Naval staff shortage may see ship tied up while Ireland ‘awash with drugs’

Naval staff shortage may see ship tied up while Ireland ‘awash with drugs’
LÉ Ciara

The Naval Service is so under-resourced that there are fears it won’t be able to combat maritime drug shipments while at the same time adequately patrolling EU fishery waters post-Brexit.

Concerns have also been raised that it may have to tie up yet another ship, due to debilitating manpower shortages.

RACO, the organisation that represents the country’s military officers, said that despite tying up LÉ Eithne and LÉ Orla last June, the manpower crisis is deepening by the day and “there are concerns that the tying-up of a further ship could be imminent”.

RACO general secretary, Commandant Conor King, said it is worrying that even the remaining ships “are routinely operating on the edge of the minimum workable crewing numbers”.

He pointed out that LÉ Ciara was on sailing order on December 30, but failed to leave port until January 1 due to illness/injury of crew members.

“She was a small number of personnel short of the minimum safety crew of 34. This is the minimum safe number to crew a ship for damage control, fire suppression, and other critical safety considerations,” Comdt King said.

The officer said this “one man deep” phenomenon (if one person is unavailable, the mission cannot proceed) has left the Naval Service in what is described by experts as a “fragile” state.

“When a vessel routinely operates at these lower manning levels, then a crew member becoming sick or getting injured can potentially affect the ship’s operations. Ships need to be robustly manned, given the nature of a routine MDSO (Maritime Defence and Security Operations) patrol,” he said.

“When a ship’s crew is diminished like this, it must get relief personnel, either from other ships or from personnel who are not supposed to be on sea rotation, thereby exacerbating an already stressed working environment.”

He said this routine disruption to a person’s shore time is causing them to seek alternative employment as a result of the disturbance to their families, and leads to an increase in the frequency of duties for remaining personnel ashore.

“This is untenable, and all the more alarming when one considers that the Naval Service has already had to tie up two of its fleet and LÉ Róisín is in dry dock for her midlife refit. This means that three ships, or one third of the entire fleet, are non- operational,” said Comdt King.

Cathal Berry, former second-in-command of the elite Army Ranger Wing, and who has just been elected to the Dáil as an Independent, says urgent action is needed to get all the ships operational.

We need to get these ships back in the water as the country is awash with drugs and we simply don’t have the sailors to adequately patrol our seas, especially with Britain leaving the EU.

To protect UK maritime territory, its government has ordered two more patrol ships and two surveillance aircraft.

It has also earmarked a further 22 boats that can be deployed at short notice in the event of skirmishes between British trawlermen and their EU counterparts.

In 2018, French and British boats clashed over access to shellfish off the coast of Normandy, and last year it was alleged that French fishermen had attacked Devon-based fishing boats with petrol bombs, as another shellfish ‘war’ broke out in the English Channel.

Fears have been raised that EU-registered fishing boats could clash with British ones inside or on the edge of the Irish maritime patrol area.

Mr Berry said that when it comes to negotiating a new common fisheries policy with the the UK, if we don’t immediately bolster our Naval Service “we will be laughed out of the room”.

“The British will realise we can’t back up what we’re saying,” he said. “Around 99% of the drugs coming into this country do so by sea. The deterrent isn’t there any more because not enough of our ships can go out to sea.”

More on this topic

Irish Examiner View: A dangerous slideIrish Examiner View: A dangerous slide

Letters on naval ship civil war use not passed onLetters on naval ship civil war use not passed on

44 personnel have left naval service since vessels tied up44 personnel have left naval service since vessels tied up

Navy man who died during rescue mission remembered on 30th anniversaryNavy man who died during rescue mission remembered on 30th anniversary


More in this Section

Courts Service gets orders for information to identify people who posted about elderly woman onlineCourts Service gets orders for information to identify people who posted about elderly woman online

Teen only learned of sexual assault on her from Facebook videoTeen only learned of sexual assault on her from Facebook video

New NI Secretary of State meets Simon Coveney in BelfastNew NI Secretary of State meets Simon Coveney in Belfast

Cavan syndicate of 295 members claim over €250k EuroMillions prizeCavan syndicate of 295 members claim over €250k EuroMillions prize


Lifestyle

Veterinary medicine is a demanding career, leading to mental health problems for some vets.Elephant in the clinic: Helpline offers support to vets with mental health difficulties

Bonnie Ryan couldn’t be happier.On a roll: Why Bonnie Ryan couldn't be happier

From Ireland to America and fashion to homeswares, designer Helen James is developing interiors products for the high street with an emphasis on sustainability, beauty and function, writes Carol O’CallaghanConsider this: Meet Helen James

Laura Harding goes on location to see where the new adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma was shotBehind the Scenes: Getting the inside story on the movie Emma

More From The Irish Examiner