The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, TD, today (Friday, 19 July) published a new National Search and Rescue Plan aimed at placing Ireland at the forefront of international best practice.
The plan also addresses some key lessons arising from tragic accidents involving Search and Rescue services in Ireland over the last three years. The new plan replaces the existing National Maritime Search and Rescue Framework dating from 2010. It will be the baseline guide for all Search and Rescue (SAR) organisations in Ireland. It underpins agreed methods of coordinating and conducting all Search and Rescue activities in Ireland and provides for a robust governance and oversight regime for Search and Rescue into the future.
Minister Ross said:
The Minister continued:
A key conclusion of the Search and Rescue review, which underpins the new National Search and Rescue Plan (NSP), is that roles, responsibilities and inter-dependencies within the overall Search and Rescue system need to be clear, explicit and understood by all those concerned. A new Governance and Oversight chapter in the plan sets out these roles very clearly, from strategic, tactical through to operational levels. It also recommends Search and Rescue stakeholders meet at least annually to review the plan.
The NSP delivers on a new mechanism of assurance in relation to standards and practices and oversight of the overall Search and Rescue system. This will include the creation of a support network to assist those involved in search and rescue to develop minimum standards and practices and to embed principles of continuous improvement and safety within their organisations. It also creates a new Search and Rescue Regulators’ Forum, a unique initiative which brings transport regulators in the Search and Rescue domain together to exchange good practice and seek to improve the overall system assurance mechanisms.
A new National Search and Rescue Committee has been created with renewed terms of reference which underpins its role in providing strategic coordination, guidance and leadership for Search and Rescue. This group will monitor the performance and adequacy of the Search and Rescue system and advise on any necessary improvements. It will be chaired by Sir Alan Massey – ex CEO of the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Its members will include senior representatives from the Coast Guard (IRCG), Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) and An Garda Síochána (AGS), their parent departments and other strategic partners in both the State (Departments of Defence, Health and Local Government) and the voluntary Search and Rescue sector (RNLI).
The Search and Rescue Review report also includes an implementation plan for a new “virtual” Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) model. This was another key recommendation in the AQE Report. The new model will secure additional collaboration between the Aviation Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC), which is managed by the IAA, and Marine Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), which is managed by the Coast Guard. This will greatly enhance the overall SAR system. Utilising enhanced technologies and greater collaboration, the new JRCC will capitalise on the strengths of the current Aeronautical RCC and Maritime RCCs and ensure a more coherent response.
With regard to Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) recommendations included in the review process, the new Search and Rescue Plan acknowledges the on-going work of the Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) in developing an accredited safety management system. The IRCG’s new Standard Operating Procedures and guidance material relevant to the MCIB report were subject to international peer review (involving Canada, New Zealand and Sweden) and are being modified to reflect best practice in relation to boat launching and the transition from search and rescue to search and recovery phase of IRCG operations.
In conclusion, Minister Ross said: