February 23, 2019

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

Medical exams underway on staff of navy ships where asbestos detected

Medical screenings on civilian employees who worked on the navy ships where asbestos was detected are being carried out.

According to the Minister of State at the Departments of An Taoiseach and Defence Paul Kehoe, all staff on board LE Ciara, LE Orla and in the Naval Service dockyard, including the civilian workforce, have been briefed on the situation to date.

Answering a parliamentary question, he said that all Naval Service personnel who may have come into contact with asbestos have been screened by the Naval Medical Officer. “Medical screening of civilian employees by an occupational health practitioner has commenced and will be completed in the coming weeks,” said Kehoe.


Earlier this year while work was being carried out on both LE Orla and LE Ciara material which was suspected as being asbestos was found on both ships. A full survey and analysis of the ships confirmed that the material was asbestos.

Kehoe said that the HSA launched its own investigation into the incident and this is ongoing.

“I am advised that the HSA has visited the Naval Base a number of times and has served the Naval Service with an improvement notice under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005,” he said.

Since the discovery of asbestos, air sampling and monitoring has been conducted by an external contractor on both ships and in the transport workshops and the samples taken were found to be safe.

As part of the requirements under the HSA improvement notice, the Naval Service has engaged an external company, Abestaways, who are specialists in asbestos removals, to undertake the deep “environmental clean” of the two ships.

This clean-up commenced on 26 May and is estimated to take a number of weeks.

On completion of this process an independent asbestos consultancy company, Phoenix Environmental, will carry out air monitoring, analysis and third party assurance and reissue a re-occupational certificate as required by the HSA.

Kehoe said that in the early 2000s, an external asbestos company was brought in to inspect the ships. The company gave the fleet the all clear,despite asbsetos being present in some of the ships.

“That consultancy is no longer in business,” said Kehoe.

Serious situation 

“I am advised by the Naval Service that a full asbestos audit of all ships in the fleet will be carried out and in the interim a full asbestos risk assessment will be carried out prior to any work commencing. As I mentioned previously, this matter is being treated with the utmost seriousness and attention by the Department of Defence and the Naval Service,” he said.

Kehoe said the Naval Service will be launching a formal accident investigation team to investigate all aspects behind this occurrence and “to ensure that there is no repetition in the future”.

The minister said that while the cleaning is underway, the Naval Service is only currently operating six of its ships, just 75 per cent of its resources.

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Medical exams underway on staff of navy ships where asbestos detected

Large payout for asbestos victim

Large payout for asbestos victim, from Hockley, who worked at Shoebury MOD site

By Michelle Archard

Echo: Large payout for asbestos victim

Large payout for asbestos victim

AN ELECTRICIAN suffering from terminal cancer has won a six-figure payout after being exposed to deadly asbestos during his work at the military base in Shoebury.

The 64-year old from Hockley, who does not want to be named, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in April 2012 after suffering from pain in his ribs, a persistent cough and breathlessness.

He underwent treatment at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, but has since been given the devastating news the cancer has spread to his brain.

The father-of-two was exposed to asbestos while working at the Ministry of Defence’s Shoebury munitions testing site, for his employer the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, now the Department for Communities and Local Government, between 1965 and 1970.

Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell in London negotiated an undisclosed six-figure sum for him which will help cover the cost of care when his condition deteriorates and further limits his independence.

He says it feels “like some justice has been done”.

His job involved drilling holes in walls and ceilings which were clad with asbestos in workshops and research units.

He said: “After drilling holes in walls and ceilings, I had to sweep up the dust and debris the work had created. I was an apprentice.

“We didn’t really think anything of breathing in the dust as we worked because we were never told of the dangers or given any safety gear to wear.

“During my apprenticeship, I worked in various buildings on the Shoebury site. I did electrical work as part of the refurbishment of buildings. When we were doing refurbishments all of the trades were working together and I believe I was exposed to asbestos dust from colleagues lagging pipes near me.”

The man began feeling unwell in February 2012 and was diagnosed with mesothelioma two months later following tests and scans.

He added: “It was devastating to find out that asbestos exposure had given me cancer and that my symptoms will get worse.

“My illness is terminal so it’s heartbreaking for my family, and now it has spread to my brain.

“We are all anxious about what the future holds, but I amgrateful to have the support around me from my loved ones.

“The settlement will be a big help financially when it comes to my care and will help support my family to look after me and help me to battle on against this incurable disease.

“It feels like justice has been done as my former employer should have done something to protect me and my colleagues.”

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Large payout for asbestos victim