State eyes base for planned European coast guard office


THE STATE is bidding to have a proposed Europe-wide coast guard secretariat to be based permanently in Dublin.

Irish Coast Guard director Chris Reynolds, who has been elected to chair the EU Heads of Coast Guard network, has been tasked with preparing the first permanent secretariat, which aims to share resources for search and rescue, pollution response and maritime security.

The secretariat’s composition and location is to be worked out over the next year, but it will meet temporarily in Dublin and will comprise coast guard officers from EU member states, representatives of the European Commission and EU agencies.

It is expected that it will deal with some, if not all, of the functions addressed by the EU Heads of Coast Guard forum.

These range from accident and disaster response, search and rescue maritime security, surveillance and safety to border control, pollution response, fisheries control and vessel traffic management.

Mr Reynolds has been asked to draw up procedures for improved co-operation between European coast guards. This could include combined operations and sharing resources, along with advising the European Commission on the implications of the EU’s integrated maritime policy drive.

Norway and Iceland, outside the EU, are members of the coast guard forum and Russia is an associate member. EU agencies including the European Maritime Safety Agency, Frontex (border control), the European Defence Agency, Europol, the European Space Agency and the European Fishery Control Agency based in Vigo, Spain, also attend its annual conference, which will be held in the Republic this year.

In a related development Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has announced a €2 million safety investment programme for the Irish Coast Guard to purchase seven new vessels, along with new vehicles and equipment.

One of the new rigid inflatable boats has already been allocated to Achill Coast Guard by Minister of State for Tourism Michael Ring and the remainder will be allocated to stations around the coast, based on priority. The seven vessels cost €1.5 million.

The RNLI’s Lough Derg lifeboat, Killaloe Coast Guard and the Irish Coast Guard’s Shannon-based helicopter were involved in the rescue of three people after their yacht capsized and sank close to Hare Island on the lake last Saturday. The alarm was raised by a passing yacht which recovered two of the three from the water.