Coast Guard 'poorly' prepared to deal with pollution incident, report shows


IRELAND IS “poorly” prepared for a major pollution incident off this coastline, according a consultancy study for the Government.

Weaknesses in communication within the Irish Coast Guard, in training volunteers, and deficiencies in the State’s separate Marine Survey Office (MSO) have also been identified in two studies undertaken for Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar.

Mr Varadkar said yesterday he was initiating an action plan to deal with the “key deficiencies”, which will be presented to Government in October and which may require some “tough decisions”.

The plan may involve closure of one or two Coast Guard radio stations at Malin, Co Donegal and Valentia, Co Kerry, which caused political controversy when proposed by the previous government.

The “value for money” reviews of the Irish Coast Guard and the Marine Survey Office were conducted by Fisher Associates.

The Irish Coast Guard has recently introduced its new Sikorsky S-92 search and rescue helicopter at Shannon as part of a €533 million, 10-year leasing programme signed by former transport minister Noel Dempsey.

Key issues raised by the studies include the lack of a dedicated team within the Irish Coast Guard to deal with pollution, although staff have sufficient knowledge to respond.

The study refers to 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 consultants also identified issues with management and training of more than 1,000 Irish Coast Guard volunteers who work with professionally paid staff around the coastline. The consultants recommend improved training courses, oversight and supervision, day-to-day management, and risk and quality control.

Communication within the Coast Guard is identified as an issue, and the analysis says that the “opinions and concerns of staff below senior management could be better canvassed and acted upon”.

The report also says the MSO is “not sufficiently supported in its overall governance and resource management to enable it to provide cost-efficient and effective services to the maritime community”.