The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport is today (Thursday) publishing two reports conducted by Fisher Consultants which identify a number of key issues which need to be addressed in Ireland’s maritime transport sector and marine emergency response regimes.
Minister of Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar is setting up a Departmental team to consider the matters raised in the reports and prepare an Action Plan in consultation with the Minister. This Action Plan will be presented to Government in October.
The team will have a remit to consider the recommendations from the Fisher report, and related matters, to ensure that Ireland’s maritime transport and emergency response are on a par with international norms.
The key deficiencies identified in the two Fisher Reports were:
Ireland’s ability to deal with a major pollution incident:
The management and training of volunteer Coast Guard teams around the country:
- Staff in the IRCG have the requisite knowledge in dealing with pollution but the absence of a dedicated team assigned to the area has resulted in a poor state of preparedness and response capability, including insufficient auditing and exercising of the national, regional and site specific pollution response plans and strategies.
The backlog in enacting maritime transport legislation dating back to 1972:
- Enhanced support for the 1,000 volunteers located nationwide in 50 coastal based rescue units are proposed, particularly in the areas of improved training courses, oversight and supervision, day to day management, and risk and quality control
The effective deployment of the Coast Guard and Marine Survey Office resources:
- Ireland does not have a complete legislative base to fulfil its national, EU and international obligations for maritime safety, pollution prevention and control. This threatens shipping operations, seafarer employment opportunities and ports’ rights to trade freely.
- To ensure that they have the best capability to save lives, protect the marine environment and regulate the marine transport sector effectively. Significant gaps in IT systems to support both the delivery of services and the development of management and accountability systems across the maritime safety services.
Minister Varadkar said today: "This process will require some tough decisions. But it also represents an opportunity to create more efficient and effective maritime safety regulatory arrangements in the Marine Survey Office, including the Coast Guard service. It will be crucial for the development of shipping, trade and employment, which have a key role to play in Ireland’s economic recovery."
The Minister also acknowledged the great work being performed by the staff in the Marine Survey Office, Coast Guard and other maritime areas.
The Programme for Government called for a review of Ireland’s Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV) capacity and this review will be included in this process. Other important measures such as enhancing operating arrangements through better risk analysis and management of vessel movements in our waters are part of the suite of measures to prevent pollution incidents and these will also be addressed in the action plan.