10 December 2008

Injured Seaman airlifted from Container Ship

An injured crewman from a German cargo vessel has been successfully lifted from the ship off the coast of Co. Kerry, flown to Shannon Airport and brought to an Irish hospital for medical treatment.

Two US helicopters involved in the operation landed at Shannon at about 10 pm tonight and the injured seaman was taken by ambulance to the Midwest Regional Hospital in Limerick.
The man's injuries are described as "serious", but his condition is said to be stable.

The seaman, reported to be a Burmese national in his forties, sustained his injuries when he fell into the hold of the German container ship Anna Rickmers (photo).
The 28,148 gt Polish-built 'conbulker' vessel is a little over ten years old now and belongs to the famous Rickmers-Linie of Hamburg, one of Germany's largest and most traditional shipping companies, founded in 1834 by Rickmers C. Rickmers.
She is on the way from Canada to the Belgian port of Ghent with a mixed container cargo.

When her captain radioed for help, the ship was about 600 miles off the Irish coast, to the west of Co. Kerry.
Since the distance was too far for the Irish Coast Guard helicopter, British and US aircraft were dispatched from bases in the UK. Two US Pave-Hawk helicopters and a US Hercules C-130, stationed at RAF Lakenheath in England, participated in the rescue, which - because of the long distance - involved mid-air refuelling of the helicopters. The RAF supported the operation with one of their Nimrod maritime reconnaissance aircraft, based in Scotland.

My thanks and congratulations go tonight to the American and British airmen for a difficult rescue mission well executed and accomplished, and my best wishes for a full and speedy recovery go to the injured Burmese seaman in Limerick.

However, this case shows once again how extremely limited the air-sea-rescue capacity of the Republic of Ireland is. Our Coast Guard helicopters are well capable of dealing with incidents and rescue operations in Irish coastal waters, and have done so many times and with great success.
But for a rescue operation further out at sea the helicopters' range is too short. As the Irish Aer Corps has no mid-air refuelling capacity at all, Ireland can offer no help and assistance to vessels passing our island in a greater distance. This is regrettable.

In the current situation of economic recession and financial crisis it is most unlikely that the Irish government will find money to purchase at least one long-range helicopter for our Coast Guard. This could - and should - have been done during the decade of economic boom we enjoyed until the recent decline. But unfortunately only very few of our politicians have any understanding of the sea at all, and none of them have been in government for more than ten years. (To make things worse, last year the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern even abolished the long-established and traditional Department of the Marine and made it an integrated sub-division of the Department of Transport.)
So all we can do in cases like this is to offer medical care in one of our hospitals, while the Irish Aer Corps and Coast Guard are forced to sit idly on shore when assistance is needed far out at sea.

We often pride ourselves of being a sovereign and neutral nation, but we still depend completely on British and even US forces when a serious rescue operation outside our immediate coastal waters is required.
A truly sovereign country would have the wish, the capacity and the resources to provide a full and proper air-sea-rescue service, no matter how far off its own coast a vessel in need is.

The Emerald Islander

2 comments:

Diverman said...

The IRCG service is not extremely limited and is recognised as offering one of the best services in the world. This incident happened well outside of the search and rescue area of the Republic. The IRCG are not obliged to cover outside of this area. The Air Corps Casa planes can cover this area as can the RAF Nimrods. The HM CG are also unable to cover this area by helo or able to go out this far. That's why there was a request to the US military who can refuel to go this distance. Also the IRCG actually give a lot more assistance to HM CG than it receives from them. This year so far it has given assistance to the UK 86 times but has only requested a UK aircraft 4 times.

THE EMERALD ISLANDER said...

Thank you for your comment. I think that we are not that far away from each other, nut we might have to agree to disagree on a few details. Our Coast Guard does indeed a good job - as I have often acknowledged - and I am not criticising the organisation or its work.
What I do find regrettable is a lack of further investment by the government. With some extra money we could increase our capacity and could then even act in cases like the one on the "Anna Rickmers".

As long as we always rely on the USA for any operation that is a little bit mire difficult, the USA will rule the world and stick their nose into every country and area on the planet. That I profoundly dislike and disagree with. Sovereignty is a very special thing, and also very fragile. If not kept in good condition and maintained, it can easily be lost. (And I fear we have passed that point already.)

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