Wednesday 16 October 2019

Civil Defence is using rescue boats 'not fit for purpose'

Paul Deering

It has been claimed that two inflatable rescue boats being used by Sligo Civil Defence need urgent replacing. The boats in use by the Civil Defence are 35 and 18 years old, both of which have been described as 'not fit for purpose.'

Replacement craft are believed to cost in the region of €35,000 each. The matter has been raised with the Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe by Deputy Marc MacSharry. In correspondence sent to the Minister, Deputy MacSharry says one of the boats, the Avon, was an ex Navy rigid inflatable which is 35 years old and has been formally classed as 'usable but not fit for purpose' by marine consultants.  The engine was 20 years old with high hour usage.

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The Avon was described as having "numerous patches under its hull." 

The other boat, the Zodiac rigid inflatable was 18 years old and was decommissioned in 2015 but re-emerged for use in 2018 following some "ad-hoc" repairs.  The engine was also some 20 years old and it was stated that the boat was sometimes "swamped by following seas." "This boat was the subject of a serious incident in June 2018 where the tubes separated from the hull. Luckily, this happened relatively close to shore and tragedy was avoided thanks to the initiative of the crew," said Deputy MacSharry. 

He said he was bringing the matter to the attention of the minister in the wake of the Kilkee report into the death of Coast Guard Officer, Caitriona Lucas in September 2017 and the important health and safety issues highlighted.  "Sligo Civil Defence rescue boats are defective and pose a very real threat to the trained crews manning them," said Deputy MacSharry. He pointed out that some eight lives were saved across multiple events and rescues by the Civil Defence in Sligo last year alone. The Deputy has appealed to the Minister to immediately make provision for two new rigid inflatable boats with adequate deck space, suitably powered with modern and economic four stroke engines.  Sligo County Council in a response says it is  always seeking investment to enhance our civil defence equipment, the boats being one element. "Over the years we have had success with getting funding  for vehicles,  and with that need reasonably met at this time,  we are putting Sligo forward for any funding that might be available," said the statement. 

Sligo Champion