Paul joined the Irish Coast Guard as a Watch Officer in 2014 and within three years of joining the Marine Rescue Coordination Centre (MRSC) in Malin Head was promoted to Station Officer. After a further two years, Paul had the opportunity to apply for the position of Divisional Controller, which is the Manager of the Rescue Coordination Centre and the main point of contact for the entire Malin Division, and he has now been in that position for three years.
Tell us about a typical day as a Watch Officer with the Irish Coast Guard?
There is never a typical day as a watch office within the Irish Coast Guard, every day is different. For the Marine Rescue Coordination Centre (MRSC) in Malin Head, the shift usually starts on nights when you start at 2100 until 0900 the next morning, you do two nights and two days (0900 – 2100). Routine work includes monitoring the VHF/MF channels, broadcasting the weather, radio navigation warnings, gale & small Craft warnings and routine phone calls. Then there is the main part of the job, which is responding to emergencies, these can come from a 999/112 call, Mayday or PanPan on the VHF/MF or EPIRB/PLB alert. Every job is different and they range from tasking assets to saving persons in the water, long range medevacs off ships, assisting in mountain rescues and inter hospital transfers by helicopter. So, all in all there is not a typical day working for the Coast Guard, it is varied, challenging and always interesting.
What was your career path to becoming a Watch Officer?
I started out as a Deck Cadet and gained my Officer of the Watch license. After that, I joined Princess Cruises as a Navigation Officer. I spent nine years working with Princess Cruises. I was part of the new build project for Royal Princess and spent six months living in Italy while the ship was in construction. I then brought the ship into service as Navigation Officer. I joined the Coast Guard as a Watch Officer in 2014 and was assigned to Malin Head. I was promoted to Divisional Controller in Malin in 2019.
What are/were your main responsibilities as a Watch Officer?
Watch Officers provide a marine radio distress listening service, broadcast marine safety information, as well as providing the national Marine Assistance Service and responding to ship casualties and maritime disasters. Watch Officers coordinate Search and Rescue in the Irish search and rescue region, along the coasts and cliffs of Ireland, and inland in conjunction with An Garda Síochána, as well as in neighbouring search and rescue region as required. Watch Officers monitor the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and intervene as necessary for marine casualties to prevent or minimise damage to the marine environment by oil and Hazardous and Noxious Substances’ (HNS) from ships and offshore installations and coordinate the at sea response to maritime pollution from ships and offshore installations. They also provide support on request to statutory bodies or agencies particularly in emergency response.
What were your reasons for applying for a Watch Officer role?
I chose to apply for the Watch Officer role as I was looking for something shore based but still within the marine sector so that I could apply the competencies I gained while at sea. I was looking for a role which would be challenging and rewarding and would also be financially stable. I was also just about to become a father so that really prioritized the move ashore. I only live 30 minutes from MRSC Malin Head so the job advertised had everything I was looking for to progress my career.
Would you recommend a career in the Public Sector?
After joining the Coast Guard, I worked as a watch officer at Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) Dublin for eight months and then got a transfer to MRSC Malin Head. Within three years of joining MRSC Malin Head I was promoted to Station officer, which means I was in charge of the watch and after a further two years the opportunity came up to apply for the position of Divisional Controller (this is the Manager of the Rescue Coordination Centre and the main point of contact for the entire Malin Division). I have been in this role now for over three years.