The Coast Guard withdrew the services of its in-shore rescue boats stationed at 23 locations around the coast on Friday 15th of November 2019. This action was taken following a reported malfunction of a number of lifejackets which are a key piece of personal protective equipment. An investigation is underway into the malfunctioning lifejackets which involves the Coast Guard, the supplier and the manufacturer. It is hoped to identify the cause and provide for a speedy, effective and safe solution.
This action is being taken in compliance with Coast Guards SAR assurance obligations as set out in the National SAR Plan to ensure safety of Coast Guard boat crews. The National SAR Committee met on Monday the 18th of November and was briefed on the matter. In the meantime, from a SAR coverage point of view, the Coast Guard is deploying various contingencies based on an assessment of risk. All shoreline and cliff rescue services remain in place, along with the four Search and Rescue Coast Guard helicopters. The RNLI, Community Inshore Rescue Boats, and Naval Service will continue to assist particularly in those areas of greatest risk until the issue has been resolved.
As regards other concerns raised previously, the Irish Coast Guard addressed these at the time through a programme of both internal and external testing. Along with independent testing through a UK based Testing Laboratory regarding the EN ISO standards applicable please note that this included a compatibility test of our boat PPE. Assurances had also been received from the manufacturer of the lifejacket in question.
Boat crews have continued to complete Personal Survival Techniques (PST) training where full instruction on the operation of boat crew PPE, including the lifejacket, is an integral part of this training.
As regards the roll-out of new lifejackets, this will be done on a phased basis taking account of a thorough risk assessment of potential demand for boat operations. This phased roll-out will be supported by safety notices and posters for the units prioritized. Familiarization training will be provided in the Units to include the contents of the safety notice and to highlight the differences between the old and new lifejackets. Subject to any necessary operational changes and on successful completion of the compatibility testing, it is proposed to commence with the rollout of the lifejackets and putting units back in operation from Thursday December 5th 2019 next.
The safety of the volunteer is paramount so this roll-out will take the time it takes to ensure that.