Wednesday, 17 November 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
244. Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will reconsider the decision to close the marine rescue co-ordination centre in Dublin; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the British Commons Select Committee on Transport recently blamed continuing high marine casualty death rates on the closure of three UK marine rescue co-ordination centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29166/04]
Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Gallagher): The decision to transfer the services of the marine rescue co-ordination centre from Dublin was taken on foot of a study of the coast guard undertaken by independent consultants, Deloitte & Touche. Reflecting advances in modern communications technologies, the consultants recommended that the coast guard should operate two control centres as opposed to the three centres that exist at present. This approach will have the effect of achieving significant cost savings, thus enabling other elements of the coast guard service to be developed, which in turn will lead to further improvements in our marine emergency response services nationally.
Coast guard management is continuing to examine all issues relating to the operation of the two centres going forward, including establishing what measures will be necessary to effect a smooth transfer from Dublin to the other two centres while ensuring that full co-ordination capability is maintained at all time. In this regard, the report of the House of Commons Transport Committee on the work of the maritime and coast guard agency, MCA, will inform the Department’s consideration of the issues, including the observations of the MCA to the committee, together with relevant experience in this country and best practice elsewhere.
The objective is that the remaining two centres at Valentia and Malin Head will be developed to handle all emergencies around our coast on inland waters and in relation to mountain, cliff and cave rescue. Communications technology today is such that the geographical location of the co-ordination centres is less important now than in the past and, in this context, Government policies on decentralisation from Dublin are also relevant.
It is also a key objective that the capability of the coast guard to co-ordinate and manage incidents will not be diminished as a result of the closure of the Dublin rather than the Valentia or Malin Head centres, nor will the decision affect the very significant emergency response resources on the ground, which will remain available to the coast guard on a year-round 24-hour basis.
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