'A very concerning development': Valentia Coast Guard station was offline for a time due to staffing issues

Coordination of rescue services for the region was handled by centres in Donegal and Dublin for a time on Sunday night. 
'A very concerning development': Valentia Coast Guard station was offline for a time due to staffing issues

Valentia Coast Guard Station in Co. Kerry, which covers all six counties in Munster, currently has a number of vacancies.

CONCERNS have been raised about staffing levels at the Valentia Coast Guard rescue centre after it was confirmed coordination of rescue services for the region was handled by centres in Donegal and Dublin for a time on Sunday night, as the Valentia centre was offline due to ‘an unforeseen staff availability issue’.

The Department of Transport has said the responsibilities were shared between the Malin and Dublin centres, and Valentia had ‘personnel on duty at the centre throughout this pre-planned transfer of coordination’, but the incident was described by a West Cork TD as a ‘very concerning development’.

The Echo understands Valentia Coast Guard Station was offline for up to 12 hours on Sunday night due to the staffing issues. The Kerry-based station, which covers all six counties in Munster, currently has a number of vacancies.

“The Coast Guard has vacancies for Watch Officers at its three rescue coordination centres, owing to retirements and a recent 26% increase in its authorised pool of Watch Officers. Six new Watch Officers have recently been recruited and a further competition is scheduled for the end of the year.”

A source told The Echo that staff members are fearful Valentia may go offline again in the next fortnight, unless staffing issues are resolved.

The source also said that current staff members are being asked to cover extra shifts, and morale has been affected by the issues.

The Department said the three rescue coordination centres are designed to be interoperable, meaning any of the national services can be coordinated from any centre at any given time.

“From a resilience perspective, interoperability and transfer of roles is an important capability, a capacity that is tested and rehearsed,” the spokesperson said.

But Fianna Fáil TD for Cork South West Christopher O’Sullivan said it is vital that all centres are ‘fully staffed’ at all times.

“This is a very concerning development,” he told The Echo.

“We have seen over the last few weeks, especially with the fine weather, Coast Guard, RNLI, and emergency services have been called to several incidents.

“I think we in Ireland rest a bit easier knowing that the Coast Guard wherever it may be is always on hand, but the Valentia Coast Guard is such a key service for the safety of people of the South West.

“All our Coast Guard stations need to be fully staffed to capacity to prevent any danger to life. This is something I will be raising and something that needs to be looked at.”

Valentia has been responsible for co-ordinating air and sea rescues since it was opened in 1914.

The station works with Coast Guard units, RNLI lifeboat stations, and community rescue services.

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