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Lifesaving defibrillators are being put in some of the most remote UK communities thanks to HM Coastguard.

Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) have been put in HM Coastguard’s vehicles and in its stations, creating the largest geographical spread of all emergency services.

It means extra lifesaving capability at emergencies and helps to fill some critical ‘gaps’ to bring access to AEDs for people in the UK’s most remote communities.

Nearly 500 AEDs are now available in Her Majesty’s Coastguard’s emergency response and support vehicles, coastal officer and divisional commander vehicles and all its rescue coordination centres. And AEDs are also in all other buildings belonging to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, including marine offices around the UK, adding extra protection for employees in the event of heart-related ill health at work.

Dr Paddy Morgan, HM Coastguard’s Medical Director said that the introduction of AEDs can help people in local communities, as well as for coastal incidents:

“Minutes really do matter in the event of a cardiac arrest and having rapid access to an AED can make a significant difference to the chances of someone going home to their loved one or not. Working with our partners in the other emergency services, we have become an integral part of the network that reduces the time to effective defibrillation for people in our communities in an emergency,” he said.

Chief Coastguard of Her Majesty’s Coastguard, Peter Mizen said: “For over 200 years, our aim has been to keep people safe at the coast and out at sea and looking after those around us as well as our own people is intrinsic to that.

“As the national maritime emergency service, we have a wider role to play as part of local communities, often in remote and rural locations where we provide essential support for our emergency services partners. By carrying them in our vehicles, it also means they are immediately on hand for our teams who may come across emergencies on their regular safety patrols and when we attend public events,” he said.

Published in Coastguard
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From its beginnings with coastal lookouts to today’s hi-tech national network of coordination centres, from small localised beginnings to international players – one thing has stayed the same for two centuries – Her Majesty’s Coastguard seeks to search, to rescue and to save.

Two hundred years of saving lives along the UK coast and at sea, as well as coordinating rescues for those in distress in international waters, is being marked this year as HM Coastguard celebrates its milestone anniversary.

It was on 15 January 1822, that HM Coastguard was formally brought into existence and has been working to keep people safe at the coast and sea ever since.

On 15 January in honour of that actual birthday, coastguards across all four home nations cast throwlines as a symbol of the service’s dedication - past and present.

Throwlines, which form part of the lifesaving kit used by coastguard teams, were cast into the seas around England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland at 11am, with each team operating under the latest COVID-19 guidance for the local areas.

Over the past two centuries, HM Coastguard has gone from strength to strength. In 2022, coastguard operations centres coordinate responses to emergency situations at the coast calling on 310 Coastguard Rescue Teams – made up of 3500 dedicated volunteers – and using 10 search and rescue helicopter bases.

Although the way in which we operate has changed beyond recognition in the last two centuries, HM Coastguard continues to look to the future. Innovation has always been a driver – whether it be pushing forward state of the art technology in the national network of maritime rescue coordination centres or leading the way in rope, water and mud techniques.

Last month (December) HM Coastguard began to implement its new updated search and rescue radio network which uses fibre technology. More than £175million has been invested to upgrade the Coastguard’s national radio network across all 165 sites over the next two years. This will improve and future proof its communication infrastructure and ensure that it remains able to communicate and exchange data quickly and reliably in order to co-ordinate rescues and save lives.

The service continues to adapt to changes – in the last few years providing mutual aid and support during events and incidents to other emergency partners. During the pandemic, coastguards supported the NHS, attended the G7 and COP26 in 2021 and are called in to support during national emergencies including flooding or supplying water to stranded drivers.

HM Coastguard provides training to search and rescue authorities around the world and also shares knowledge on a mutual basis with others. A key player with the International Maritime Organization, HM Coastguard's input and insight around the obligations of SOLAS (The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea) is sought and valued.

The service is currently working hard to reduce its carbon footprint and is aiming to make its UK-wide fleet of vehicles electric wherever possible over the next five years.

Following trials, six electric vehicles have already been purchased, with 19 more currently being procured for use across the UK. Opportunities to electrify the fleet where operationally possible continue to be identified, with the trialling and integrating of electric models as they arrive on the market.

And with technology ever evolving, the service will continue to strive to be at the forefront of innovation to carry out its life-saving work.

Maritime Minister, Robert Courts said: “Congratulations HM Coastguard on their 200-year anniversary. I am immensely proud and humbled by the continued dedication and professionalism from the staff and volunteers which ensures everyone’s safety on our shores and around our coast.

“HM Coastguard is the backbone of our maritime sector and the nation is indebted to its incredible workforce which continues to deliver an exceptional service.”

Claire Hughes, Director of HM Coastguard said: “When you look at how we started and where we are now, it’s easy to celebrate the innovation and development that can be seen throughout the service. And yet, we are far more proud of the people, the volunteers and the staff who throughout two centuries have continued to strive to keep people safe at the coast and out at sea. We always have and always will respond to those in distress.

“While this milestone is an opportunity for us to look back with pride on what we’ve achieved, we have always looked to the future, and I’m proud that we continue to look for ways in which to improve and save lives. I’m proud of the commitment, the dedication and selfless sacrifice and I’m proud of how the service has developed and continues to do so.”

Coastal Operations Area Commander Tom Wright said: “This anniversary is a huge milestone for all of us at HM Coastguard. We wanted to mark the occasion in a way which is unique to us and which demonstrates our commitment to keeping people safe at sea. The symbolic casting of throwlines across the UK today is a reflection of that commitment. "

Published in Coastguard
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Two open water swimmers who got into difficulty during their Christmas Day swim near Bangor in Northern Ireland have been praised for wearing kit that made it easier to find them.

The pair were reported to be having problems in Belfast Lough off Grey Point Fort in Helen’s Bay by a passer-by who called 999 and asked for the coastguard.

Bangor and Portaferry Coastguard Rescue Teams and Bangor RNLI’s lifeboat were both sent, along with paramedics, Air Ambulance NI and PSNI.

One of the swimmers made it to shore by themselves and was treated by coastguard personnel, while the other was rescued from the water by Bangor lifeboat. Both were handed into the care of the NI Ambulance Service.

Jude McNeice of HM Coastguard said: “The fact that both swimmers were wearing tow floats made it much easier to locate them.

“Even the most experienced swimmer can be caught out by a change in the conditions and we’d always urge open water swimmers to make sure they have kit like this before taking to the water. It could save your life.”

Commenting on the incident on social media, Bangor RNLI said: “On Facebook there are a number of comments critical of the two swimmers, but Bangor RNLI won’t be joining in.

“We can be pretty sure the casualties did not leave home planning to be reckless and requiring rescue; they just got into difficulty and almost paid the ultimate price. They have our amazing rescue services to thank for still being with us.”

Published in Rescue
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The RNLI and HM Coastguard have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that lays out each organisation’s responsibilities for search and rescue operations in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

John Payne, director of lifesaving operations for the RNLI, and HM Coastguard director Claire Hughes met at Dover Lifeboat Station yesterday (Thursday 1 October) to sign the MOU which the UK coastguard service says demonstrates both sides’ “commitment to joint working and building on what is a very positive relationship”.

It’s hoped the agreement will bear fruit in terms of joint training and regular communication that will ultimately save lives around the UK’s coastlines and inland waters.

“The close working relationship we have with the RNLI is very special and the signing of this MOU exhibits our continued collaboration and dedication to preventing loss of life at sea and along the coast,” Hughes said.

Payne added: “The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea and our close co-operation with our tasking agency in the UK, HM Coastguard, helps to make this possible.

“Our volunteer lifeboat crews and staff work side-by-side on search and rescue operations with HM Coastguard teams up and down the UK’s coastline and we are pleased to officially recognise this relationship.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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HM Coastguard dealt with 340 individual incidents across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on Saturday (8 August), representing its highest number of call-outs in a single day for well over four years.

Packed coastlines and beaches kept coastguard personnel very busy throughout another hot heatwave day, which saw rescue teams attend 221 incidents.

Both the RNLI and independent lifeboats were called out on 155 occasions combined, and aircraft were also used to assist at the coast and sea in 30 incidents.

HM Coastguard responded to 186 emergency calls and co-ordinated search and rescue responses to a wide-range of incidents, which included people being cut off by the tide and children swept out to sea on inflatables.

In total, the service rescued 146 people and assisted a further 371 people.

Saturday’s incident count represents a significant 145% increase when compared to the average amount of call-outs we recorded throughout August 2019.

The count also surpasses its previous (and recent) busiest day over the past few years, on Friday 31 July the previous weekend, when the service co-ordinated 329 incidents.

‘We don’t want you to remember your day out for all the wrong reasons’

HM Coastguard’s head of coastguard operations Richard Hackwell said: “We have seen a big rise in incident numbers this weekend as more people visit coastal areas and head to the beach.

“We understand that people want to have fun at the coast and enjoy the heatwave but we urge everyone to respect the sea and take responsibility in helping to ensure the safety of themselves, friends and family.

“We’re heading into a period of more good weather so we want to remind you to check and double check tide times as even the most experienced swimmer or keen watersports enthusiast can get caught out by currents and tides. Plan your day out, always exercise caution and make sure you have a way of contacting us if you get into trouble.”

He added: “As our latest statistics show, we’ll always respond when someone calls 999 and asks for the coastguard but help us to help you by not making choices which could put yourself and others at risk.

“Every time our frontline teams respond — as they always do and always will — please don't forget that they're also put at risk too. Take extra care at the coast today and over the coming days. We don’t want you to remember your day out for all the wrong reasons.”

Published in Rescue
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Coastguard rescue teams around Great Britain and Northern Ireland were called to nearly 200 incidents over the weekend, to come to the aid of those who found themselves in difficulty in the sea or at the coast.

The 194 incidents included inflatables drifting offshore; crashed and broken down jet skis and pleasure boats; people injured while out walking or cycling along the coast; paddle boarders, kayakers, windsurfers and kite surfers who found themselves in difficulty; and people cut off by the tide or stuck in mud.

There were 84 callouts on Saturday (16 May) and a further 109 on Sunday (17 May), which proved to be the second busiest day of the year so far for HM Coastguard, as significant numbers of people took to the water and visited the coast.

In addition, 119 teams carried out proactive patrols of English beaches, cliffs and marinas to look out for anyone in trouble, offer safety advice where needed and ensure that people are staying safe in the water after the relaxing of some UK government guidelines in England.

‘The sea can still catch you out and can be unmerciful when it does’

The teams also assisted in providing mutual aid on 38 occasions in support of the other emergency services.

Boating, swimming and other sea-based activities are now allowed once again in England under UK government guidelines. In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the lockdown remains and people should continue to follow the guidance to stay home.

HM Coastguard director Claire Hughes said: “In England, now more than ever, people need to respect the sea and the coast. While people are now allowed to go out on and in the water, they need to make sure they are safe and protected and have a way to contact HM Coastguard if they get into difficulty.

“Regardless of how well you know the coast and of your ability in your chosen sport, the sea can still catch you out and can be unmerciful when it does.

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

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The number of recorded incidents dealt with by HM Coastguard yesterday has been the highest since the UK was put into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic in late March, the service has warned.

Friday 8 May saw 97 incidents — a 54% increase over the daily average in the previous month — within a single 24-hour period. This coincided with the start of the UK’s early May bank holiday weekend.

“People are ignoring the measures put into place by the [UK] government,” said Matt Leat, duty commander with HM Coastguard.

“I completely understand that the weather and the bank holiday coupled with the fact that we’ve been in this lockdown situation for just over six weeks has tempted people out to our beautiful coasts.

“However, as the government said only yesterday, it’s really vital that we all continue to observe the guidance.”

Leet said that the coastguard would always respond to a 999 or distress call “but the minute we send in a rescue response, we’re putting our frontline responders at risk as well as putting the NHS under avoidable pressure”.

He added: “Please, please continue to observe the #StayHomeSaveLives message — it’s still in place for a reason. Exercise locally and stretch your legs, not our resources.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been criticised today (Sunday 10 May) for changing the coronavirus advice slogan from ‘stay at home’ to the less direct ‘stay alert’. The change has been rejected by the devolved institutions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Portaferry’s coastguard rescue team was paged yesterday morning (Saturday 7 March) to a report of multiple kayakers capsized in the water off Killyleagh on Strangford Lough.

Portaferry RNLI were also tasked to the incident, recovering four individuals from the water and locating two more on Don O’Neill Island.

Another two were found on Island Taggart, and they were winched to safety by HM Coastguard rescue helicopter R199 based in Prestwick, south of Glasgow in Scotland.

The casualties were then taken to Killyleagh where Bangor Coastguard Rescue Team had set up a landing point.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service also tasked the Air Ambulance NI and Hazard Area Response Team to the scene.

All eight persons were checked over by the doctor and paramedics, with no further treatment needed.

“Well done to all emergency services involved in this incident and a good outcome in the end,” Portaferry Coastguard Rescue Team said.

Following the rescue, as BBC News reports, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency issued general advice to kayakers.

“We’d always recommend that kayakers tell someone at home their passage plan including points of arrival and departure, timescale and any other relevant information.

“It would also be advisable to consider advising the coastguard of your intentions and any deviation of your plans.

“You should also carry a VHF marine band radio and/or PLB (personal locator beacon).”

Published in Rescue

HM Coastguard in the UK was among the agencies joining an international search operation last night (Friday 22 November) after a superyacht sank off Indonesia.

While initially believed to be a UK-registered vessel, it was quickly confirmed that the yacht, named Asia, was a Malaysian-registered sailing vessel with two British citizens among the four people aboard.

Following “extensive investigation work” by HM Coastguard, contact was made with the boat’s skipper at 5am this morning (Saturday 23 November).

He confirmed that the vessel sank after hitting an object in the water some 55 nautical miles off an Indonesian island, but all four crew had managed to get in board its RIB tender and were met by marine police at the nearest landfall.

“We are relieved to hear that the crew are now safely ashore,” said HM Coastguard Controller David Jones, who was in charge of co-ordinating efforts overnight.

“This incident demonstrated good international working between the UK Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, JRCC Australia, JRCC Jakarta, USA Mission Control Centre and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”

Published in Superyachts

HM Coastguard rescue teams from Lerwick, Hillswick and Sumburgh, the search and rescue helicopter crew from Sumburgh and staff from the Coastguard Operations Centre in Shetland have been awarded the prestigious UK Department for Transport Rescue Shield by Brian Johnson, chief executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), for a dramatic cliff rescue 18 months ago.

The DfT Rescue Shield is the highest national accolade in the United Kingdom awarded to coastguard teams which have performed the most outstanding rescue of the year. The presentation last Tuesday 5 November marks the sixth time that Shetland-based teams have been awarded the shield.

On the evening of 9 May 2018, a teenager was trapped at the base of a 120ft cliff for two hours with the tide coming in, in Fethaland, Shetland, after attempting to scale it.

The rescue was challenging and its success was due to the professionalism and teamwork of all involved in a rescue co-ordinated by HM Coastguard.

Coastguard rescue teams navigated difficult terrain in appalling conditions on the narrow headland, setting up cliff rescue equipment before one of the team descended the cliff, enduring storm force winds, rain and heavy squalls from the incoming tide to safely recover the casualty to the top of the cliff.

“As emergency response teams we rely heavily on each other to achieve success and this case was a prime example of that,” said Dave Sweeney, senior coastal operations officer.

“It was a challenging rescue and we needed all our teams’ shared expertise and resources to safely rescue the man. It was teamwork at its best.

“We are honoured to be awarded for our efforts on this particular rescue and it’s a mark of recognition for all the work and dedication of the front line volunteers, paid crew members and behind the scenes teams that help us all save lives together.”

Published in Scottish Waters
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The Irish Coast Guard

The Irish Coast Guard is Ireland's fourth 'Blue Light' service (along with An Garda Síochána, the Ambulance Service and the Fire Service). It provides a nationwide maritime emergency organisation as well as a variety of services to shipping and other government agencies.

The purpose of the Irish Coast Guard is to promote safety and security standards, and by doing so, prevent as far as possible, the loss of life at sea, and on inland waters, mountains and caves, and to provide effective emergency response services and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The Irish Coast Guard has responsibility for Ireland's system of marine communications, surveillance and emergency management in Ireland's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and certain inland waterways.

It is responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue and counter-pollution and ship casualty operations. It also has responsibility for vessel traffic monitoring.

Operations in respect of maritime security, illegal drug trafficking, illegal migration and fisheries enforcement are co-ordinated by other bodies within the Irish Government.

On average, each year, the Irish Coast Guard is expected to:

  • handle 3,000 marine emergencies
  • assist 4,500 people and save about 200 lives
  • task Coast Guard helicopters on missions

The Coast Guard has been around in some form in Ireland since 1908.

Coast Guard helicopters

The Irish Coast Guard has contracted five medium-lift Sikorsky Search and Rescue helicopters deployed at bases in Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo.

The helicopters are designated wheels up from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours and 45 minutes at night. One aircraft is fitted and its crew trained for under slung cargo operations up to 3000kgs and is available on short notice based at Waterford.

These aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains of Ireland (32 counties).

They can also be used for assistance in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and aerial surveillance during daylight hours, lifting and passenger operations and other operations as authorised by the Coast Guard within appropriate regulations.

Irish Coastguard FAQs

The Irish Coast Guard provides nationwide maritime emergency response, while also promoting safety and security standards. It aims to prevent the loss of life at sea, on inland waters, on mountains and in caves; and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The main role of the Irish Coast Guard is to rescue people from danger at sea or on land, to organise immediate medical transport and to assist boats and ships within the country's jurisdiction. It has three marine rescue centres in Dublin, Malin Head, Co Donegal, and Valentia Island, Co Kerry. The Dublin National Maritime Operations centre provides marine search and rescue responses and coordinates the response to marine casualty incidents with the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Yes, effectively, it is the fourth "blue light" service. The Marine Rescue Sub-Centre (MRSC) Valentia is the contact point for the coastal area between Ballycotton, Co Cork and Clifden, Co Galway. At the same time, the MRSC Malin Head covers the area between Clifden and Lough Foyle. Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) Dublin covers Carlingford Lough, Co Louth to Ballycotton, Co Cork. Each MRCC/MRSC also broadcasts maritime safety information on VHF and MF radio, including navigational and gale warnings, shipping forecasts, local inshore forecasts, strong wind warnings and small craft warnings.

The Irish Coast Guard handles about 3,000 marine emergencies annually, and assists 4,500 people - saving an estimated 200 lives, according to the Department of Transport. In 2016, Irish Coast Guard helicopters completed 1,000 missions in a single year for the first time.

Yes, Irish Coast Guard helicopters evacuate medical patients from offshore islands to hospital on average about 100 times a year. In September 2017, the Department of Health announced that search and rescue pilots who work 24-hour duties would not be expected to perform any inter-hospital patient transfers. The Air Corps flies the Emergency Aeromedical Service, established in 2012 and using an AW139 twin-engine helicopter. Known by its call sign "Air Corps 112", it airlifted its 3,000th patient in autumn 2020.

The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is responsible for the Northern Irish coast.

The Irish Coast Guard is a State-funded service, with both paid management personnel and volunteers, and is under the auspices of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. It is allocated approximately 74 million euro annually in funding, some 85 per cent of which pays for a helicopter contract that costs 60 million euro annually. The overall funding figure is "variable", an Oireachtas committee was told in 2019. Other significant expenditure items include volunteer training exercises, equipment, maintenance, renewal, and information technology.

The Irish Coast Guard has four search and rescue helicopter bases at Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo, run on a contract worth 50 million euro annually with an additional 10 million euro in costs by CHC Ireland. It provides five medium-lift Sikorsky S-92 helicopters and trained crew. The 44 Irish Coast Guard coastal units with 1,000 volunteers are classed as onshore search units, with 23 of the 44 units having rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) and 17 units having cliff rescue capability. The Irish Coast Guard has 60 buildings in total around the coast, and units have search vehicles fitted with blue lights, all-terrain vehicles or quads, first aid equipment, generators and area lighting, search equipment, marine radios, pyrotechnics and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Community Rescue Boats Ireland also provide lifeboats and crews to assist in search and rescue. The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the Garda Siochána, National Ambulance Service, Naval Service and Air Corps, Civil Defence, while fishing vessels, ships and other craft at sea offer assistance in search operations.

The helicopters are designated as airborne from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours, and 45 minutes at night. The aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, on inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains and cover the 32 counties. They can also assist in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and can transport offshore firefighters and ambulance teams. The Irish Coast Guard volunteers units are expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time of departing from the station house in ten minutes from notification during daylight and 20 minutes at night. They are also expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time to the scene of the incident in less than 60 minutes from notification by day and 75 minutes at night, subject to geographical limitations.

Units are managed by an officer-in-charge (three stripes on the uniform) and a deputy officer in charge (two stripes). Each team is trained in search skills, first aid, setting up helicopter landing sites and a range of maritime skills, while certain units are also trained in cliff rescue.

Volunteers receive an allowance for time spent on exercises and call-outs. What is the difference between the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI? The RNLI is a registered charity which has been saving lives at sea since 1824, and runs a 24/7 volunteer lifeboat service around the British and Irish coasts. It is a declared asset of the British Maritime and Coast Guard Agency and the Irish Coast Guard. Community Rescue Boats Ireland is a community rescue network of volunteers under the auspices of Water Safety Ireland.

No, it does not charge for rescue and nor do the RNLI or Community Rescue Boats Ireland.

The marine rescue centres maintain 19 VHF voice and DSC radio sites around the Irish coastline and a digital paging system. There are two VHF repeater test sites, four MF radio sites and two NAVTEX transmitter sites. Does Ireland have a national search and rescue plan? The first national search and rescue plan was published in July, 2019. It establishes the national framework for the overall development, deployment and improvement of search and rescue services within the Irish Search and Rescue Region and to meet domestic and international commitments. The purpose of the national search and rescue plan is to promote a planned and nationally coordinated search and rescue response to persons in distress at sea, in the air or on land.

Yes, the Irish Coast Guard is responsible for responding to spills of oil and other hazardous substances with the Irish pollution responsibility zone, along with providing an effective response to marine casualties and monitoring or intervening in marine salvage operations. It provides and maintains a 24-hour marine pollution notification at the three marine rescue centres. It coordinates exercises and tests of national and local pollution response plans.

The first Irish Coast Guard volunteer to die on duty was Caitriona Lucas, a highly trained member of the Doolin Coast Guard unit, while assisting in a search for a missing man by the Kilkee unit in September 2016. Six months later, four Irish Coast Guard helicopter crew – Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith -died when their Sikorsky S-92 struck Blackrock island off the Mayo coast on March 14, 2017. The Dublin-based Rescue 116 crew were providing "top cover" or communications for a medical emergency off the west coast and had been approaching Blacksod to refuel. Up until the five fatalities, the Irish Coast Guard recorded that more than a million "man hours" had been spent on more than 30,000 rescue missions since 1991.

Several investigations were initiated into each incident. The Marine Casualty Investigation Board was critical of the Irish Coast Guard in its final report into the death of Caitriona Lucas, while a separate Health and Safety Authority investigation has been completed, but not published. The Air Accident Investigation Unit final report into the Rescue 116 helicopter crash has not yet been published.

The Irish Coast Guard in its present form dates back to 1991, when the Irish Marine Emergency Service was formed after a campaign initiated by Dr Joan McGinley to improve air/sea rescue services on the west Irish coast. Before Irish independence, the British Admiralty was responsible for a Coast Guard (formerly the Water Guard or Preventative Boat Service) dating back to 1809. The West Coast Search and Rescue Action Committee was initiated with a public meeting in Killybegs, Co Donegal, in 1988 and the group was so effective that a Government report was commissioned, which recommended setting up a new division of the Department of the Marine to run the Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre (MRCC), then based at Shannon, along with the existing coast radio service, and coast and cliff rescue. A medium-range helicopter base was established at Shannon within two years. Initially, the base was served by the Air Corps.

The first director of what was then IMES was Capt Liam Kirwan, who had spent 20 years at sea and latterly worked with the Marine Survey Office. Capt Kirwan transformed a poorly funded voluntary coast and cliff rescue service into a trained network of cliff and sea rescue units – largely voluntary, but with paid management. The MRCC was relocated from Shannon to an IMES headquarters at the then Department of the Marine (now Department of Transport) in Leeson Lane, Dublin. The coast radio stations at Valentia, Co Kerry, and Malin Head, Co Donegal, became marine rescue-sub-centres.

The current director is Chris Reynolds, who has been in place since August 2007 and was formerly with the Naval Service. He has been seconded to the head of mission with the EUCAP Somalia - which has a mandate to enhance Somalia's maritime civilian law enforcement capacity – since January 2019.

  • Achill, Co. Mayo
  • Ardmore, Co. Waterford
  • Arklow, Co. Wicklow
  • Ballybunion, Co. Kerry
  • Ballycotton, Co. Cork
  • Ballyglass, Co. Mayo
  • Bonmahon, Co. Waterford
  • Bunbeg, Co. Donegal
  • Carnsore, Co. Wexford
  • Castlefreake, Co. Cork
  • Castletownbere, Co. Cork
  • Cleggan, Co. Galway
  • Clogherhead, Co. Louth
  • Costelloe Bay, Co. Galway
  • Courtown, Co. Wexford
  • Crosshaven, Co. Cork
  • Curracloe, Co. Wexford
  • Dingle, Co. Kerry
  • Doolin, Co. Clare
  • Drogheda, Co. Louth
  • Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
  • Dunmore East, Co. Waterford
  • Fethard, Co. Wexford
  • Glandore, Co. Cork
  • Glenderry, Co. Kerry
  • Goleen, Co. Cork
  • Greencastle, Co. Donegal
  • Greenore, Co. Louth
  • Greystones, Co. Wicklow
  • Guileen, Co. Cork
  • Howth, Co. Dublin
  • Kilkee, Co. Clare
  • Killala, Co. Mayo
  • Killybegs, Co. Donegal
  • Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford
  • Knightstown, Co. Kerry
  • Mulroy, Co. Donegal
  • North Aran, Co. Galway
  • Old Head Of Kinsale, Co. Cork
  • Oysterhaven, Co. Cork
  • Rosslare, Co. Wexford
  • Seven Heads, Co. Cork
  • Skerries, Co. Dublin Summercove, Co. Cork
  • Toe Head, Co. Cork
  • Tory Island, Co. Donegal
  • Tramore, Co. Waterford
  • Waterville, Co. Kerry
  • Westport, Co. Mayo
  • Wicklow
  • Youghal, Co. Cork

Sources: Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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