Two Irish naval ships have been tied up in port due to a deepening manpower crisis.
The Irish Examiner has reported that the nine-ship fleet will be reduced to seven as the navy’s flagship, LÉ Eithne and coastal patrol vessel LÉ Orla will be taken off operational duty for the foreseeable future.
Eithne was originally built as a Helicopter Patrol Vessel for long-range fisheries patrol, the vessel was built in Cork and displaces around 2,000 tonnes.
Despite her age, LÉ Ciara, which was purchased from the UK in 1988, is to remain on patrol say local media.
In a statement, the Defence Forces press office said Flag Officer Commanding the naval service, Commodore Michael Malone, was “currently managing the consolidation of naval service assets”.
The paper also reported that, as a result of poor pay, up to 80 sailors are currently sleeping on ships when off-duty. PDforra, (which represents personnel in the Defence Forces) president Mark Keane told the committee that on average 11 or 12 were sleeping nightly on each ship.
“The older ships do 26-day cycle patrols and are then back in [port] for 16 days,” he said according to the Irish Examiner.
“The sailors are working onboard 60-70 hours a week and then sleeping on the same ships when they are off duty. They deserve a proper place to go and put their heads down at night.”
The Irish Naval Service is struggling to retain or attract recruits in the face of competitive private firms.