Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar unveiled an Action Plan to improve Maritime Safety and Marine Emergency Response Services, including an overhaul of operations within the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.
The Action Plan will set up a new, over-arching maritime safety section inside the Department - the Irish Maritime Administration - which will bring together the Irish Coast Guard and the Marine Survey Office.
Speaking after Cabinet approved the Action Plan, Minister Varadkar said, “The last few weeks have reminded us in the most tragic terms that water is an important but potentially lethal environment. The new Irish Maritime Administration will further focus the Department and its agencies on marine safety and protecting lives at sea, whether that’s for leisure, fishing at sea, or shipping.”
The Irish Maritime Administration will have an over-riding emphasis on safety and will coordinate efforts more closely between the Irish Coast Guard – which provides an emergency maritime response service – and the Marine Survey Office – which monitors safety standards on boats and in ports. Both the Coast Guard and the MSO are already sub-divisions of the Department, and back-office operations will be merged for the two operations.
The Irish Maritime Administration will alsod raft the new Maritime Safety Strategy, which was announced this month at Union Hall; improve Ireland’s readiness for major oil pollution incidents; integrate operations between the three Coast Guard Co-ordination Centers in Malin, Valentia and Dublin and enhance volunteer training in the Coast Guard.
“The number of tragedies occurring around our coastline, and the families whose lives have been devastated by the loss of loved ones, has put the need for a new Maritime Safety Strategy into sharp focus. My key concern will be to create a culture of safety at sea, building a deeper awareness of what measures we can take to tackle risks together,” Minister Varadkar said.
The new Maritime Safety Strategy being drafted by the Irish Maritime Administration will address recreational activities, fishing vessels, merchant ships and passenger ferries. Its central goal will be to reduce deaths and injuries, since each life lost at sea is one too many. A consultation period on the Strategy will be launched in the near future.
The existing three Irish Coastguard Rescue Coordination Centers will be retained at Malin, Valentia and Dublin. Some changes to working arrangements will be implemented, and a technology enhancement program initiated. This will allow the three centers to be operated as an integrated unit, providing efficiencies and achieving savings.