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October 20, 2018

Asbestos all-clear for Naval Service ships as LÉ Orla readies for high seas

Work on removing potentially lethal asbestos on the Naval Service ship LÉ Orla has been completed, although it will be a few weeks before she becomes fully operational again.

When back on patrol, it will mean that the Naval Service is back to its full complement of eight ships as the LÉ Ciara was also dry-docked for several months while asbestos was removed from it.

A specialist contractor was employed to remove the substance and send it for disposal to Germany.

While the cost of the operation hasn’t been disclosed by the Department of Defence, industry experts say it is likely to top €1m.

Both ships were put out of commission on May 28 last year when significant amounts of asbestos was found onboard. The clean-up operation was overseen by the Health and Safety Authority.

The Naval Service said it has completed a fleet-wide asbestos review and can now confirm a clean bill of health for all vessels.

In 2000, the Department of Defence commissioned consultants to examine all the fleet and reported there was no asbestos onboard any vessels.

The company which carried out that examination has since ceased to exist, meaning that the taxpayer will have to foot the bill for the clean-ups.

In the 1980s, asbestos was widely used in the ship-building industry, especially in engine rooms to insulate pipes and boilers. At the time, it was considered the best and most cost-effective insulating material and was also fire-resistant.

A total of 116 Naval Service personnel and civilian workers are understood to have come in contact with asbestos onboard the ships or at the Naval Service’s headquarters on Haulbowline Island, Cobh.

They have been medically examined and have been promised regular screening in the years to come, as it can take up to 40 years for the symptoms to manifest.

In the meantime, Naval Service sources say they’re hopeful that the latest addition to the fleet, LÉ James Joyce, will arrive at their Haulbowline headquarters in Cork harbour around St Patrick’s Day.

However, this will depend on there being no hiccups during her sea trials.

The €50m vessel is being built at a shipyard in Appledore, Devon, by the same company which supplied the LÉ Samuel Beckett, which became operational last year.

The LÉ James Joyce will replace the LÉ Aoife, which is in the process of being decommissioned and is set to be sold off through auction.

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Asbestos all-clear for Naval Service ships as LÉ Orla readies for high seas

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