picture of woman in Irish Coast Guard uniform against a blurred background with a picture of a ship to the lft of her and a picture of a radio control desk to the right of her

A volunteer with her local Coast Guard unit, Amy decided to apply for the role of Watch Officer to utilise her skills and experience she had gained from her voluntary work and her background in the Merchant Navy. She also wanted to be a strong role model for her daughters and show them that you can achieve anything once you put your mind to it, despite the many obstacles or hardships that may come your way.

What was your career path to becoming a Watch Officer?

I initially qualified as a Navigation Watch Officer in the Merchant Navy when I left school. I worked for some years with BP Shipping as a Third Officer on Oil and Gas Tankers, before moving ashore to work in STS operations. This was followed by a complete career change. I moved to Ethiopia to work in an international school. When I returned to Ireland in 2016, I was a stay at home mother for a couple of years before joining my local Coast Guard Unit in Bonmahon as a volunteer. It was there that I heard about an advertisement for a Watch Officer recruitment campaign and decided to apply.

What does your role entail as a Watch Officer?

The role of the Watch Officer has many responsibilities. A key role is to provide a marine distress listening watch. Watch Officers also broadcast marine safety information and respond to ship casualties and maritime disasters. I am also responsible for the coordination of search and rescue in the Irish region, along the coasts, cliffs and inaccessible areas. We monitor the Irish exclusive economic zone and intervene as necessary for marine casualties to prevent or minimize damage to the marine environment. I co-ordinate the sea response to maritime pollution from ships and offshore installations. I provide support to statutory bodies or agencies in emergency response.

What opportunities has the role provided you with?

This role has given me the opportunity to work with members from a range of different emergency services with a huge variety of backgrounds and to learn from their knowledge and experience. As this role operates on a shift basis, it provides me with enough time off to continue volunteering with my local Coast Guard Unit.

What were your reasons for applying for a Watch Officer role?

With my background in both the Merchant Navy and Coast Guard volunteer experience, I felt that it would be an interesting and rewarding career in which to use the skills, expertise and knowledge gained over the years. I also wanted to be a strong role model for my daughters and show them you can achieve anything once you put your mind to it, despite the many obstacles or hardships that may come your way.

As a Watch Officer, you may be the first point of contact in an emergency at sea. Can you tell us how your role plays a part in a rescue mission and what impact it can have on Irish society?

We are often the first point of contact for vessels or members of the public in distress. We decide what assets need to be allocated to the incident. We also monitor the safety of the responding teams from helicopters, lifeboats, and volunteers by staying in regular communication with them and acting as a liaison when required. It is an amazing feeling to leave at the end of a shift and realise that the actions and decisions you made during an emergency, results in someone returning home safely to their families and that your actions have contributed to a good outcome.

Would you recommend a career in the Public Sector?

A career in the Irish Coast Guard can allow you to have a direct impact on the lives of others and for that reason, I would definitely recommend it.