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National Structure

National Structure of Pollution and Salvage in Ireland


Primary Role

To develop and co-ordinate an effective regime in relation to preparedness and response to spills of oil and hazardous and noxious substances (HNS) within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and to provide effective response to marine casualty incidents.



The Pollution and Salvage Branch is responsible for Marine Pollution and Ship Casualty Response. All marine pollution incidents are co-ordinated through the National Maritime Operations Centre (NMOC) based in the Coast Guard Headquarters in Dublin. Contact MRCC Dublin +353 (0) 1 6620922



The strategic objective in relation to marine pollution is to develop and co-ordinate an effective regime for preparedness and response to spills of oil and HNS from vessels and offshore platforms within the EEZ, to provide an efficient and effective response to marine casualty incidents and to monitor/intervene in marine salvage operations.



In practice this means that the Coast Guard responsibilities include;

  • The provision of an efficient and effective marine pollution and salvage notification, monitoring and response system to deal with marine pollution and salvage incidents in the Irish EEZ
  • The establishment and maintenance of a National Contingency Plan for marine pollution, preparedness and response
  • The approval and oversight of Local Authority Oil Spill Contingency Plans (OSCPs)
  • The approval and oversight of Harbour/Port OSCPs
  • The approval and oversight of offshore installation OSCPs
  • The prevention of pollution through casualty intervention and salvage control
  • The taking of direct action, under statutory powers, on casualty intervention
  • The direct response at sea during an incident
  • The oversight of response measures on the shoreline
  • The procurement and maintenance of the statutory national stockpile of pollution response equipment
  • The maintenance of computer based risk assessment, decision support and response models
  • The provision of national training courses on marine pollution response 



Regulatory Context
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4 January 2013

The IRCG operates within a complex legal environment encompassing national legislation, EU Directives and International Conventions.  For example, under national legislation, the IRCG has been designated as the national agency for the provision of a national marine pollution contingency plan for oil pollution preparedness, response and co-ordination and the approval of plans by harbour and designated local authorities of arrangements for the protection of coastal amenity / fishery / wildlife areas.  The IRCG is also responsible for the removal of oil from the coastline and in the event of major pollution incidents, the direction and co-ordination of the at-sea and on-shore response.

IRCG Officers are authorised officers under the MS (Salvage and Wreck) Act 1993 which provides the powers and obligation to save the lives of the persons belonging to a vessel, the vessel and the cargo and apparel of the vessel.

The Sea Pollution Act 1991 provides the powers, purpose and conditions for intervention in situations that pose a threat of pollution by oil or by any other substance other than oil following on a marine casualty.

The Sea Pollution (Amendment) Act 1999 also provides for IRCG modification and approval of offshore units and oil handling facilities oil pollution emergency plans.

A further amendment to the Sea Pollution Act will be enacted to give effect to the Protocol 2000 on Preparedness, Response and Co-operation to Pollution Incidents by Hazardous and Noxious Substances. The Sea Pollution Act is being amended to include provision to extend oil pollution preparedness, response and co-operation to cover pollution incidents by hazardous and noxious substances.

The IRCG is the national competent authority for the purpose of EU Council Directive 93/75/EEC (HAZMAT), (S.I. 229 of 1995) concerning minimum requirements for vessels bound for or leaving Community ports and carrying dangerous goods. S.I. 96 of 1999 European Communities (Minimum Requirements for Vessels Carrying Dangerous or Polluting Goods) (Amendment) Regulations 1999 gave effect to EU Council Directive 98/55/EC and to EU Commission Directive 98/74/EC which amended S.I. 229 of 1995 and provides for the inclusion of the IMO Code for the safe carriage of irradiated nuclear fuel, plutonium and high level radioactive waste in flasks on board ships (the INF Code).  EU Council Directive 92/29/EEC was given full effect by European Communities (Minimum Safety and Health Requirements for improving Medical Treatment onboard Vessels) Regulations, 1997. The Maritime Medical Consultation Unit of the Southern Health Board based at Cork University Hospital (MEDICO Cork) and the IRCG work in tandem to provide free medical advice to injured or sick seafarers in or adjacent to the Ireland Search and Rescue Region and for providing free medical radio advice to injured or sick Irish seafarers world-wide.

Ireland is party to a significant number of international conventions on search and rescue, salvage, intervention compensation and pollution such as the IMO OPRC Convention (Oil Pollution Preparedness Response and Co-operation).  Signatories to this Convention are required to establish a pollution planning and response regime, through national and local contingency plans.