Dáil Éireann - Volume 318 - 27 February, 1980

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Naval Service Fleet.

[661] 18. Mr. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence if he will give details of the existing fleet of the Naval Service with any proposed additions and if he has satisfied himself that the service have sufficient personnel to man the ships.

Mr. Faulkner: The present fleet of the Naval Service comprises three coastal minesweepers, one training and auxiliary vessel and three fishery protection vessels. A fourth fishery protection vessel is due to be delivered in April. Two additional patrol vessels are in the process of being procured and it is hoped that these will have been delivered by the end of 1982.

I am satisfied that the Naval Service have sufficient personnel to man the vessels presently in service and I intend to continue recruitment on an ongoing basis to cater for the new vessels as they come into service.

Mr. O'Keeffe: Is it not a fact that despite plans to have extra vessels, the Banba, one of the minesweepers, and the Setanta, a training vessel, are tied up at the moment for lack of crew?

Mr. Faulkner: My information is that the lack of personnel is not affecting the operations of the Naval Service.

Mr. O'Keeffe: Is the Minister satisfied with the number of engineering officers in the service of whom I understand there are only six at the moment?

Mr. Faulkner: I agree that there is a difficulty with regard to getting a sufficient number of marine engineers. However, we are doing all we can with regard to this matter and we are succeeding in getting personnel. I agree that it is a problem.

Mr. O'Keeffe: I do not want to make political capital out of this matter because I share the concern of the Minister. Is it not the case that if there are only six engineering officers, some of whom will be required on shore, that our [662] ships—we have seven at the moment—will not be able to operate at sea?

Mr. Faulkner: My information is that there is not a problem with regard to personnel for operating the service. We are recruiting as many as possible.

Mr. O'Keeffe: On that aspect, is it not correct that in other navies—I am thinking in particular of the Royal Navy—normally there is one engineering officer per navigation officer? Here we have 70 navigation officers and only six marine engineering officers.

Mr. Faulkner: I am afraid the Deputy will have to put down another question. I do not know what the position is in the Royal Navy.

Mr. O'Keeffe: I am talking also about our Navy. This is a serious problem bearing in mind that we are making a major additional investment in more ships.

Mr. Faulkner: That problem has been there for quite a while, not simply in the Naval Service. It is a problem in relation to shipping generally.

Mr. White: It is not completely true to say that all the boats can be manned. It is accepted by the Defence Forces and also by fishing interests in this country that only three boats can be taken out because of lack of expertise, particularly so far as marine engineers are concerened.

Mr. Faulkner: I do not accept that. As I said, my information is that it is not affecting Naval Service operations.

Mr. White: My information is that during the past year not more than four of the seven boats have been in operation.

Mr. Faulkner: That is a separate question. Perhaps the Deputy would like to put down a question on the matter.