Work has officially started on a new Coast Guard station on the Waterford coast.

Two ministers of state were in Bunmahon this morning for the sod-turning ceremony at the €5.3 million facility, which will replace a temporary building currently used by 18 Coast Guard volunteers in the area.

Bunmahon's station is one of 44 around the Irish coast, used by almost 1,000 volunteers, and the new building will incorporate a garage for three cliff rescue facilities as well as an IT and communications room, emergency operations room, and toilet, shower and changing facilities.

"The Irish Coast Guard provides a critical service for Irish people, saving life at sea and protecting the marine environment," Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton - who has responsibility for the Coast Guard - said at this morning's event.

"The commitment and dedication of our volunteers is second to none."

She described the Bunmahon unit as "a key resource" for the Irish Coast Guard in delivering its search and rescue mission in the area.

"The unit has shoreline and cliff rescue capabilities and works closely with its flank units at Ardmore and Tramore," she said.

"The Waterford team here has responded to many search and cliff rescue emergencies down through the years, both maritime and inland, in rural communities and in the larger townlands of Tramore and Dungarvan."

Minister Patrick O'Donovan - who has responsibility for the Office of Public Works - said the OPW is delighted to assist with the design and construction of the purpose-built premises.

"These new facilities, once completed, will provide improved accommodation and adequate vehicle storage to help the local volunteers to continue providing this very valuable service to the many communities along the south east coast."

The Department of Transport said that construction of the facility will take about 12 months to complete.