Follow the Fleet Education Scheme Reborn Online

Merchant Ships and Silicon Chips

Satellite tracking, online lesson plans specially tailored to the curriculum, and dialogue with ships at sea have replaced paper maps and coloured pins in a web-based learning package, designed to allow schools across the country to “navigate the world from their desktops” which was relaunched from Dublin today (Monday 26th November).  

The package, developed by the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) of the Marine Institute, is a 21st Century version of the highly popular Irish Shipping “Follow the Fleet” scheme of the 1970’s and ‘80’s that allows pupils to follow the course of Irish commercial vessels, as well as the Marine Institute’s two research ships, with desktop computers, animated graphics and real-time data streams.  

“Our educational website is designed to assist teachers by complementing the Scientific, Environmental and Social Education (SESE) curriculum as set out in the primary education syllabus,” said Glenn Murphy, Director of the IMDO. “Follow the Fleet 2007 has a host of features that can be used to teach geography, general science and history to pupils aged between 7 and 9 in an easy and exciting way.”

Specifically, Follow the Fleet 2007 provides pupils and teachers with: 

  • A fully integrated on-line visual teaching aid with lesson plans.                    
  • A unique Satellite Tracker System for following nominated Merchant Ships on their journey around the world. This system uses satellite GPS and land-based communication services to provide position and situation data displayed on a world chart.                  
  • A real insight into the day to day life at sea, ship’s crew & equipment, commercial trade by sea and Ireland’s maritime history.  

“Follow The Fleet 2007 also creates interest in the classroom by allowing pupils to ‘adopt’ a merchant ship and follow it through its voyages on trade routes around the globe,” said Mr. Murphy. “Crew members of each of the ships are able to post messages on the systems, saying where their ships are and what they’re doing. This allows pupils to get a very realistic feel for life at sea and to understand how everyday household things, find their way to Ireland from the four corners of the world.”  

Follow The Fleet can be accessed by logging onto or contact the IMDO on 01 476 6500 for more information on joining the Follow the Fleet programme.   For further information please contact:  

Dr. John Joyce – Communications Manager, Marine Institute: 087 2250871

Mairead Ni Cheoinin – IMDO - 087 410 7880


Notes to Editor            

Over €130 billion worth of goods travel in and out of Ireland by sea each year, representing over 90% of all traded goods. Ireland is an island. It is totally dependent on its maritime trade routes, which is an important message for the citizens of the future.

The new “Follow the Fleet” scheme is fully interactive through the Internet, with a dedicated educational website hosting a world chart displaying in real-time the position of nominated Irish flagged vessels including the Marine Institute’s own research vessels RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager”.   

The project focuses on the use of the Purple Finder Satellite Tracker System which uses a conjunction of satellite GPS and land-based communication services to provide position and situation data.  

The Irish Maritime Development Office is the national agency charged with the responsibility for undertaking the following activities through its statutory remit:

To promote and assist the development of Irish shipping and Irish shipping services and seafarer training,

To liaise with, support and market the shipping and shipping services sector,

To advise the Minister on the development and co-ordination of policy in the shipping and shipping services sector so as to protect and create employment,

To carry out policy as may be specified by the Minister relating to the shipping and shipping services sector and seafarer training,

To promote the registration of ships in the State by any person entitled to so register

“Follow the Fleet” History - The original “Follow the Fleet” schools campaign was launched in 1967 by Irish Shipping Ltd, and was the brainchild of Mr. John Higgins, the then Marketing Manager of the company.  

Much like today’s updated version, the objective was to increase maritime awareness among school children and to acquaint participants with the worldwide trading activities of Ireland’s merchant ships.  

The project enabled schoolchildren to plot the Monday noon positions of all the company’s ships each week. Specially designed world maps, ship markers and regular information bulletins were issued by Irish Shipping Ltd to the participating schools.

The bulletins gave exact positions for each of the vessels, details of the ports of call, cargoes carried and additional relevant information such as weather etc. It proved to be highly popular with teachers, and had up to 30,000 school children involved annually.