Navy seeking more time to rid ships of asbestos

The Naval Service is seeking more time from the Heath & Safety Authority (HSA) to remove asbestos from two ships which have been out of commission since last May.

It’s understood to be the second extension the navy has sought since expert asbestos contractors started work on the LÉ Ciara and LÉ Orla.

Civilian and military personnel unknowingly cut up asbestos onboard while routine maintenance was being undertaken.

As soon as it was discovered that it was asbestos they were cutting up, officers ordered the ships to be locked down.

Navy sources say that work is also progressing on sanitising transport workshops at its headquarters on Haulbowline Island.

Some of the asbestos was also stored in these buildings.

They have indicated that work is “progressing positively” on criteria laid down by the HSA to address the problem, but it is taking more time than initially expected.

The asbestos will be transported to Germany for disposal.

It is hoped that both of the ships will be put back into service before the end of the year.

All 116 Naval Service personnel and civilian workers who came in contact with the substance have been medically screened.

PDForra general secretary Gerry Rooney claimed Naval Service management initially made a “ponderous response” to the asbestos crisis. However, they were caught wrong-footed because a report commissioned 14 years ago said the entire fleet was asbestos free.

“Eventually the problem was addressed correctly in that asbestos awareness was increased, the associated training was provided for those coming into contact with asbestos and personal protective equipment was provided where appropriate,” Mr Rooney said,

“Unfortunately some individuals had contact with asbestos before the new safety regime was put in place and it is now incumbent on both management and PDForra to ensure that their health and related interests are protected and advanced.”

He maintained there was serious need for the Government to invest even more in newer ships.

“Old vessels need more maintenance and repair and it is a false economy and more hazardous for the crews that keep them going,” Mr Rooney said.

“The interception recently by the LÉ Róisín and LÉ Niamh of a yacht carrying a tonne of cocaine highlights, in the best possible way, the value and effectiveness of the a modern Naval Service,” Mr Rooney said.

E-cigs ban

The Naval Service has banned the use of e-cigarettes onboard its vessels and the other two arms of the Defence Forces are expected to follow suit shortly.

The Defence Forces are understood to be formulating a policy on where e-cigarettes can or cannot be used and this is expected to be finalised shortly.

It’s believed the policy will direct banning their use indoors at army bases and air corps installations.

However, the Naval Service recently decided to ban their use below decks because of the confined space.

Personnel now have to join their smoking colleagues at a designated area on the upper decks.


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