortages.

The inquest heard that Lucas, who had gone to help out the Kilkee unit in a search for a missing man, was conscious for 17 minutes in the water after the RIB capsized. Having lost her helmet on impact, she sustained a head injury and lost consciousness.

The inquest also heard that a second RIB with the Kilkee unit could have conducted a rescue within ten minutes if two of three crew available to launch it had not left the scene.

The inquest heard that a Health and Safety Authority (HSA) investigation was delayed for nine months by the Coast Guard, as it had questioned the HSA’s legal remit.

The HSA inspector was unable to inspect the safety equipment which Lucas had been wearing – including her helmet.

The inquest was told that her drysuit, which had filled with water, was destroyed rather than kept as evidence.

Reynolds told The Sunday Independent that he had asked to be interviewed by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) and the HSA, both of which had investigated Lucas’s death, but was not given the opportunity

A Department of Transport spokesperson told the newspaper that following Ms Lucas’s death, the HSA and the MCIB conducted reviews and “the Irish Coast Guard has worked to implement the recommendations”. It has also accepted the recommendations of the recent inquest into her death.

Read The Sunday Independent here

Published in Coastguard
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An Independent TD has called for a statutory inquiry into the death of Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitríona Lucas off the Clare coast over seven years ago.

Clare Independent TD Michael McNamara raised the issue in the Dáil following the recent inquest, which returned a verdict of misadventure in relation to Ms Lucas’s death.

As Clare FM Radio reports, McNamara claimed those in government who failed to implement safety measures had much to answer for. The inquest heard how a recommendation in 2012 for a safety systems manager at the Irish Coast Guard was not put into place until two years after Ms Lucas’s death.

The inquest jury issued seven recommendations relating to equipment, safety and training. One of the inquest’s findings was that Ms Lucas was conscious in the water for 17 minutes, and that a second rigid inflatable boat owned by the Kilkee Coast Guard unit could have been launched and at the scene within ten minutes.

The Clare FM report is here

Published in Coastguard
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Scottish Series Background

Although the format of the Scottish Series varies little from year to year, it is interesting to see some of the changes which the event has seen over the years:

  • CYCA handicap class added to IOR (1976)
  • IOR level rating classes to reflect the popular sizes and World Championships being held in the UK
  • Separate one design class for Sonatas (1980 to date)
  • Campbeltown dropped with offshore races direct to Tarbert (1982)
  • Unique light displacement CYCA class - the forerunner of today's sportboats (1982)
  • Computer results system introduced in 1982 and now recognised as the best in the UK
  • Separate one design class for Sigma 33 (1987 to date)
  • Separate one design classes in certain years for Impalas, Sigma 38, Melges 24 and Cork 1720
  • Inner triangle to shorten courses for smaller classes (1986)
  • Points loading for offshore race reduced from 2 to 1.5 to 1
  • First racing in Scotland under Channel Handicap (1988)
  • Second racecourse for smaller classes (1989)
  • Discard introduced
  • Windward leeward races - two per day (1993)
  • Sportboat classes with no overnight races (1994)
  • Marquee on quayside for main social events (1995-2008)
  • Restricted Sail Class (1998)
  • Third racecourse for sportboats with up to three races per day (1998)
  • Day feeder races (2002)
  • Overnight and day feeder races discontinued (2005)
  • Stand-alone Tarbert Inbound and Outbound passage races introduced (2005/6)

With all these changes, some things have stayed the same:

  • Huge support from Ireland every year since 1975
  • A magnificent effort ashore and afloat from the volunteer helpers of the Clyde Cruising Club, Royal Scottish Motor Yacht Club and Tarbert Loch Fyne Yacht Club
  • Results and communications service at the forefront of technology
  • The best competition and the best social scene in the country
  • An overall Series winner, the roll call including many of the top sailors in Scotland and beyond.

Scottish Series 2022

Following the cancellation of the 2020 event, the dates for the 2021 edition of Scotland's biggest sailing event at Tarbert is: 3 –5 June 2022

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