Date Uploaded: 02/03/2016
Naval Service sources claim these problems will arise if specialists aren’t recruited from the private sector. Officers who are shore-based have been drafted in to plug gaps on seagoing voyages, with the result that deficiencies are being felt in planning and organising general routine maintenance, refits, and ship life extension programmes.
The Naval Service sought permission on May 7 last from the Department of Defence to be allowed advertise to recruit highly-qualified engineers from the private sector through the ‘Direct Entry’ system. After a few months of training they could carry out all duties. The alternative is to take on officer cadets, but it takes up to eight years to train them in a specialist field.
Sources indicated that at this stage the problem is so acute they cannot wait that long and Direct Entry is needed now.
There has been no Direct Entry for several years and officer shortages in the meantime have resulted from retirements and poaching from private companies, most notably in the cruise line and shipping sectors.
The Department of Defence issued a statement which said: “The matter of Direct Entry Officers to the Naval Service is currently being dealt with under the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force. As discussions under the scheme are confidential to the parties involved, it would not be appropriate to comment on the matter at this time.”
RACO, the organisation representing the Defence Forces officers, highlighted the lack of specialist Naval Service officers at its conference in Co Kildare last September. It said many officers were acting up and double jobbing to try and plug the gaps, which had health and safety implications.
The Defence Forces press office said: “The nature of Defence Forces activity is that it involves the continual assessment and management of risks to our personnel, while carrying out essential security tasks on behalf of the State.”
It didn’t comment on the total number of officer shortages in the navy, but said 22 of the 31 Marine Engineer Officer (MEOs) appointments were filled.
“The Naval Service fleet is managed in such a way as to mitigate the risks that can arise as a result of engineer officer shortages while prioritising the safety of personnel,” a statement added.
Journalist: Séan O’Riordan