Thursday, 6 March 2008
Dáil Eireann Debate
19. Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Transport if he will decentralise his Department’s Coast Guard and Maritime Administration to Drogheda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9691/08]
45. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport his position on the reform of the marine rescue coordination centres; if he will maintain marine rescue coordination centres at Valentia and Malin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9636/08]
68. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport if he has read the Inishowen development partnership’s rebuttal to the 16 page Coast Guard report; his views on the points made in the document; if his Department will accept the findings in this document and agree that the Irish Coast Guard report is flawed, in view of the fact that two experts have backed up the claims that the report is not based on concrete evidence; if any location on the west coast has been identified for a new Coast Guard station; the reason this location has been chosen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8902/08]
I have confirmed that investment in a new Integrated Communications System equipment should proceed as quickly as possible. There has been some delay in recent years in proceeding with this upgrade due to uncertainty about the number and nature of Centres to be provided for and where they should be located. The development of the Centres is being considered in the context of not only replacing the existing hardware but, if possible, an overall upgrade of the Centre’s building, offices, meeting room, ergonomics, telecommunications systems and facilities for staff. What is envisaged is a modern, efficient and flexible national coordination centre in line with best international standards.
The issue of the number of centres was raised in a 2002 Deloitte and Touche Irish Coast Guard Study. This report has provided a backdrop to ongoing improvements and developments in the Coast Guard over the last 6 years. A number of recommendations are strategic in nature; including reducing the number of rescue co-ordination centres from the current three to two enhanced Centres. The most economical option identified by the consultants was one Coordination Centre to run the entire country, with a reserve centre nearby, which could be quickly activated if the main centre was out of commission and would also double as a training facility. However the need for strengthened resilience in the event of a severe localised incident, which could make the one Centre and its close by reserve centre inoperable, has led to the focus on a two-centre operation. The consultants did not identify where the two centres should be located.
In relation to the west coast I consider that the site should provide a technically robust location, well served by transport and technical and social infrastructure and also be situated where all staff can live within close proximity to enable them to be called on in an emergency. I have not finalised where that location should be but expect to be in a position to do so shortly. The review of locations is currently underway and the possibilities have narrowed to a choice between a site in the Limerick/Shannon area or Malin or Valentia.
Should the decision be to move from Malin or Valentia the possibility of keeping existing staff running combined radio watches from their existing stations is also under evaluation in order to fully utilise the professional knowledge of current staff whilst not asking them to move.
Deputies will understand that the Coast Guard restructuring that is being worked on is aimed at improving the overall quality and efficiency of a key public service. The proposals will be considered in the context of the many comments I have received and also taking account of the Tánaiste’s Budget Day request to each Department to undertake an efficiency review of expenditure. I have also met Government and Opposition representatives, members of local communities, including the Inishowen Development Partnership Group, to discuss the issue.
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