New recruits are leaving the naval service because they can not use their smartphones at sea.
Sources within the naval service have said life at sea can be more demanding than young people envisage, and some recruits have left because they can not live without their mobile phones.
Apparently, some recruits did not realise they would have no coverage at sea, or that the use of mobile phones is banned on some sensitive patrols.
“The problem is not unique to the naval service, the British [navy] have also encountered it,” a source said. “Some young people are simply attached to smartphones and won’t give them up under any circumstances.”
He also indicated that the British found that bunking more people together actually eased the problem because they began to talk to each other instead of constantly using social media on their phones.
Separately, naval bosses have warned they may have to tie up another vessel if they lose any more specialist personnel. Last June, the Irish Examiner revealed that the naval service tied up two of its ships indefinitely due to a lack of crew.
LÉ Eithne, the flagship, and LÉ Orla, were brought in for maintenance ‘refits’ and their crews were transferred to other vessels to bring their manpower up to adequate levels.
While the navy at present says it has enough ordinary and able seamen to run what remains of the active fleet up to the end of the year, it has added a caveat that this could change if it loses key, specialist personnel who are in short supply.
These include marine engineering officers and engine room artificers (marine engineering technicians), weapons experts, and cooks. At present, the navy has around 55% of the engine room artificers it requires.
It had sought expressions of interest from the private sector. However, it as yet has been unable to recruit anybody suitable and pay is a key issue. Fully-qualified engine room technicians can earn up to €30,000 a year more in the private sector.
Both Raco, the organisation which represents enlisted officers, and PDForra, the association for enlisted personnel, have called on the Department of Defence to introduce special loyalty bonuses to entice specialists to stay in the naval service.