Irish Lights chief executive has described the agency’s five-year strategy to 2023 as a “major process of change” that puts the organisation in a strong position operationally, financially and from a government perspective.

“The clue is in the title,” remarked Yvonne Shields at the launch of Safe Seas – Connected Coasts 2018-2023 which maps out a vision to deliver next generation maritime services to protect lives, property, trade and the environment.

Yvonne Shields IL

 The strategy commits Irish Lights to implementing a combination of new and existing navigation technology, engineering and data management solutions to enable safe navigation at sea for commercial shipping, fishing, leisure craft and passenger vessels. Its mission is to be a ‘leading and innovative provider of reliable, efficient and cost-effective navigation and maritime services for the safety of all’, and will be benchmarked against delivery in a ‘tangible, timely and effective way to the benefit of all stakeholders’.

 John Coyle, Irish Lights chairman, referred to their long track record of service to the maritime community dating back to 1786 but noted that the context in which that service must be delivered has changed:

“Rapid technological advances, pressures on the marine and coastal environment and more diverse stakeholder needs, all require a greater emphasis on collaboration across agencies and with international organisations.”

Kish Lighthouse

The strategy underlines the importance of providing “reliable, high quality and efficient infrastructure of visual and electronic Aids to Navigation around the coast of Ireland, north and south,” added Yvonne Shields.

“It builds on our current programme of technological and energy-efficiency upgrades to lighthouse stations and navigation buoys and strengthens our commitment to working with international partners to test and evaluate new navigation solutions which we expect to emerge in the next five to ten years.”

Community commitment

Also noted in the strategy is stronger focus and support of local lighthouse authorities who are responsible for more than 3,000 local aids to navigation. Looking ahead, Ms Shields said all organisations with a mandate in the marine area need to contribute to sustainable development of Ireland’s marine resources:

“As part of our strategy…we will ensure that our services and the technical expertise and operational experience that exists in Irish Lights contribute to the wider development of the maritime economy.” Safe Seas – Connected Coasts 2018-2013 builds on a range of advances across Irish Lights operations ‘to improve services, reduce costs and deliver positive economic and community benefits’.

These include upgrading lighthouse stations and navigation buoys with energy efficient LED technology (35% reduction in overall Co2 emissions since 2009).

Irish Lights Aids to Navigation are set to be fully-powered by renewal energy by 2023. Irish Lights provides a range of services to ensure that the Irish and UK governments comply with the requirements of the international Safety at Sea Convention (SOLAS). Over 340 General Aids to Navigation in its operational network (lighthouses, buoys, beacons and digital services) provides critical coastal infrastructure for safety at sea and for coastal communities.

The strategy identifies six ‘ambitious outcomes’ (Safety of All, International Leadership, Technology and Innovation, Collaboration and Partnership, Supporting the Development of the wider Maritime Economy, Safeguarding the Past and Positioning for the Future) that reflect the modern role of Irish Lights to deliver navigation, safety and ‘allied maritime services’ and support growth of the marine economy.