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The Irish Coast Guard and Water Safety Ireland are appealing to the public to be mindful of the drowning risk associated with the use of inflatable toys in open water.

Their joint appeal calls on parents and guardians never to allow inflatable toys to be used at rivers, lakes or beaches as the devices are vulnerable to the slightest breeze or current and can take a child away from shore and into danger. Equally the temporary loss of such a device could attract children or adults to try and retrieve them from the water and thereby get into a life-threatening situation.

Good weather has already tempted people into using inflatable toys which has quickly led them into danger and the need for our rescue services to respond.

Commenting on their use, Gerard O’Flynn of the Irish Coast Guard pointed to the fact that SAR resources including Coast Guard helicopters, RNLI lifeboats, Coast Guard units and community rescue boat services are no strangers to such rescues, “Our hearts go out the family that recently suffered such a tragic loss and we also mindful of a number of very near misses whereby children were swept out to sea and were rescued following a full scale Search and Rescue operation

Lifeguards trained by Water Safety Ireland have also seen an increase in the use of inflatable toys such as air mattresses, boats and inflatable rings, however, as Roger Sweeney of Water Safety Ireland points out, they are not suitable for use as recreational craft and can be lethal in open water.

“Drownings typically occur when a person overestimates their ability and underestimates the risk”, he said , “The risk that an inflatable toy can take a person out of their depth and out of their comfort zone is very high due to Ireland’s changeable offshore winds and the range of our tides. This is further compounded if the toy deflates and the person tries to swim or paddle a partly deflated toy to safety. Cooler water can quickly cool the muscles needed for swimming and hidden currents can make this swim very difficult and sometimes impossible. These toys provide a false sense of security and should be avoided.

Both organisations have thanked the public for their ongoing support and cooperation with water safety messages and called on everybody to redouble their efforts during Phase 2 of the roadmap for Ireland's easing of the COVID-19 restrictions to ensure that basic safety precautions are observed when recreating on or near the water.

Remember:

  • Inflatable toys are not safe for persons to float upon in open water
  • Never be tempted to swim out after a floating toy
  • Supervise children closely to ensure that they never use inflatable toys in open water
Published in Coastguard
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Air navigation services run by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) have not been adequately resourced and were still suffering from staffing shortages for at least two years after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash, The Sunday Independent reports.

A review for the Department of Transport also calls for a "just culture body" which is "robust" to be implemented as soon as possible to protect pilots and other crew members who make confidential reports on safety concerns.

And it criticises delays in separating the State aviation authority's conflicting functions of safety regulation and commercial operations.

The lack of accurate air navigation charts available to Irish Coast Guard helicopter search and rescue crews was one of the key issues highlighted after the Rescue 116 crash which claimed the lives of Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, Capt Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciaran Smith off north Co Mayo on March 14, 2017.

The final report into the crash has still not been published as an unidentified stakeholder has been granted a review of the final draft report by Minister for Transport Shane Ross.

In late 2017, the IAA had invited search and rescue and other pilots to help correct aeronautical charts after it conceded charts published three months after the crash were inaccurate, with lighthouses in wrong locations and obscure symbols.

Although the IAA is responsible for providing aeronautical charts under State safety plans, it has said it does not guarantee their accuracy or completeness and disclaims all liability.

The review of the IAA technical and safety performance by Helios and Egis Avia consultants during the second and third quarters of 2019 found the IAA air navigation division staff were having to work "extended hours", as posts could not be filled after one inspector left and one took maternity leave.

The "slow pace" of separating safety regulation from money-making commercial activities within the IAA and the potential workload increase for IAA staff as a result of Brexit are other issues flagged in the review.

For more, read The Sunday Independent report here

Published in Coastguard
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With significant numbers of people expected to take to the water this weekend in England, HM Coastguard is asking everyone to take extra care in extraordinary times.

Boating, swimming and other sea-based activities are now allowed once again in England under the new Government guidelines, but, now more than ever people need to respect the coastline.

In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales the lockdown remains and people should continue to follow the guidance to stay home.

Swimming in the sea is now allowed as a daily exercise in England along with paddle boarding, surfing, windsurfing, rowing, kayaking and canoeing.

Sailing and owners of private boats may also go out onto the water.

But while people are allowed to go out on and in the water, they need to make sure they are safe and protected. Those with private boats and yachts should carry out all the usual safety checks and make sure they have a way to contact HM Coastguard if they get into difficulty, as should everyone visiting the coast and beaches.

In addition, the Government guidelines around social distancing should continue to be observed by everyone in the UK.

Claire Hughes, director of HM Coastguard said: ‘In England, now more than ever, people need to respect the sea and the coast. Whether you’re local or not, whatever your ability or experience in your chosen sport or leisure activity, the sea can still catch you out and be unmerciful when it does.’

‘The majority of beaches will not be lifeguarded. If you get into trouble call 999 and ask for the Coastguard and we will come to your aid. But coronavirus hasn’t gone away and we all need to follow the rules. Remember your choices might put people, including yourself and frontline responders, at risk. Take extra care in these extraordinary times.

In England #StayAlert In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, nothing has changed. Give the coast a miss. #StayHomeSaveLives

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The Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) has revised its current advisory that members of the public should not go afloat for recreational purposes in the lead into the first phase (May 18th) of the Government ‘Roadmap for reopening society and business’. The Coast Guard has issued a statement thanking 'the public for their cooperation in observing the travel and social distancing guidelines as they impact on maritime and coastal activities'.

Since April 9th, the Irish Coast Guard and RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) both asked the public not to take part in any water-based activity on or in the sea, while the current national emergency restrictions are in place. Both organisations highlighted the importance of minimising the risk to Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteer crews, Helicopter crew and other front line emergency services, through being unintentionally exposed to COVID-19.

Under Phase 1 of the Roadmap to Recovery (commencing 18 May), people are permitted to engage in outdoor sporting and fitness activities on an individual basis.  Very small groups – a maximum of four people - will be permitted to engage in outdoor sporting and fitness activity but only within a 5km travel distance and where social distancing of 2 metres can be maintained.  Members of the public should use caution if engaged in water sports,  realising there are no lifeguards on the beaches, and many swimming spots are closed off to prevent gatherings, i.e. social distancing.

The easing will permit short sails and boating trips subject to boats returning to home ports, under the guidelines.

The phased easing of restrictions will result in more people participating in coastal and water-based leisure activities that are within the 5km radius. The Coast Guard is emphasising the importance of continuing to observe current Covid -19 guidelines, as well as attending to their personal safety when engaging in any water-based or coastal activity.

Many clubs and organisations have also provided their members with detailed guidelines to be followed with the commencement of phase 1 of the roadmap 

Coast Guard Search and Rescue services including those provided by RNLI and Community Rescue Units (CRBI) continue to be fully operational and on-call 24/7.

Gerard O’Flynn on behalf of the Coast Guard stated; “It is recognised that people will want to get out for a break and take to the water if they are living or exercising near the coast or inland waters. The public are again reminded to follow Government instructions, which are focused on protecting frontline services and saving lives. Observe the current 2x5 rule i.e. 2M physical distance & 5KM travel distance.”

Arrangements continue to be in place for Coast Guard services including Helicopters and Volunteer Coast Guard units to assist HSE, Gardai and Local Authorities in the provision of community and other logistical support during the current emergency.

Published in Coastguard
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In advance of the May bank holiday weekend, the Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) and RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) are renewing their call to the public not to take part in any water-based activity on or in the sea, while the current national emergency restrictions are in place. Both organisations are concerned that as the restrictions continue, people may become complacent and be tempted to take to the water or proceed to coastal areas for recreation. However, it is crucial to continue to minimise the risk to Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteer crews, Helicopter crew and other front-line emergency services, from being unintentionally exposed to COVID-19.

RNLI and Coast Guard Search and Rescue services continue to be fully operational and on call 24/7.

As the current COVID-19 restrictions continue to apply it is appreciated that people will want to get out for a break and take to the water if they are living or exercising near the coast or inland waters. However, both organisations are urging everyone to follow Government instructions, which are clear: stay home, protect frontline services and save lives.

There have been a number of callouts for the search and rescue services during this time, but the vast majority are to working fishing vessels and for medical issues. Some people have become isolated through exercising on unfamiliar tidal areas. SAR services including RNLI lifeboat service, Coast Guard Helicopter services and Coast Guard units are still available, but every callout has the potential to put additional pressure on SAR services and other front-line emergency services as well as potentially exposing them to COVID-19.

Kevin Rahill Water Safety Lead at the RNLI, said: ‘We would ask those wanting to exercise in the water to consider the potential impact of their actions on RNLI lifeboat volunteers and other emergency services if they get into difficulty or if their presence would encourage others to join them. We would like to thank everyone who has heeded our message and stayed away. We know it is difficult when you may have been a regular water user and we are looking forward to seeing people visiting the coast and taking to the water when it is safe to do so, and the restrictions have been lifted.’

Gerard O’Flynn from the Coast Guard said, “Now is not the time to become complacent. Please; Stay Home & Stay Back to Stay SAFE. Observe the 2x2 Rule. 2M physical distance & 2KM travel distance. He added that

‘Arrangements are in place for Coast Guard services including Helicopters and Volunteer Coast Guard units to assist HSE, Gardai and Local Authorities in the provision of community support and other logistical support. We need our people to stay healthy during this emergency to enable us to support the national action plan.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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A senior aviation expert with Britain’s Coastguard has been appointed to a review of aspects of the unpublished investigation into the Rescue 116 helicopter crash off the north Mayo coast three years ago, The Sunday Times reports.

Philip Hanson, aviation technical assurance manager with the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), will work with senior counsel Patrick McCann on a review board established last week by Minister for Transport Shane Ross.

Mr Hanson has been in the aviation industry all his life - with the British defence ministry and British Coastguard latterly.

The review into aspects of the draft final report on the deaths of Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, Capt Mark Duffy, and winch crew Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith was agreed to by Minister for Transport Shane Ross in January, after it was sought by one unidentified stakeholder.

The four air/sea rescue helicopter crew were providing “top cover” communication for the medical evacuation of a crewman from a British-registered fishing vessel when their Sikorsky S-92 hit Blackrock island off north Mayo in the early hours of March 14th, 2017.

However, the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (IALPA) is furious with the further delay in releasing the report, and questions the legality of a review board at this stage.

The Department of Transport says it “rejects out-of-hand” the union’s “assertion”.

The bodies of the helicopter’s two winch crew have not been found to date in spite of extensive searches. Prayers were due to be said at a memorial Mass in north Mayo, but had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus.

The Irish Coast Guard’s Dublin base remembered the four with a heart-shaped “signature” in the sky last week, depicted on-screen on its automatic identification.

“We are ok, but just ok” the Irish Coast Guard Dun Laoghaire Facebook page said, summing up how most Irish Coast Guard personnel feel three years on.

See more on The Sunday Times report here

 

Published in Coastguard
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The Office of Public Works (OPW) has applied for planning permission for a new coastguard station in Greystones Harbour — three years after plans for the Co Wicklow town were deemed ‘not viable’.

Lack of funds was the reason given for previous proposals grinding to a halt after 12 years of discussions and planning, as reported on Afloat.ie in September 2016.

But now the project is back on the agenda as a planning application lodged recently with Wicklow County Council details revised plans for a single-storey boathouse and vehicle store with accompanying accommodation block.

The proposed building, to the north of Greystones Sailing Club, will have a combined floor area of 259 sq m and a maximum overall roof height of 7.8m above adjacent public space.

The planning application adds: “Proposals include high level windows and three roof lights; proposed external finishes comprise fair faced concrete, zinc roofing and metal framed windows, a new vehicular access point to the north east corner of the site, three flag poles, one radio aerial mast and entrance signage, provision of eight car parking spaces on hard landscaping, [and] associated site works.”

Submissions can be made until Sunday 23 February, and local planners are due to make their decision by Sunday 15 March.

Published in Coastguard
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The Minister for Transport’s approval of a review of the Air Accident Investigation Unit’s draft final report into the Rescue 116 helicopter crash has been described as “unprecedented” by the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (IALPA) writes Lorna Siggins.

The pilots’ union has expressed concern that the delay in publishing the final Rescue 116 report and an imminent general election may set back “urgent reform” of Irish aviation regulation.

CHC Ireland has declined to comment on whether it sought the review, which is permitted under the Air Navigation (Notification and Investigation of Accidents, Serious Incidents and Incidents) Regulations 2009.

It is the first time in the AAIU’s 25-year history that the review option has been sought before a final report is issued.

The helicopter company employed the four aircrew – pilots Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith – who died when their Sikorsky S-92A helicopter hit Blackrock island off north Mayo in the early hours of March 14th, 2017.

The bodies of Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith remain missing, in spite of extensive searches.

The Department of Transport said it could not confirm which “party” requested the review, as reported in The Sunday Times today here.

CHC said it “continues to engage fully with the investigation and remain committed to complying with our obligation to avoid commenting on any aspect of the final report”.

CHC Ireland is holder of the 500 million euro Irish Coast Guard search and rescue contract, which is due to expire in 2022 – though an extension could be allowed to 2025- and work has already begun on preparing a new tender.

The Department of Transport confirmed that arrangements are being made for the review of the draft final report, which was released to interested parties last autumn for comment within 60 days.

The AAIU does not seek to apportion liability or blame, but lack of oversight by the Irish Aviation Authority and management failures by the Irish Coast Guard and CHC have already emerged as factors.

The preliminary report published in April 2017 identified faulty navigation systems and incorrectly fitted satellite locator beacons on the lifejackets of the two pilots.

The Dublin-based crew had been tasked to provide “top cover” support to the Sligo-based Rescue 118 helicopter for a medical evacuation off the west coast.

Stakeholders were informed on January 8th of a delay in publishing the final report, when the AAIU confirmed that an “interested party” “had “served written notice of re-examination on the Minister for Transport...on specific findings and conclusions contained in the draft final report”.

Regulation 15 (1) of the Air Navigation Regulations 2009 allows for a re-examination of “any findings and conclusions in that report that appear to reflect adversely on the person’s reputation or on the reputation of any person, living or dead, whose executor, administrator or other representative he or she is”.

The report’s delayed publication, along with an anticipated general election, means legislation which would transfer air navigation functions from the IAA to a new Irish Air Navigation Authority is in danger of “sliding down the legislative agenda”, Ialpa president Capt Evan Cullen said this weekend (sat).

“This Bill includes vital reforms to aviation regulation which are essential to bring Ireland into line with European aviation safety norms,”Capt Cullen said, calling on the Government to make it a priority.

Capt Cullen noted that the Minister for Transport had committed as far back as August 2015 to restructure the regulatory functions of IAA, but progress had been “protracted”.

The IAA currently has a “conflict of interest” in holding a safety mandate for regulatory oversight while it also “makes money out of the same entities that it regulates”, he said.

“The aviation industry in Ireland should be a cause of pride. However, Ireland’s aviation regulator remains an outlier in terms of its corporate structure,” Capt Cullen said.

“ The framework of the IAA is so outdated it is undermining Ireland’s reputation for upholding safety standards. This needs to be urgently addressed,” he said.

“Once this bill is initiated, we urge the party whips in the Dáil and Seanad to commit to agreeing to prioritise the passage of the bill so as to facilitate its enactment in advance of the general election,” Capt Cullen said.

The chair of the review board for the AAIU’s final draft report must be a barrister or solicitor of no less than ten years’ standing or a person who, in the minister’s opinion, has “aeronautical or engineering knowledge or other special knowledge or experience of air navigation or aviation”.

The review will be held in private, with the applicant given 21 days’ notice. A report is then compiled for the minister if the re-examination proceeds.

For more, read The Sunday Times here

Published in Rescue
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Accidental activation of satellite beacons or expired equipment meant that the majority of almost 200 such alerts proved to be false alarms this past year, the Irish Coast Guard has said.

In its end of year statement, the Irish Coast Guard has emphasised that beacons should be handled and tested regularly, and expired equipment should be properly disposed of.

It says the COSPAS-SARSAT satellite beacon alerting system has a “huge role to play” in alerting search and rescue authorities of people in distress.

Mobile phones should not be relied upon as the only means of emergency communication at sea, it warns, due to limited and unreliable coverage at sea and susceptibility of such devices to water ingress.

The Irish Coast Guard’s three rescue co-ordination centres at Malin Head, Co Donegal, Valentia, Co Kerry and Dublin managed a total of 2,487 incidents over the past year – slightly down on the total of 2,647 for 2018 and 2,503 for 2017.

A total of 378 lives were saved – as in, assistance was provided that prevented, loss of life, severe risk to life, or protracted hospitalisation.

Irish Coast Guard units run by 940 volunteers were involved in 1075 call-outs ranging from shore rescue boat and cliff rescue to shoreline search services. Support was also provided to communities during periods of bad weather.

The four Irish Coast Guard search and rescue helicopters based at Dublin, Shannon, Waterford and Sligo flew lover 770 missions last year, including both offshore and coastal missions and inland searches for missing people in support of the Garda Siochána and mountain rescue teams

A total of 123 emergency missions from offshore islands to the mainland were flown, and helicopter emergency medical service support was provided to the national ambulance service. The busiest inter-hospital transfer route is from Letterkenny to University Hospital Galway, it says.

The Irish Coast Guard says that the RNLI was asked to launch lifeboats on over 815 occasions this past year.

Irish Coast Guard director Eugene Clonan highlighted publication of the two key documents - a national search and rescue plan, and an oil spill contingency plan - as two “significant achievements” in 2019.

“I want to acknowledge the very constructive engagement that we had with a multiplicity of stakeholders,” Mr Clonan said.

He also said he wished to acknowledge “the commitment and professionalism of our volunteer members”.

“In addition to the three core services that they provide, they are an integral part of community resilience and continually act as the eyes and ears of our rescue coordination centres in responding to any coastal emergency,” Mr Clonan said.

He said the Irish Coast Guard would continue to focus on the importance of prevention as a core safety theme in the coming year, working with Water Safety Ireland, the RNLI, Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the Irish Sailing Association.

Published in Coastguard
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The Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI have called on the public to pay particular attention to their personal safety when engaging in any water-based or coastal activities over the Christmas and New Year period. The two organisations have also issued a joint thank you to their nationwide search and rescue teams for their work during the past twelve months and paid tribute to the men and women who keep our waters and coastal areas safe.

Christmas/New Year Swims:

Swimming in open water is very different to swimming in a pool. Unseen currents, cold water and waves make open water swimming more challenging. Even the strongest swimmers can tire quickly in the sea.

  • Never swim alone. Always try and take part in an organised swim with safety cover nearby.
  • Consider wearing a wetsuit and bright coloured hat for longer swims.
  • Check weather and tide times before you set out.
  • Always swim parallel to the shore and not straight out. Cold water and currents can tire you out quickly and make it harder to return to shore.
  • Never swim under the influence of alcohol
  • If you see some in trouble, or think they are in trouble, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the Coast Guard

For coastal walkers:

Stay Back – Stay High – Stay Dry; when engaged in coastal walks and avoid any unfamiliar routes and be mindful of changes caused by coastal erosion and the risk of trip, slips and falls.
Ensure that pets are kept under control in case they get into difficulty and cause owners to risk their own safety in attempting to rescue them.

For leisure boaters or small fishing boat operators:

  • Remember to carry a suitable means to call for help such as mobile phone, vhf radio or Personal Locator beacon
  • If engaged in any boating activities wear an appropriate personal flotation device – it could save a life.
  • Before proceeding, tell someone ashore your plans and what time you expect to be back.
  • Always check the weather and take heed of any warnings.

Irish Coast Guard Head of Operation, Gerard O’Flynn said, ‘As we move past the shortest day of the year, everybody looks forward to getting out and about. Please be safety conscious, plan your activity carefully and always advise friends and colleagues of your plans and intentions. Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Centres at Malin, Valentia and Dublin will be fully staffed over the Christmas period as will our day and night Helicopter Search and Rescue services.’ He reiterated his thanks to volunteer members of the RNLI and Coast Guard who will continue to be available to respond over the holiday period.

RNLI Lifesaving Manager Sean Dillon added, ‘This Christmas and New Year we will have over 1,500 lifeboat volunteers ready to drop everything if a call for help comes in. There are many people who are spending Christmas with loved ones this year thanks to the actions of RNLI and Coast Guard crews and for that we are grateful to the men and women who give their time to keep people safe on the water. However, we know that not everyone can be saved, and our lifeboat crews are as busy as ever. Following simple safety advice before you set out can prevent a tragedy and give you valuable time to wait for help, if it is needed.’

Published in Coastguard
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