Conference told EU states may have to share rescue resources


EUROPEAN STATES may have to start sharing search-and-rescue capabilities as “stand-alone” organisations are becoming “increasingly unsustainable”, according to Irish Coast Guard director Chris Reynolds.

The recent Costa Concordia sinking off the Italian coast may focus minds on developing a “sense of urgency” about the issue, Mr Reynolds, current chairman of the EU Heads of Coastguard, told the organisation’s conference in Dublin yesterday.

The European Commission is undertaking a feasibility study on a European coastguard which could translate into action within two years, Mr Reynolds forecast.

“It’s only then that countries will start thinking, and realising that there is room for co-operation.

“Europe recognises that with four distinct sea basins – the Baltic, North Sea, Mediterranean and Atlantic – that one plan may not suit all.”

In Ireland’s case it could find itself working in the Atlantic basin with coastal neighbours Britain, Spain, Portugal and France.

Italian coastguard head Giuseppe Troina, who is among the international coastguard directors attending the two-day event, told The Irish Times it was very fortunate the Costa Concordia death toll had not been much greater.

A total of 25 passengers have been confirmed dead and seven are still missing.

Mr Troina said he believed the death toll was now 32.

The response of the ship’s captain Francesco Schettino – including the exchange between him and Italian coastguard captain Gregorio De Falco, who ordered him back on board – has overshadowed the fact that 4,220 people survived the sinking, the conference heard.