I thank both Deputies for their question. I will take this matter on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Varadkar.
As part of the Croke Park agreement, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport engaged a specialist international maritime transport management consultancy, Fisher Associates, to undertake value for money reviews of services provided by the Irish Coast Guard and the Marine Survey Office. These reports were published by the Department on Thursday last, 5 July 2012.
The Irish Coast Guard and the Marine Survey Office are internal divisions of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and are not separate statutory agencies. Taken together the reports call for a comprehensive integrated programme of work to enhance maritime safety and emergency response services. Among the issues identified by Fisher Associates that need to be addressed on a priority basis is the need for Ireland's capacity to prepare for and respond to major oil pollution incidents to be enhanced.
More support is needed for the volunteers in our coastal rescue units, particularly in the areas of improved training courses, oversight and supervision, day-to-day management, and risk and quality control. Significant backlogs in transposing legislative provisions into Irish law need to be addressed and additional inspection obligations also need to be addressed. Improved administrative and IT systems are needed to support delivery of services and the development of management and accountability systems across the maritime safety services. The report by Fisher Associates also concluded that such systems would contribute to alleviating staff shortages and recommended that realistic fees should be charged for the services provided by the MSO. There is a need for improved risk management and for periodic reviews and auditing of operational arrangements. The reports also call for improved communications both internally and with stakeholders and other partners for enhanced service delivery.
The Minister has informed the Government that the issues raised in the reports will be examined by the Department and that he proposes to present an action plan to Government in October, addressing the deficiencies identified. The issues that have been identified in the reports for action are serious and must be addressed, particularly those relating to oil pollution response capacity and volunteer training and management. However, the Minister has made it clear that he does not propose to accept or reject any of the recommendations proposed by the Fisher reports at this stage. Furthermore, no decisions have been taken at this time on these matters.
In preparing the action plan, the Department will assess each recommendation and will prioritise actions to address the deficiencies. That process will call for tough decisions to be made. However, it is important to recognise that resources available to the maritime services are very limited and must be deployed on a prioritised basis and as effectively and efficiently as possible to address the most urgent needs. Having robust and efficient maritime safety regulatory arrangements and emergency response services in place will be crucial also for the development of shipping, trade and employment, which have a key role to play in Ireland's economic recovery.
I want to take this opportunity to inform the House that new communications systems are currently being installed in the Malin Head centre, which has been closed since May, as part of a general upgrading of communications systems infrastructure nationally and in the three coast guard centres. It is expected that the upgrade work will be completed next month and the Malin centre will reopen at that time.