Shannon harbourmaster Alan Coughlan president IHMA
He may not have quite the same status as Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, but on the high seas of the world, Capt Alan Coghlan now packs a considerable punch.
Alan, who is harbour master of the Shannon Estuary, is the new president of the International Harbourmasters Association, (IHMA).
He was elected to the position by harbourmasters from over 30 countries who met last week in Malta and is the first Irishman to hold the post. He succeeds Rear Admiral Bruce Richardson, CB, chief harbour master, London.
It is a great honour for me personally, for the company and for Irish harbour masters generally," Alan said this week.
Alan Coughlan elected president International Harbourmastera' Association
He paid tribute to former colleagues who had helped him in his career.
"I have been very lucky always to have role-models who pointed the way and I have learnt from them," he said.
Alan, who will be president for a four-year term, expects to be busy.
"It will involve a lot of hard work," he said.
The executive committee of the association, which includes harbourmasters from the world's biggest ports, meets four times a year, but is also involved in shaping policy and legislation at international level.
"We liaise with the European Union on legislation relating to navigation and radio systems and play a very full and active role in shaping maritime policy throughout Europe. We also have observer status at the International Maritime Organisation and advise them in their job of shaping international maritime law," said Alan.
As part of his presidential term, Alan hopes to raise the profile of harbourmasters generally.
"It is a role that very few people know much about," he said.
He is also hoping to make progress on developing professional best practice standards for harbourmasters internationally.
And he is keen to further extend the association's sphere of influence.
"We have members in 42 countries but I would like to see us represented in even more countries," he said.
He cited China as one of those countries.
"China is opening up and we are anxious to try and make contacts with our equivalents there," said Alan.
He was adamant that membership of the IHMA was enormously beneficial.
"Any member can post a problem on our web site and within 24 hours can have dozens of replies from other members giving advice or saying how they dealt with a similar problem," he said.
Originally from Malahide in Dublin, Alan went to sea in 1966 as a deck apprentice with Irish Shipping and subsequently served in all ranks on many ships of the national line throughout the world, eventually serving as master.
In 1982, he was appointed assistant harbourmaster with Limerick Harbour Commissioners and in 1993 succeeded Capt EK Donnelly as harbour master responsible for the estuary, with the exception of Foynes.
Following the amalgamation of the Limerick and Foynes ports, Alan was appointed harbourmaster in 2000 by the newly-formed Shannon Foynes Port Company, with responsibility for the entire estuary.
He has a Master's Certificate of Competency, a Diploma in Business Studies and is a member of the Irish Institute of Master Mariners and the Institute of Commercial Management.
Alan is married to Niamh from Sutton, County Dublin, and they have four sons, Jarlath, David, Rory and Ultan. Their eldest, Jarlath, is following in his father's footsteps by pursuing a life at sea with The
Commissioners of Irish Lights.