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Varadkar calls for Sea Change in attitudes to maritime safety

26th June 2014 - Leo Varadkar, TD

Minister kick-starts Maritime Safety Strategy Consultation
134 maritime fatalities since 2002 – half of them as a result of leisure pursuits

Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar has called for a sea change in attitudes to maritime safety, as he launched a new consultation process on maritime safety: Sea Change – Building a new Maritime Safety Culture.

Minister Varadkar highlighted the 134 maritime fatalities which have occurred since 2002, almost half of which were as a result of leisure activities on recreational craft. He was speaking at the launch of the consultation process in the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport which included stakeholders from shipping, fishing, leisure, passenger operators, maritime safety and many other sectors.

Minister Varadkar said: “We all need to take a fresh look at how we use the waters in and around our island, and build a culture of maritime safety in our communities. This requires a radical change of culture in our attitude to safety.”

“The sea and any open water can be hostile and dangerous environments and demand total respect. By consulting with stakeholders and the general public, we want to reach a situation where there are no fatalities.”

The results of the consultation process will feed into the first ever Maritime Safety Strategy for Ireland. This Strategy is being prepared by the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport. This approach borrows from the very successful road safety strategies that have helped make Ireland’s roads considerably safer over the last 15 years.

The goal is to reduce the number of deaths and injuries which occur every year on craft in our coastal and inland waters. This will be done by building a culture of safety in the maritime sector, for all types of craft, with a focus on maritime safety issues, and by posing key questions to shape the new Maritime Safety Strategy.

Sea Change looks at how to address the top ten factors contributing to loss of life at sea in Ireland:

Lack of an adequate maritime safety culture;
Unsuitable or inadequately maintained safety equipment on board, or lack thereof;
Lack of crew training;
Failure to plan journeys safely, including failure to take sea/weather conditions into account;
Non-wearing of personal flotation device (PFD);
Vessel unseaworthy, unstable and/or overloaded;
Inadequate enforcement of regulations;
Impairment due to fatigue or the influence of alcohol and/or drugs;
Inadequate crewing levels/solo operation;
Unsuitable clothing being worn on board.

Minister Varadkar said: “The number of tragedies around our coastline, and the effect of those events on families, has put the need for a new Maritime Safety Strategy into sharp focus. We have to learn from past tragedies, in memory of those who have lost their lives, and safeguard future generations. There is a lot of goodwill towards improving safety at sea, but we need to harness that goodwill.”

“I urge all stakeholders, and the general public, to engage with this consultation process and to contribute their ideas to the Irish Maritime Administration in my Department as we strive to improve maritime safety together. My hope is that a wide range of responses will be received, and that positive ideas will emerge which will enable us to take further practical measures to save lives in the maritime sector, since any life lost is one too many.”

The consultation period runs until 29th August 2014, and the new Strategy will be published later this year. The Strategy will be monitored closely during implementation and reviewed and updated within a five year period. 

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