An asbestos clean-up has begun on a third Naval Service vessel after the potentially lethal substance was found on board last Saturday.
The LÉ Eithne was brought into the Naval Service’s headquarters at Haulbowline for routine maintenance when a worker spotted asbestos in the fuel area of the vessel’s former helicopter landing pad. She is the third ship of the eight-vessel fleet on which the substance has been found. Two others had to be put into lock-down as a result.
A Defence Forces spokesman said of the latest discovery: “The compartment [in which the asbestos was discovered] was immediately sealed. The LÉ Eithne is not subject to a lock-down. The hazard has been contained and the vessel is undergoing a full environmental clean by an external licensed contractor concurrent to routine maintenance.”
The LÉ Ciara and LÉ Orla have both been out of commission for several months since asbestos was discovered on them.
The clean-up is being undertaken in conjunction with the Health and Safety Association and began on May 28. The Naval Service is unable to say when it will be completed.
It is the second time that asbestos has been identified on the LÉ Eithne, which was built at Verolme Dockyard in 1984.
The vessel used to carry a SA365f Dauphin helicopter on a flight deck. The latest asbestos find was made in this area.
The ship’s helicopter operations stopped a few years ago, due to the purchase of CASA CN235-100MP Persuader Maritime Patrol Aircraft, and the decommissioning of the Dauphin helicopters. Asbestos was also found in a gasket in one of LÉ Aoife’s engines.
A week ago, the Naval Service confirmed it had begun a fleet-wide survey.
While it is not believed that the substance is onboard any of its newer vessels, they will also be surveyed as a precaution.
Inhaling asbestos dust can be potentially lethal and the symptoms can take up to 40 years to manifest themselves. A total of 116 Naval Service personnel and civilian workers are so far understood to have come in contact with asbestos on board the ships or in workshop sheds at the Naval Service’s headquarters on Haulbowline Island. They have been medically screened.
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