Published on May 17th, 2015 | by Jim Lee0
Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport 2014 Annual Report
The Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport, published its 2014 Annual Report on 5th May. As its name suggests, the Department’s brief is wide-ranging, encompassing not only Aviation, which includes, the airlines, airports, Air Transport agreements and regulation and the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU), but also Land Transport (roads, rail and public transport), Maritime (ports and shipping, safety and regulation), including the Coastguard as well as Tourism and Sport. In this review we will look only at the aviation elements of the report, as well as at Coastguard and briefly at Tourism. Full details of the report can be found here.
The Department managed to operate at an effective level, despite the reduced financial and staffing resources. Staff numbers were reduced to 426 (whole time equivalents – WTE) by the end 2014 and this, when combined with the Non-Commercial State Agencies (NCSAS), gave a total end of 2014 staff complement of 1,448, which was in line with the Department’s target of 1,449. The Department is managed by Secretary General, Tom O’Mahony, who was appointed to the post in June 2009. There are five Assistant Secretaries including John Fearon (responsible for Aviation, Public Transport Investment and Roads Policy), Deirdre O’Keeffe (responsible for the Maritime Sector and Driver and Vehicle Computer Services) and Ray O’Leary (responsible for Tourism and Corporate Affairs). Political oversight and management is vested in the Minister (appointed on 11th July 2014), Minister of State Michael Ring and Minister of State Ann Phelan (who has overall responsibility for Rural Economic Development).
Launching the Report Minister Donohoe said: ‘Since becoming Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport last July, I have built on the work done by my predecessor, Leo Varadkar TD, across the range of issues under my remit. My Department plays a key role in contributing to the Government’s deficit reduction and job creation efforts”. Key highlights in the Aviation sector included:-
- Development of a new national aviation policy for Ireland: Draft policy published in May 2014 and the final policy document should be published shortly.
- National Aviation Facilitation Committee: Two meetings of this committee were held in 2014.
- Establishment of Shannon Group: The Shannon Group was formally established and Shannon Airport continued to grow its passenger numbers.
- Regional Airports: A total of €2.1 million in operational subvention and €3 million in capital grant assistance was paid to Donegal, Ireland West Airport Knock (IWAK), Kerry and Waterford airports in 2014. The Government has agreed that further exchequer funding supports to these four regional airports will be provided post 2014. In addition, subvention of €7.76 million was provided for public service obligation air services between Donegal and Dublin and between Kerry and Dublin in 2014. Following a public tender competition services under a new PSO contract commenced on 1st February 2015. This two years contract is subject to a review after 18 months and may be extended for an additional year.
- EU Airports Package: Although published in December 2011, with the aim to address issues of efficiency, quality and capacity across European airports, with a particular focus on ground handling services, noise reduction and slot allocation, a common position on all three elements was not agreed by the Council until 2012. Differences in approach, between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission has resulted in no final agreed position.
- Revision of EU Air Passengers Rights Legislation: In March 2013, the EU Commission published new proposals to revise Regulations 261/2004 (and 2027 which deals with carriers’ liability for passengers’ baggage). Discussions on the proposal in Council commenced under the Irish Presidency in the first half of 2013 and continued through 2014. It is anticipated that agreement will be reached on this important proposal during 2015.
- Aer Lingus Shareholding: In December 2014 Aer Lingus received a preliminary, highly conditional and non-binding approach from International Airlines Group (IAG) to acquire the carrier. The initial approach was rejected and the Government has set out the conditions that it would take into account in relation to any potential offer for its shareholding. The Government expects to make a final decision in 2015 based on negotiations underway.
- Single European Sky: The goal of creating a Single European Sky (SES) is governed by a series of EU Regulations agreed in 2004 and in 2009. During 2014, significant progress was achieved at an EU level in the enhancement of the current SES regulatory framework. The Department and the IAA, also continued to work closely with the UK during 2014, in progressing cooperation in airspace management under the UK/Ireland Functional Airspace Block (FAB), which encompasses both Irish and UK airspace.
- Air Transport Agreements: Following the negotiation of Open Skies agreements with the USA and Canada, the major focus of the EU is now on negotiating and concluding aviation agreements with key emerging markets such as Brazil, China and India in addition to the neighbouring States. During 2014, Ireland commenced the process of ratifying EU Agreements with Canada, Georgia, Jordan and Moldova and negotiated new bilateral air transport Agreements with Egypt and Ethiopia.
- New Routes introduced: A total of 35 new routes commenced during 2014 at Dublin and Shannon with increased frequency on another 37 existing routes. A total of 17 new routes are due to commence in 2015 at Dublin, Cork and Shannon.
- Passenger numbers: Overall Passenger number at the three State airports to end of December 2014 totalled 25.5 million, an increase of +7% on the same period in 2013.
Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU)
Nationally, a total of 77 occurrences were recorded by the AAIU in 2014. These consisted of 13 accidents, 6 serious incidents and 58 incidents. A further 34 international occurrences were recorded. These consisted of 9 accidents, 7 serious Incidents and 18 Incidents. There were no fatalities recorded for 2014.
A total of 9,740 Mandatory Occurrence Reports (MORs) were received and assessed in 2014 of which 111 came within the remit of the AAIU. With priority given towards the investigation and reporting of accidents and serious incidents, a total of 33 occurrences are the subject of an investigation, made up of 19 national investigations and 14 foreign investigations into Irish registered/operated aircraft abroad where assistance is being provided by the AAIU through the appointment of Accredited Representatives.
A total of 23 Reports, made up of 16 national and 7 international were published on the Unit website and 26 safety recommendations were issued by the AAIU in 2014.
Search and Rescue (SAR) and the Irish Coast Guard
The Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) has seen a record response for 2014, with it being particularly relevant to the Shannon SAR Helicopter, who flew the bases’ 300th mission in late 2014. The Coast Guard attributes the rise in the number of incidents to:-
- Prolonged warm weather during the summer
- More people taking holidays in Ireland (which are normally taken near water)
- Additional work undertaken by the Coast Guard helicopters assisting the national ambulance service, particularly with medevacs of patients suffering from Strokes and STEMIS – ST Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction (the deadliest form of heart attack).
- Storms and high winds in the early part of the year and coming into Autumn
Total incidents at 2,631 are up on 2013 which had been the busiest year since the foundation of the modern Coast Guard in 1991. While the Coastguard has seen a drop in the numbers of people assisted (3,996) it has seen an increase in the number of people saved (up 74% to 260), due in part to increased air ambulance work. Another feature of the last number of years is the growing assistance the Coast Guard gives to An Garda Síochána in missing person searches in coastal and remote areas. 221 missions in 2014 represented a 38% rise.
Irish Coast Guard Statistics – Five-year trend
|Persons saved / assisted||3675||3536||2776||5685||4256|
|Incidents involving Pleasure Craft||576||580||578||498||676|
|Incidents involving Merchant Craft||45||77||67||61||69|
|Incidents involving Fishing Craft||188||180||179||215||189|
|Pollution / Salvage Report||47||41||47||46||44|
|IRCG Coastal Units tasked||795||912||933||1156||1272|
|IRCG Helicopter tasked||470||553||532||808||915|
|Community Rescue Boats Ireland tasked||122||124||170||145||211|
|Assistance given to Gardaí||51||50||60||61||59|
2014 also saw the placing of a contract for a new IT system supporting operations within the three rescue co-ordination centres for greater operational effectiveness and efficiency. The system called SILAS went to beta trial phase in November 2014. In addition a new station house opened in Killybegs in 2014 and works were completed at a new station house at Doolin, Co. Clare.
The tourism and hospitality industry employs around 200,000 people and generates in the region of €5.7 billion per year in revenue from home and abroad. Minister Donohoe noted that ”numbers last year grew for the fourth consecutive year, increasing by 8.9% on 2013. This is due to the right policy options being pursued, such as the abolition of the travel tax and the development of initiatives such as the Wild Atlantic Way”. “The new tourism policy which I recently launched with An Taoiseach aims to build on recent success so that we welcome 10 million visitors to Ireland in 2015, generating €5 billion in revenue” he added.
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In 2014, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the number of overseas visits to Ireland increased for the fourth year in a row to 7.604 million visits. This represented an increase of 8.9% overall compared to 2013 and all main market areas registered growth. Visits from Britain were up 8.0% for the year to over 3.16 million; visits from the rest of Europe amounted to over 2.6 million, up 7.1% on 2013; North American visits reached over 1.328 million, up 14.7%; and the number of visits from the rest of the world (principally Australia and other long-haul developing markets) reached 473,800, an 8.7% increase. The total overseas tourism and travel earnings for 2014 amounted to €3.5 billion (excluding fares) representing an increase of 8.8% compared to 2013.