Lighthouses to stop sending fog signals


THE COMMISSIONERS of Irish Lights says it consulted widely about its decision to discontinue the last fog signals around the coastline.

Nine lighthouses directly run by the lighthouse authority will stop using their fog signals tomorrow, while several other lighthouses run by local authorities or harbour boards, including Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, will also fall silent.

A number of other fog signals were discontinued over the previous 20 years.

The last nine directly run are at Fastnet, Old Head of Kinsale, Roches Point and Ballycotton on the Cork coastline; Hook Head and Tuskar Rock, Co Wexford; the Kish tower off Dublin Bay; Dundalk, Co Louth; and St John’s Point in Co Down.

Capt Kieran O’Higgins of the commissioners said the decision was notified to mariners last September, and was taken due to rapid advances in marine navigation technology, and the fact fog signals are “not an aid to navigation”.

However, a former master of the Jeanie Johnston, Capt Michael Coleman said he did not believe the decision had been adequately publicised. Many small boat users without electronic equipment could rely on a such signal for their safe passage in thick fog, and even bigger boats with satellite equipment could be affected if they had a power failure in a hazardous situation, he said.

Irish Fishermen’s Organisation chairman Ebbie Sheehan said it was probably true that fog signals were no longer required by most fishing vessels equipped with an “array of electronic aids”.

“On the other hand if you have a problem with your equipment and you are coming in to Castletownbere in thick fog from the west and hear the foghorn on the Bull Rock to the southeast, you know you are north of it and safe,” he said.

“So the horn does have its uses, and small boat owners might miss it.”

Most mariners now rely on satellite navigation, through the global positioning system (GPS).

However, the Commissioners of Irish Lights also warn shipowners, fishing vessels and marine leisure users to ensure that no single aid to navigation is relied on.