Published on January 1st, 2020 | by Mark Dwyer0
Another Busy Year for the Irish Coast Guard
The Coast Guard’s three Rescue Coordination Centres at Malin Head, Valentia Island, and Dublin operate on a 24/7 basis. In the past year the three centres managed a total of 2487 incidents compared with 2647 for 2018 and 2503 incidents in 2017.
Coast Guard helicopter services are provided under contract by CHCI operating a fleet of Sikorsky S92 helicopters out of bases in Dublin, Shannon, Waterford and Sligo. Helicopter services are on 15 minutes notice by day and 45 minutes by night flew in excess of 770 missions in 2019. These missions included inland searches for missing persons in support of An Garda Síochána and Mountain Rescue Teams.
In addition to their primary role of provision of maritime search and rescue services, the Coast Guard provides a day and night support services to the offshore islands. In 2019, the Coast Guard flew a total of 123 emergency missions from the offshore islands to the mainland. Coast Guard helicopters also provide HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) to the National Ambulance Service including inter-hospital transfers. The busiest inter-hospital transfer route is from Letterkenny to University Hospital Galway.
MRCC Dublin also serves as the national single point of contact for processing of COSPAS-SARSAT 406 MHz Satellite Beacon Alerts generated by Irish registered beacons worldwide (EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon; PLBs (Personal Locator Beacons) and ELTs (Emergency Locator Transmitters), including any beacon alerts from foreign flagged vessels or aircraft operating within the Irish SRR (Search & Rescue Region).
In 2019 a total of 195 satellite beacon alerts were received by MRCC Dublin, with the majority proving to be false alerts due to accidental activation or expired equipment. The COSPAS-SARSAT satellite beacon alerting system has a huge role to play in alerting SAR authorities of persons in distress. The Coast Guard emphasises the importance of correct beacon handling, regular use of inbuilt test mechanisms and proper disposal of expired beacons.
The Coast Guard attaches particular attention to what it categorises as Lives Saved i.e. assistance provided that, prevented, loss of life, severe risk to life, or protracted hospitalisation. In 2019, the Coast Guard recorded that 378 individuals were categorised as Lives Saved.
The publication of a new National Search and Rescue (SAR) Plan and a National Oil Spill Contingency Plan were two key achievements in 2019. The SAR plan replaces the pre-existing SAR Framework and the new plan affords equal recognition to the three components of Search and Rescue i.e. maritime, land and aviation, with an added emphasis on oversight arrangements. The SAR Plan is overseen by an independently chaired National SAR Committee.
Into 2020, the Coast Guard will continue to focus on the importance of Prevention as a core safety theme and will continue to work with colleagues in Water Safety Ireland, RNLI, BIM and the Irish Sailing Association in promoting water safety and identifying key risk areas. In early 2020, it is intended to re-launch the Safety on the Water website.
Coast Guard Director, Eugene Clonan said “The publication of the two key plans, the National SAR and Oil Spill Contingency plans were two significant achievements in the past year and I want to acknowledge the very constructive engagement that we had with a multiplicity of stakeholders”. He added, “I want to also 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 RCCs in responding to any coastal emergency”