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Search and rescue (SAR) pilots and technical crew are training on the new Irish Coast Guard helicopters which Bristow Ireland will fly as part of the new contract.

Ahead of aircraft delivery, the new and growing Irish team of experienced SAR pilots and technical crew are “busy honing their skills alongside counterparts in The Netherlands”, Bristow Ireland says.

“The seasoned rescue professionals, each highly experienced in working with the AW189, are looking forward to introducing the new aircraft type and supporting people and communities across the country once the new service gets underway in the autumn,” the company says.

Technical crew manager Mike Beamish, said: “Training with our colleagues in the Netherlands is allowing us to continue developing our skills and the AW189 is the perfect aircraft for SAR operations”.

“The AW189 helicopter is genuinely next-generation. It’s an ultra-modern airframe but has already proved its worth in critical missions all over the globe,”he said.

“It can land and manoeuvre where other aircraft can’t; it carries the very latest mission systems and rescue equipment and is safe, fast and responsive to fly. The team loves it,” Beamish said.

“We’ll be ready, and we can’t wait to get it in-country and into action,” he added.

Published in Coastguard

The Irish Coast Guard, Water Safety Ireland and RNLI have issued joint advice to help keep people safe at Ireland’s waterways over this June Bank Holiday weekend.

Water-based activities increase at this time of year, as do the number of incidents in which people get into difficulty.

But everyone can minimise the risks with the following advice for a safe enjoyable bank holiday weekend:

  • Check the forecast for your local area, including tide times and sea conditions for coastal activities.
  • Always carry a means of calling for help and keep it within reach.
  • Water temperatures are still cold. Acclimatise by getting in slowly, swim within your depth and avoid staying in the water for extended periods. Swimmers should be aware of rip currents and if caught in one should swim parallel to shore and then back to land.
  • Swim with others — never alone — in recognised, traditionally safe bathing areas. Lifeguarded waterways are listed at watersafety.ie.
  • Supervise children at all times near water and never use inflatable toys in open water as currents and breezes can cause persons to be swept out to sea, endangering those onboard or others trying to assist.
  • If you find yourself struggling in the water unexpectedly remember Float to Live. The best way to float is to tilt your head back with your ears submerged. Try to relax and breathe normally. You can gently move your hands to help you stay afloat if you need to. Spread your arms and legs out to improve stability. Once your breathing is under control, call for help or swim to safety.
  • Stranding is a risk when low tides expose areas of the coastline for walkers to explore sandbanks. Watch out for incoming tides, local signage, and always carry a fully charged mobile phone.
  • Wear a personal flotation device when paddle boarding, kayaking or boating, or when angling from shore.
  • Avoid alcohol as it impairs judgement, balance and coordination — all essential for swimming and boating and avoiding hazards in the water.

If you see somebody in trouble on the water or along the coast or if you suspect that they are in trouble, dial 112 or use Marine VHF Channel 16 and ask for the coastguard.

Published in Water Safety

Minister of State for Transport Jack Chambers has paid tribute to the “dedication, commitment and passion” of members of the Irish Coast Guard.

Speaking at the sod turning for the €6.8 million new Coast Guard station in Westport, Co Mayo, he said he had seen this dedication “at first hand”.

“It is evident to me that this is alive and well in the Westport unit and it is essential our volunteers have state of the art facilities to undertake their essential, lifesaving work,”he said.

“Over the last 20 years, the Westport unit has responded to many calls for help within its catchment area,stretching from Killary harbour to Mulrany in both their search function and their boat rescue function. Many people have been rescued in response to those calls and lives have been saved,”he said.

“The Department of Transport is responsible for the Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) building programme and I would like to reinforce my commitment to the on-going construction and maintenance of Coast Guard stations to ensure they are safe and fit for purpose,”Chambers said.

“This has been demonstrated by an investment of €6.8 million into this new station which will provide much improved facilities for the 24 volunteers who operate from the Westport unit as well as vehicle, boat and equipment storage,”he said.

Published in Coastguard
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Ahead of the St Patrick’s Day Bank Holiday weekend, the Irish Coast Guard, RNLI and Water Safety Ireland are issuing a joint water safety appeal, asking people to stay safe when in, near or on the water.

Water temperatures are still cold, meaning cold-water shock and hypothermia are risks that can affect everyone. The three organisations are advising anyone intending to take part in any water-based activity or coastal walks to carefully plan their activity so as to ensure they stay safe.

Coastal walkers are reminded to be alert to the risk posed on cliff and costal walkways by the exceptional wet weather coupled with any erosion over the winter months.

If heading out on the water or participating in costal activity:

  • Never mix alcohol or drugs with water activities.
  • Always check the weather and tides before venturing out.
  • Carry a reliable means of raising the alarm: VHF radio, personal locator beacon (PLB) or fully charged mobile phone.
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you will be back.
  • Wear a suitable personal flotation device when engaged in any water-based activity, including shoreline fishing.
  • Always check the weather forecast and time of tides.
  • Be alert to the risk of becoming isolated by incoming tides.

Gerard O’Flynn, Irish Coast Guard operations manager said: “Always plan your activity and ensure you have a reliable and suitable means of communication. Regardless of activity ensure that somebody knows your plans and expected return time.”

Roger Sweeney, Water Safety Ireland’s deputy chief executive added: “Throughout the festivities, please ensure that you provide your children with constant, uninterrupted supervision when playing near water. Supervise them closely and teach them about water safety at www.teachpaws.ie.

“If you see somebody in trouble in the water: SHOUT – REACH – THROW. SHOUT to calm, encourage and orientate them; REACH with anything that prevents you from entering the water (clothing/stick); and THROW a ring buoy or any floating object to them.”

Linda-Gene Byrne, RNLI water safety lead said: “We are all looking forward to enjoying the longer evenings but it is important to remember when walking to keep well away from the water’s edge. You can reduce the risks by avoiding walking alone or at night and by always making sure you have a means of calling for help.

“If over the upcoming festivities, you or someone you are with has a drink, stay away from the water. Alcohol can lower inhibitions, leading to impaired judgement which means you are more likely to take risks and get into trouble. It also limits muscle ability, making simple movements much harder, slows down reactions making it more difficult to get yourself out of trouble, and if swimming, it numbs the senses making swimming difficult.

“If you do find yourself struggling in the water unexpectedly, Float to Live. To do this, tilt your head back with your ears submerged. Try to relax and breathe normally. You can gently move your hands to help you stay afloat if you need to. Spread your arms and legs out to improve stability – and it's OK if your legs sink, we all float differently. Once your breathing is under control, call for help or swim to safety.”

If you see somebody in trouble on the water or along the coast, or think they are in trouble, dial 112 or use VHF Channel 16 and ask for the coastguard.

Published in Water Safety

The Irish Coast Guard has said it is “closely monitoring developments” after the Sikorsky S-92A crash in Norway earlier this week which claimed one life.

A woman in her sixties died and five people were injured when the helicopter crashed into the sea off western Norway while on a search and rescue training mission for oil company Equinor.

The woman who died was reported to have been an Equinor employee.

Norway’s Civil Aviation Authority suspended all helicopter traffic to its offshore oil and gas fields immediately after the crash, while search and rescue units remained operational.

It indicated it was considering grounding Sikorsky's S-92A aircraft model while investigating the incident, but flights by oil and gas operating companies have now resumed.

Equinor expressed its sympathies to the family of the woman who died and said it “is cooperating closely with the helicopter operator Bristow Norway and relevant authorities in the handling and follow-up of the incident”.

The Irish Coast Guard said it "is closely monitoring developments following the Norwegian accident on Wednesday", and said there would be no planned interruptions to SAR services.

CHC Ireland (CHCI) use the Sikorsky S-92A for SAR from four bases on the Irish coast.

"Both the Coast Guard and CHCI extend deepest sympathy to all those impacted by the accident and in particular the families and friends of the deceased crew member. The accident is now the subject of an investigation by the Norwegian authorities,”a joint statement said.

Bristow Group said in a statement it was fully cooperating with authorities responding to the incident and that the company was in the process of collecting relevant information.

Bristow Ireland has been awarded the new contract for Irish Coast Guard SAR services from next year, using a fleet of AW189 helicopters.

Published in Coastguard
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Ahead of the first long weekend of 2024, celebrating St Brigid, the Irish Coast Guard, RNLI and Water Safety Ireland have issued a joint water safety appeal asking people to stay safe when in, near or on the water.

The organisations are also reminding the public that water and air temperatures are relatively cold this time of the year and that hypothermia can set in quickly when sea swimming or coastal walking.

Water temperatures are still cold, meaning cold water shock and hypothermia are risks that can affect everyone. To avoid this during swims, people should acclimatise to the water slowly to get used to the cold and warm up quickly upon exiting the water.

The coastguard, RNLI and Water Safety Ireland advise everyone intending to take part in any water-based activity or coastal walks to make sure they check in advance what they should do to keep safe.

If heading out on the water or visiting the coast:

  • Never mix alcohol with water activities.
  • Always check the weather and tides.
  • Carry a reliable means of raising the alarm: a VHF radio, personal locator beacon (PLB) or a fully charged mobile phone.
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you will be back.
  • Wear a suitable personal flotation device when boating or angling.
  • Watch out for incoming tides to avoid getting cut off.

If you are swimming:

  • Water temperatures are still cold at this time of the year, so 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.

Gerard O’Flynn, head of operations with the Irish Coast Guard says: “It is important to plan activities carefully this time of the year given that the weather conditions can be cold and changeable, for guidance on water safety planning, people should consult the Safety on the Water website at Gov.ie.”

Roger Sweeney, Water Safety Ireland’s deputy chief executive says: “Winter storms have damaged many waterside walking routes that were considered familiar and safe but may now be hazardous. Erosion underfoot is not always obvious until it is too late.

“Tell children in your care that to stay SAFE is to Stay Away From Edges. Use walkways that have public rescue equipment such as ringbuoys in bright yellow boxes. Report missing or vandalised ringbuoys at ringbuoys.ie, as a stolen ringbuoy could mean a stolen life.”

Linda-Gene Byrne, RNLI regional water safety lead added: “If you find yourself struggling in the water unexpectedly, your instinct will tell you to swim hard. But cold-water shock can make you gasp uncontrollably. Then you can breathe in water and drown. Instead, you should Float to Live.

“The best way to float is to tilt your head back with your ears submerged. Try to relax and breathe normally. You can gently move your hands to help you stay afloat if you need to. Spread your arms and legs out to improve stability — and it's OK if your legs sink, we all float differently. Once your breathing is under control, call for help or swim to safety.”

If you see somebody in trouble on the water or along the coast, or think they are in trouble, dial 112 or use VHF Channel 16 and ask for the coastguard.

Published in Water Safety

A public consultation on policy for using drones has been initiated by Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and junior minister Jack Chambers.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), as drones are formerly known, are being introduced into the public safety and search and rescue capabilities of the Irish Coast Guard, the Department of Transport said.

They are also “delivering benefits to the public in the medical field with the transportation of medical samples between hospitals and laboratories or the delivery of prescriptions to remote areas, for example”, it says.

The department says the Government “wants to hear from the public on key issues including how to respond to concerns about the increase in the use of UAS, how to position Ireland as a potential frontrunner in this emerging sector, and how to future-proof responsible development of the industry”.

“The policy framework is coming at a time when Ireland needs to set out the vision, strategy and priorities for the development of the UAS sector, which is growing rapidly and which has many positive and potentially life-saving benefits,” Ryan said.

“It will aim to foster the industry’s growth and innovation while managing safety, security, environmental and other concerns,” he said.

“UAS presents exciting opportunities for business and the public sector to boost productivity, improve service provision, support emergency response and infrastructure safety inspections, assist search and rescue operations, create high-tech jobs and boost the economy across Ireland,” Chambers says.

Public opinion on measures to address privacy, environment, safety and security concerns is crucial to developing this framework, and I encourage the public to respond to this request for submissions,” he adds.

The closing date for participation in the public consultation is 5 pm on Friday, March 8th.

Submissions can be made online here and can also be made by email at: [email protected]

Published in Coastguard
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The new contractor to provide search and rescue services for the Irish Coast Guard has reached and agreement with the union representing air crew.

As RTÉ News reports, the deal between Bristow Ireland and the union branches representing both coastguard pilots and technical crew, such as winch operators, covers terms of employment and dispute resolution.

The agreement will allow for these employees’ transfer from CHC Ireland to Bristow in 2025 when the new 10-year contract will be fully operational.

Bristow Ireland, which signed the contract in August last year to operate six helicopters and two fixed-wing aircraft from bases around the country, remains in negotiations with the union representing engineering staff.

Pilots are represented by the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (IALPA) branch of Fórsa, and Fórsa represents technical staff including winch crew.

Bristow said it is continuing to engage with the Unite trade union, which represents engineering staff, with further discussions due in early 2024.

A transition plan has been drawn up with Fórsa and IALPA for the date when Bristow takes over the contract in 2025. It is currently held by CHC Ireland which has initiated a court action.

The employees involved will transition to Bristow up to June 2025, in line with the intended transition plan and schedule.

Bristow described the agreement as a key milestone in the successful transition of search and rescue operations.

Bristow Ireland is due to provide six  AW189 helicopters from the existing Irish Coast Guard SAR bases in Shannon, Sligo, Waterford, and Dublin.

The new contract will include a fixed-wing aircraft service, with an option for the Air Corps to take over this element.

RTÉ News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Coastguard

The Drogheda unit of the Irish Coast Guard is currently recruiting for new volunteers to join the Co Louth search and rescue team.

Based at Horse Lane in Drogheda, the emergency service provides boat- and land-based search and rescue response 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

New recruits will be inducted and trained over a 12-month probationary period, with ongoing accredited training in both land, sea and boat SAR capabilities.

Prospective candidates must have a clean driver’s licence and a good level of physical fitness, as well as live within 10 minutes of the coastguard station, and must commit to weekly training as well as have the flexibility to respond to emergency taskings at any time of day or year.

For more details, see Drogheda Coast Guard’s Facebook page HERE.

Published in Coastguard

The search for a fisherman missing after a small fishing vessel with two on board sank off the coast of Co Louth on Tuesday morning (12 December) has been called off for the night.

RTÉ News reports that a second fisherman was rescued after the incident north of Dunany Point in Dundalk Bay, and is being treated at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

A multi-agency search and rescue operation was launched following at Mayday call at 8.45am from the fishermen’s vessel, with lifeboat and coastguard teams from Clogherhead and Greenore joining the Dublin-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 at the scene.

Clogherhead RNLI says the search will resume on Wednesday morning (13 December), adding: “We are thinking of the family of the fisherman at this difficult time.”

Published in Fishing
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About Pamela Lee, Irish Offshore Sailor

Ireland has produced some of the world’s most dedicated offshore sailors, and Pamela Lee of Greystones is one of them. She has made a name for herself in the sailing world, having worked as a mate on a charter Super-yacht for two and a half years. After coming ashore, she has been fully committed to her offshore sailing ambitions since 2019.

Lee has raced in various craft, including Figaro 3s, Class 40, Tp 52s, and multihulls, and has eight transatlantic crossings under her belt. In partnership with Kenny Rumball, Lee supported Rumball’s La Solitaire du Figaro sailing campaign to secure the Irish berth in the proposed Mixed Offshore Keelboat event for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

One of Lee’s stated main aims is to promote female empowerment in sport, and she set out to establish a double-handed Round Ireland speed record with Englishwoman Cat Hunt in the winter of 2020. This campaign gained much publicity, and Lee expressed pride in bringing sailing and offshore sailing, in particular, into the conversation for 2020.

To further her offshore sailing career, Lee moved to France, where she has recently secured a place to skipper a yacht in the Transat Jacques Vabre Challenge in October 2023. Lee’s passion and dedication to offshore sailing are inspiring, and her achievements are a testament to her hard work and perseverance.