February 20, 2019

Asbestos found on board third naval vessel

An asbestos clean-up has begun on a third Naval Service vessel after the potentially lethal substance was found on board last Saturday.

The LÉ Eithne was brought into the Naval Service’s headquarters at Haulbowline for routine maintenance when a worker spotted asbestos in the fuel area of the vessel’s former helicopter landing pad. She is the third ship of the eight-vessel fleet on which the substance has been found. Two others had to be put into lock-down as a result.

A Defence Forces spokesman said of the latest discovery: “The compartment [in which the asbestos was discovered] was immediately sealed. The LÉ Eithne is not subject to a lock-down. The hazard has been contained and the vessel is undergoing a full environmental clean by an external licensed contractor concurrent to routine maintenance.”

The LÉ Ciara and LÉ Orla have both been out of commission for several months since asbestos was discovered on them.

The clean-up is being undertaken in conjunction with the Health and Safety Association and began on May 28. The Naval Service is unable to say when it will be completed.

It is the second time that asbestos has been identified on the LÉ Eithne, which was built at Verolme Dockyard in 1984.

The vessel used to carry a SA365f Dauphin helicopter on a flight deck. The latest asbestos find was made in this area.

The ship’s helicopter operations stopped a few years ago, due to the purchase of CASA CN235-100MP Persuader Maritime Patrol Aircraft, and the decommissioning of the Dauphin helicopters. Asbestos was also found in a gasket in one of LÉ Aoife’s engines.

A week ago, the Naval Service confirmed it had begun a fleet-wide survey.

While it is not believed that the substance is onboard any of its newer vessels, they will also be surveyed as a precaution.

Inhaling asbestos dust can be potentially lethal and the symptoms can take up to 40 years to manifest themselves. A total of 116 Naval Service personnel and civilian workers are so far understood to have come in contact with asbestos on board the ships or in workshop sheds at the Naval Service’s headquarters on Haulbowline Island. They have been medically screened.

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Asbestos found on board third naval vessel

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