BIM defends closure of ice plants

Government chief whip Paul Kehoe has criticised Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) for a lack of communication with fishermen on the suspension of production at three ice plants.

BIM defends closure of ice plants

Two of the plants are in the south east and the Wexford TD said the BIM decision had been “bizarre”.

Mr Keohoe said he had been told there was no ice available at the plants to trawlers in Waterford and Wexford, in particular.

But BIM defended its decision to “temporarily stop production” at Howth in Dublin, and at Dunmore East and Kilmore Quay.

The fisheries development body said that a decision to suspend production was due to health and safety concerns for workers.

But Mr Kehoe said: “I’m sure BIM would have known there was a health and safety issue and they should have addressed this issue before Friday or had communicated the decision to the fishermen or, at least, give them some notice of what was happening.”

In a statement, however, BIM said the decision was taken following a number of health and safety concerns raised in a recent audit and was done in the best interests of its employees and contractors.

One concern highlighted in the audit related to staff shortages with some personnel working alone in the plants.

“Many of BIM’s ice plants are old buildings dating from the late 1970s.

“As a result, this can pose challenges with regard to modern health and safety standards.

“One issue identified as a risk in the audit relates to personnel shortages with some staff working on their own in the plants.

“BIM fully understands the importance of the ice plants to the fishing industry and is doing everything in its power to resolve the issues and reopen the plants as soon as possible,” a statement pointed out.

A number of fishermen had expressed concern they might not be able to fish due to a shortage of ice at the affected ports.

The Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation said it was made aware of the issue by some of its members on Tuesday and had received assurances from BIM that there would be enough ice available for fisherman utilising the ports.

Eibhlín O’Sullivan, the organisation’s chief executive, said: “When we raised the issue that the supply available may be insufficient to meet the demand, BIM also provided us with an assurance that if supply in the three plants was exhausted they will put in place alternative mechanisms to supply ice to these locations.

“We have advised our members accordingly and will continue to liaise with BIM with a view to ensuring both continuity of supply and also that the plants are re-opened as quickly as possible,” she said.

Ireland South MEP Liadh Ní Riada accused fisheries minister Simon Coveney of “sleepwalking” into a crisis and called on him to intervene immediately to ensure the plants are open by today.

“Had the minister even a passing interest in the fisheries sector he would have been able to avert this crisis before it began by assigning additional resources to these plants.

“I am calling on him now to personally intervene in order to bring these plants back into operation immediately.” She added: “In the meantime, ice must be supplied to fishermen at no extra cost in order to enable them to continue fishing.”

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