Robot Submarine Used in Joint Exercise

(Picture: Dr Peter Heffernan of the Marine Institute (Centre) demonstrates the ROV Holland 1 to Minister Tony Killeen T.D. and Marine Institute Chairman Mr. Jim Fennell (Right) alongside the research vessell RV Celtic Explorer in Galway Docks earlier this year)A major marine search and recovery exercise co-ordinated by the Irish Coast Guard took place off the Cork coastline from 12-15 July 2010. 

(Picture: Dr Peter Heffernan of the Marine Institute (Centre) demonstrates the ROV Holland 1 to Minister Tony Killeen T.D. and Marine Institute Chairman Mr. Jim Fennell (Right) alongside the research vessell RV Celtic Explorerin Galway Docks earlier this year).

The exercise, in conjunction with the Marine Institute, the Commissioner for Irish Lights and the Navy, simulated some major emergency situations including an aircraft crash, recovery of the 'Black Box'.  The simulation exercise also involved deep diving operations and the seeking and survey of a wrecked vessel. It also incorporated the recovery of items such as ditched contraband and the rendering safe of underwater explosives. 

picture of robot claw grabbing black box

The robot claw of the ROV Holland 1 latches on to a simulated Flight Recorder on the bottom of the sea. (Photo: Marine Institute/P&O Management Services)

A Service Level Agreement between the Irish Aviation Authority and the Irish Coast Guard was agreed in February of this year. It was agreed that should an aircraft force land in a maritime area, the IAA's Air Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) would be responsible for determining the initial search area, but co-ordination shall then transfer to the Coast Guard with continued close co-operation and back-up services from ARCC. As a result of this it was seen that there would need to be close cooperation between all the different agencies and authorities in responding to such a scenario. One of the most important aspects of an aircraft incident investigation is the location and recovery of the aircraft's 'black box'.  The Coast Guard, as part of an Agreement with Commissioner of Irish Lights, has chartered their vessel   ILV Granuaile, to act as a marine platform for Naval Divers and Holland 1, the Marine Institute's robot submarine a Remotely Operated vehicle (ROV).

control room images from ROV Holland 1

Images from the control room as the ROV Holland 1 latches on to its target. (Photo: Marine Institute/P&O Management Services)

Holland 1 and the Navy Dive Team were deployed from ILV Granuaile. Primarily used in maintenance of Aids to Navigation the ILVGranuaile is a sophisticated multi functional vessel whose 80-metre length, 16 metre and Dynamic Positioning capability make her an ideal platform for this task. The naval vessel L.E. Eithne was be on site for the duration of the exercise with its Commanding Officer acting as on-scene co-ordinator. The L.E. Eithne acted as the under water crisis management centre for all the personnel involved in the exercise, including the eighteen person naval diving team and the ROV operators and Coast Guard personnel.

Speaking on the event, Minister Noel Dempsey TD said: "The purpose of this joint exercise was to ensure and examine the level and quality of preparedness in the Irish Coast Guard response and that of our intra-agency partners.  Simulations such as are a valuable way to test our co-ordinated emergency response to ensure that in the event of a major emergency, that the appropriate and necessary measures are in place in search, rescue and recovery."

Minister of Defence Mr. Tony Killeen T.D., said that "through Inter Agency co-operation and establishing appropriate protocols for joint exercises we can ensure our ships and our divers are ready to respond in an appropriate and timely manner for given situations."

ROV Holland 1 being retrieved

Recovering the ROV Holland 1 after a successful dive. (Photo: Marine Institute/P&O Management Services)

"While the ROV Holland was acquired primarily as a research vessel, another key function is to provide the capability to assist underwater search and recovery operations," said Mr. Sean Connick, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. "We were therefore delighted to take part in this important exercise, which will involve a combined national ROV team piloting the Holland 1 operated by Naval and Marine Institute pilots."

Navy diving team standing by

The Navy Diving Team about to enter the water. (Photo: Marine Institute/P&O Management Services)

Holland 1 and Granuaile are available for inter agency work as part of Service Level Agreements between the various parties which promote inter-agency cooperation and the up-skilling of personnel in each organisations for collaborative operations.