Eleven of the smaller lighthouses have also been converted to operate from solar power: Dun Laoghaire West, Muglins, Copper Point, Scattery Island, Blackhead Clare, Inishgort, Oyster Island, Metal Man, Angus Rock, Green Island, and Vidal Bank; and, of course, our buoys have operated using solar power for many years. This has been made possible by the development of new light sources: small metal halide lamps, tungsten filament lamps, light emitting diodes (LEDs), the use of clusters of lamps and diffusers, and advances in solar panel technology and batteries.
Automatic Identification Systems (AIS)
The development of AIS has been one of the most significant developments for safety and security at sea over recent years. Irish Lights, with its partners in the other General Lighthouse Authorities, has been carrying out trials to evaluate its potential as an aid to navigation. In September 2004 Irish Lights was approved for funding to the value of €1m through the EU Interreg IIIA programme to provide AIS capability on aids to navigation of special primary navigation significance in seas adjacent to Northern Ireland and the border counties.
The Interreg IIIA programme is for funding trans-national projects that enhance maritime activities and promote territorial integration across seas in North West Europe. The project is for the provision of AIS capability for seven aids to navigation. It requires fitting monitoring units and shore base stations for the transmission of AIS broadcasts and will facilitate research into AIS transmission coverage and marine traffic patterns. EU funding to 75% of the value of the project is being supplemented with 25% from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.
The project will significantly enhance safety and communications at sea in Northern Ireland and the border counties. This region includes North-South Irish Sea traffic, the North Channel traffic separation scheme, and the Northern Ireland to Scotland passenger corridor.
An undersea mains electricity cable was laid from the pier at Ballycotton out to the island on 17 July 2004. As I write, the mains supply has yet to be connected; however, work is proceeding at the lighthouse in carrying out the rest of the re-engineering work involved in this major project.
The new mains powered light at Charlesfort Lighthouse was put into operation on the 14 April 2004. Charlesfort Lighthouse is a directional light marking the way to a safe refuge anchorage and the sheltered waters close to Kinsale. The conversion of this lighthouse to operate from electricity marks the end of a long era of gas powered lights in our Service.
The existing glass catadioptric third order cylindrical lens has been retained and fitted with 12 volt 20 watt tungsten halogen lamps in a six position lampchanger, to provide an increased range light of 9 nautical miles in the white sector, 6 nautical miles in the red sector, and 7 nautical miles in the green sector. The system is backed by duplicated chargers and 24 volt 170 ampere hour batteries, and is monitored using a Datac 922 system operating over the mobile phone network to Dun Laoghaire.
Crookhaven Lighthouse has just undergone a complete re-engineering when a new light arrangement was put into operation on 25 March 2004. The light consists of a cluster of four 12 volt 35 watt tungsten halogen lamps flashing in synchronism in the existing glass catadioptric second order cylindrical lens. The mains failure generating set has been removed and the light is now backed by duplicated chargers and 24 volt 240 ampere hour batteries. A Datac 922 remote control and monitoring unit has been installed which operates over the telephone network to the monitoring centre in Dun Laoghaire. The road to the lighthouse has also been resurfaced.
We operate three lighthouses on Rathlin Island. Mains electricity was extended to the third of the lighthouses on the island, Rue Point, on 27 November 2003. This enabled upgrading of the main light on 25 March 2004, and withdrawal of the wind powered generator.
The light now operates using a biform lbex 300 lantern in which each lens is equipped with a six position lampchanger fitted with 12 volt 108 watt tungsten halogen lamps. The lamps operate in synchronism to provide the 14 nautical mile light, and the system is supported by duplicated chargers and 330 ampere hour batteries in the tower with a mains failure generator set in the engine room close by.
Rathlin West was automated in the early 1980s and mains electricity extended to the station in 1996. Whereas the optic arrangements have been retained virtually as at automation, a project to upgrade and replace support equipment took place in 2004. The generating plant, controls, and distribution equipment have been removed from the engine room at the top of this upside-down lighthouse, and replaced by a mains failure generating set located in the old oil store at the entrance level by the road. A new emergency light has been fitted, some batteries replaced, and a new remote control and monitoring unit is being installed.
At Rathlin East the storey-and-a-half house is being refurbished for use as Service accommodation. An ais base station has been installed which is being used to transmit trial safety related messages in the area around the traffic separation scheme in the North Channel.
Chaine Tower Lighthouse
Anybody around the Larne area earlier this summer may have noticed the causeway out to Chaine Tower in a bit of disarray. In days of old the mains electricity cable had been run out to the lighthouse in the hand railing; however, with the hand railing rusting away, and to comply with current safety practices, we have now placed the mains supply cable underground. Next year we will be looking at re-engineering the optic system and support equipment.
Dunmore East Lighthouse
Those of you taking a stroll down the pier at Dunmore East in the early part of the year can hardly have failed to notice the tower enveloped in scaffolding. A significant amount of the plastering had de-bonded from the stone walls inside in the tower and when the plaster was stripped down, investigations indicated the problem was one of water ingress through cracked and deteriorating masonry jointing.
Dunmore East Lighthouse is a protected structure and on advice from experts in the conservation and restoration of old buildings, a hydraulic lime mortar was used to re-point the tower. The use of this material, a traditional technology, allows the building to breathe, permitting evaporation of moisture, and allows thermal movements of expansion and contraction in the masonry. The pointing was successfully completed in early May, the tower dried out, and the scaffolding has since been removed.
For a number of years I have outlined trials we have carried out using a number of very large buoys which we have termed Superbuoys. The objective of the trials is to find a suitable replacement for our major floating aids to navigation such as the automated lightvessels.
The design which has eventually emerged from these trials is now considered to be sufficiently robust to propose a new solution for marking the Coningbeg Rocks, in conjunction with the provision of a local sectored lighted beacon.
The specification for the buoy includes use of
• duplicated 4 tier led lanterns, flashing in synchronism to provide a range of 10 nautical miles,
• a dual x/s band frequency agile racon with the facility automatically to change code should the buoy drift off station,
• an AIS unit incorporating GPS and differential GPS receivers, to provide autonomous position and aid to navigation status and alarm reporting directly to shipping, and to the Irish Lights monitoring centre at Dun Laoghaire,
all powered using a duplicated hybrid solar and wave activated generator power system. This is the challenge, and it remains to be seen how all of it will come to fruition over the next few years.
In the meantime it is necessary to ensure reliable service from the remaining lightfloats (automated lightvessels) until the replacement aids to navigation are available. ALF Gannet underwent a successful drydock and refit at the Cork Dockyard during the September-October 2004 period. She was removed from the Coningbeg station and towed to and from Cork by ILV Granuaile, and replaced on station by one of the experimental superbuoys for the duration of the refit.
At the end of September, ALF Kittiwake was towed by ILV Granuaile from the South Rock station into sheltered waters in Ballyhalbert Bay, where Granuaile's crew and a team of technicians from Dun Laoghaire worked together carrying out repairs and painting over a ten day period. A port hand first class buoy was placed on station for the duration of the operation.
At the end of September 2004 the Commissioners of Irish Lights were honoured to host an IALA workshop, attended by 50 delegates from 19 countries, in the Clontarf Castle Hotel, Dublin. The workshop was on the subject of light sources, solar power, and batteries and was entitled IALABATT/IALALITE. IALA workshops deal with particular tasks where experts come together for about four days to assist IALA with writing or revising recommendations or guidelines on particular subjects.
In this instance the objective of the workshop was to review guidelines on photovoltaic systems for aids to navigation, and guidelines on new light sources, particularly LEDS, and their associated power systems.
In October 2004, following the workshop, Irish Lights hosted a meeting of the IALA Engineering, Environment and Preservation (EEP) Committee. This committee deals with all engineering, environmental, and preservation aspects of aids to navigation and carries out studies, gives advice, and produces guidelines and recommendations on relevant issues.
Seamus Doyle, recently appointed as Vice-Chairman of the EEP Committee, led the Irish Lights team in running both of these very successful events. As part of the technical programme for both events, participants visited the Baily museum, the heritage centre at Hook Head Lighthouse, and the restored octagonal tower at Wicklow Head.
Work in progress
Once again it has been a busy year. The buoy conversion programme continues apace, with buoy bowls being modified to take the new standard aluminium superstructures. This programme is due to be completed in the 2005-06 timeframe. A Lanby (large automatic navigation buoy) has once again been successfully refitted in Dun Laoghaire and was deployed on 9 November 2004 on the Arklow station. Painting and building operations, and electrical and mechanical maintenance operations continue to be carried out efficiently and effectively achieving improved aid to navigation availability figures once again this year. Successful integrated operations with ILV Granuaile and helicopter support are regularly undertaken. The design and project teams continue to produce innovative solutions. The support services of stores and purchasing play a vital role in our achievements. My thanks are due to all my colleagues for their continued support and dedication to their tasks. Well done!