Check against delivery
The review of the Marine Survey Office and Irish Coast Guard Services, and relevant ongoing work by the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport, and Fisher Consultants
I should like to thank Deputy McHugh for raising this issue. Value for Money reviews into the Coast Guard and Marine Surveying functions of my Department identified a number of issues which need to be addressed in Ireland's maritime transport safety and marine emergency response regimes. These include:
• enhancing Ireland’s pollution preparedness and response capability;
• improving Coast Guard volunteer training and management;
• addressing deficiencies in legislation relating to maritime safety; and
• addressing various measures to promote greater efficiencies within the services.
I informed the Government in July that I would consider the Fisher reviews in detail and prepare an action plan to address the deficiencies identified.
When I published the reviews last July I made it clear that I wouldn't accept or reject any of the recommendations until a full assessment of the proposals had been undertaken and actions prioritised to address the issues identified as requiring attention.
In publishing the reports I emphasised that preparing the action plan provides a valuable opportunity to create more efficient and effective maritime safety regulatory arrangements and emergency response services. At the same time, it is important to recognise that resources available to the maritime services are very limited and they have to be deployed on a prioritised basis and as effectively and efficiently as possible to address the most urgent needs.
The Action Plan is nearing conclusion and I expect to return to Government on this in the coming weeks.
One aspect of the review which has attracted significant interest is that of the future of the co-ordination centres at Dublin, Valentia and Malin.
There has been considerable interest in this matter, and I appreciate that in seeking to protect local services, passions can overflow. However, I should like to put on the record that I was disappointed at the treatment of officials from my Department at a recent meeting of the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications. While most of those in attendance, including Deputy McHugh engaged constructively on the matter, there were a small number of members whose contribution was deeply unfair and unjustified. I want to record on the record of the House my disappointment in the conduct of those members, and I am sure when they review the transcript of the meeting they will withdraw some of the comments made.
In my Department’s review of the Coast Guard and Marine Survey Office services, all options have to be considered. That necessarily included looking at whether the current configuration of co-ordination centres was appropriate and whether changes to that would deliver greater efficiency. This was all within the context of the expenditure and human resources constraints that my Department operates under.
However, after careful consideration of the various options available, I will be proposing that the three centres will remain open and that none will be closed.
Rather, through the utilisation of the most modern communications and IT infrastructure across a single national Coast Guard network, I will be proposing that the three centres will be more closely aligned and integrated. Therefore the current structure of three Coast Guard Centres in Dublin, Malin and Valentia will continue to provide their current service but will be required to deliver new efficiencies in how these services are provided. External consultants are undertaking work on the details of this at the moment to assist in the preparation of the Action Plan.
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport: 01 6041090 / 01 6041087