In a year-end commentary, the Coast Guard noted that despite the impact of Covid-19, 2020 has proven to be a relatively busy year.
Overall, the Coast Guard coordinated 2,643 incidents compared to 2,490 incidents in 2019. Activity in February, March and April was the lowest recorded for each of these months in recent years, but picked up noticeably in May. , August and September proving to be exceptionally busy. .
464 incidents were recorded in August compared to 369 for August 2019 and 307 incidents recorded in September with a corresponding figure of 239 in 2019.
Coast Guard Director Eugene Clonan said the main challenge this year was ensuring the 24/7 delivery of Coast Guard SAR services, coordinated through the three Coast Guard Coordination Centers. rescue at Malin Valentia and MRCC Dublin and the responses provided primarily by the Coast Guard‘s own voluntary sector. , its contracted helicopter service, RNLI and Community Inshore Rescue services.
“In 2020, the Coast Guard recorded that 391 people were categorized as lives saved”
“I would like to thank all the men and women who make up our SAR community, for the discipline and commitment they have shown to maintain the availability of services during the most difficult times”
The Coast Guard pays particular attention to what it classifies as lives saved, i.e. assistance provided, prevented, loss of life, serious risk to life or prolonged hospitalization.
In 2020, the Coast Guard recorded that 391 people were categorized as lives saved.
In 2020, the Coast Guard noted an increase in two activities that raised safety concerns; increased number of incidents involving people using inflatable devices (Lilo’s/Dinghy’s, etc.) on beaches and inland waterways during the summer months, and increased participation in open water swimming in the fall and in winter. The Coast Guard acknowledges that the safety messages regarding open water swimming were well heard, with most attendees adhering to basic safety precautions.
Public safety messaging continues to be promoted through the revamped www.safetyonthewater.gov.ie website and other social media platforms in collaboration with stakeholders from the Maritime Safety Communications Sub-Group (Coast Guard, Water Safety Ireland, RNLI, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Irish Lights and Irish Sailing Commissioners)
The Coast Guard recorded a total of 72 drownings in 2020, a reduction from 2019 figures and is working closely with Water Safety Ireland to monitor drowning risks and trends.
Coast Guard Helicopter Services, provided under contract by CHC Ireland, operate day and night services from bases in Sligo, Shannon, Dublin and Waterford. In 2020, CHC carried out a total of 781 missions. In addition to search and rescue services, these missions include 24/7 emergency medical support to island communities. The Coast Guard also provides Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) support and inter-hospital transfer services to the HSE, including emergency pediatric transfers to the UK.
Coast Guard Volunteer Units
Coast Guard volunteer units provide a combination of lifeboat, cliff rescue, shore search capabilities and emergency community support in conjunction with the other emergency services. The 44 units were tasked with a total of 1,270 missions this year. Services included Covid-19 related transport support for HSE. The continued development of the use of small unmanned aircraft (UAV) drone systems has equipped Coast Guard units to enhance its research capability. By the end of 2021, the Coast Guard projects it will have 9 units with UAV search capability.
The RNLI is classified as a declared resource with the Coast Guard, which means that each individual station can be directly called upon to respond to individual incidents. RNLI lifeboats were tasked with 783 missions while community inshore rescue boats responded to 84 missions. During the year, the Coast Guard and the RNLI agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding that sets out its long-standing arrangements for SAR response and coordination.
Following the publication of the National Search and Rescue Plan (NSP) 2019, the National SAR Committee delivered its first annual report on the National SAR Plan (NSP) to the Minister of Transport in July. It details the progress of the progressive implementation of the NSP as well as the work of the committee itself and other new structures, including the National SAR Advisory Committee, the SAR Regulatory Forum and the SAR Health and Safety Forum. . It also reviews the SAR activities of the three designated SAR coordinators, ie the Coastguard, the Irish Aviation Authority and An Garda Síochána.
Maritimes National Oil Spill and HNS Contingency Plan
In June this year, the National Oil and HNS Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) was released. It establishes a national framework and strategy to coordinate marine pollution preparedness and response. It deals with oil and HNS pollution occurring in the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), whether from ships, ports, offshore units or oil/HNS handling facilities and sources terrestrial. It has been developed with due consideration of the International Convention, EU Directives and Operational Guidelines. The NMOSCP includes guidance documents and standard operating procedures and their annexes that address key elements of effective preparedness and response.
The Dublin MRCC serves as the single national point of contact for handling COSPAS-SARSAT 406 MHz satellite beacon alerts generated by Irish registered beacons worldwide (EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon; PLB (Personal Locator Beacons) and ELTs (Emergency Locator Transmitters), including all beacon alerts from foreign flagged vessels or aircraft operating within the Irish SRR (Search and Rescue Region) improper disposal of beacons.
“During the year, a total of 192 satellite beacon alerts were processed”
In preparation for future VHF Data Exchange Systems (VDES) developments, the Irish Coast Guard’s Engineering Branch has completed equipment upgrades to several of the hilltop VHF sites across the country. . The most noticeable difference for the sailor is the change of functional VHF channels. These changes are published in Marine Notice 61 of 2020.
Sound the alarm and stay afloat
The ability to sound the alarm and stay afloat is at the heart of preventing drownings at sea or on waterways. The Coast Guard’s Primary Safety Message Stay Afloat – Stay in Touch; emphasizes the importance of never engaging in any commercial or recreational boating activity without wearing a fully maintained life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD), coupled with an ability to sound the alarm by such means as such as a VHF radio, personal locator beacon, EPIRB or mobile phone. This should be supported by informing shore-based colleagues of the planned activity and expected return time. Cell phones should not be considered a suitable substitute or the sole means of emergency communication at sea. Telephone coverage at sea is limited and unreliable. Cell phones are also very susceptible to failure due to water infiltration.