Skellig Michael : Use of Life saving equipment on passenger boats.

14 July 16

Further to the debate that occurred on the RTE Liveline radio show on Wednesday 13th July, the Office of Public Works (OPW) wishes to clarify the position about what passengers on vessels destined for Skellig Michael should expect by way of measures designed to protect them during the voyage.

The requirements for passenger vessels to carry appropriate lifejackets in good condition is set out in law. Additionally, OPW applies its own rules on top of this which apply to Boatmen travelling to Skellig Michael.

A limited number of Boatmen have Permits issued by the OPW each year to land visitors and these Operators must, before they are approved to travel, sign their acceptance of a strict set of Terms and Conditions. A number of these relate to safety and two, in particular, to the use of Lifejackets and other life-preserving equipment. These Conditions were introduced this year and are:

Understanding that the majority of passengers are recreational visitors and may have limited knowledge or experience of the sea, permit holders will make particular provision for their safety during the passage. As well as carrying onboard the necessary lifejackets required under the conditions of their Marine Passenger Licence, all Permit holders on the Skellig route will additionally be required to carry Personal Flotation Devices (PFD) for each passenger and will require all passengers to wear same for the full duration of their trip to and from Skellig Michael to provide for a level of buoyancy in the event that they accidentally fall overboard.

The OPW will not specify the brand / type of PFD to be carried; however, the type selected will have to be capable of having a full lifejacket worn over them without obstruction, should they be needed in the event of an extreme emergency (eg: where passengers must abandon the vessel).

As the discretion of the Operator, Passengers may also be permitted to wear the full lifejackets throughout, should they wish.And:

Prior to leaving the mainland harbour, the Skipper / Alternate will ensure that all passengers have donned the relevant PFD and that it is securely fastened in all cases.

The Skipper / Alternate will also carry out a practical general demonstration of how to fit the lifejacket and will show the key features and how they are to be used in an emergency. The demonstration will also include clear information on where jackets are stowed. Understanding that Passengers will be from different countries and knowledge of English may be variable, this demonstration must be carried out in full view of passengers and must be presented in a way that is simple and aids the understanding of all. (Operators are reminded that this passenger briefing is a requirement of their MSO Licence.)It is clear from several contributors to the Liveline programme on 13th July that this procedure is not being followed in all cases (though one caller did in fact describe using a PFD and having the Lifejacket demonstration). The OPW is most anxious to ensure that the correct, agreed procedures are followed by all Boatmen appointed by them and they would therefore appeal to any visitor who had a different experience to report that to them directly so that appropriate action can be taken. Details required to pursue cases of laxity in safety procedures should at a minimum include the date of the trip, the name of the vessel and, if possible, the name of the Skipper on the day and these should be emailed to info@opw.ie

Visitors intending to go to Skellig Michael should also take time to look at the 12 minute safety film produced by the OPW to advise them how best to prepare. This can be see via a link on the OPW website www.heritageireland.ie

-Ends-

For more information, please contact Colette Davis OPW Press Officer on 087 947 5552 or email OPW Press Office at opwpressoffice@opw.ie