Wednesday, 24 November 1954
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. MacCarthy: asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he is aware that, by arrangement with the various trade unions, a double shift or an around-the-clock shift may be provided for in Rushbrooke dockyard, when the occasion warrants, and that, when necessary, additional skilled tradesmen are recruited from the Dublin and other dockyards, and, if so, if he will state the circumstances under which the Irish Plane has drydocked at West Hartlepool, where a 40-hour week only is in operation.
Mr. MacCarthy: asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce whether he is aware that the Irish Hazel, which recently drydocked for repairs at Rotterdam, has carried a “cement block” for over a year resulting in the displacement of 20 tons of cargo, and, if so, if he will state why this repair was not effected in Rushbrooke dockyard, where the ship had twice previously drydocked for repairs.
Mr. Norton: With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 8 together.  I will be prepared to grant an application under Section 35 of the Conditions of Employment Act, 1936, for a shift work licence at Rushbrooke Dockyard if an application is made to me and the circumstances appear to warrant that course.
I do not think I should go into the detailed explanations as to why the Irish Plane drydocked at West Hartlepool or why the Irish Hazel carried a cement block. I understand that the diversion of the Irish Plane to Rushbrooke would have involved inordinate cost as well as loss of freight already contracted for and that the carrying of a cement block by the Irish Hazel was in accordance with the prudent and economical working of the ship. I am satisfied that Irish Shipping, Limited have due regard to the need for carrying out repairs at Irish dockyards as far as possible but to do so in all cases would involve the company in disproportionately heavy expenditure and would impair the company's ability to compete in the world shipping trade.
I must also remind Deputies that though the original capital of Irish Shipping, Limited was subscribed by the Minister for Finance the company has always operated as a commercial undertaking and that information of the type sought in these questions would not be made available by other shipping companies.
Mr. MacCarthy: As the Minister's attention has been directed to the fact that three of those ships have recently been repaired in foreign dockyards— and I wonder if the Minister has been told, as I have been told, that the repairs to the Irish Plane are so substantial that they will carry on the workers in employment almost up to the Christmas holiday period—would he urge on Irish Shipping, Limited, that they should have these ships repaired in Irish dockyards?
Mr. Norton: I have answered these questions in some detail because I thought by doing so it would help to take the beam of undesirable publicity off Irish Shipping, Limited, which ought to get a chance to conduct its business in accordance with prudent  and economical methods of management. In this particular case, I can say again, as I have said in other cases, that Irish Shipping, Limited, paid the losses of the Cork Dockyard Company and are most anxious, therefore, that there should be no loss in the Cork Dockyard Company. Consequently, any repair work they can place with the Cork Dockyard Company is placed there. It is to the advantage of Irish Shipping, Limited, that the Cork Dockyard Company should be financially solvent because they have to underwrite the losses— and they have been doing so. However, it is not possible for Irish Shipping, Limited, to bring these ships from one end of the world to another merely for the sake of having them repaired by the Cork Dockyard Company. These ships are tramping. They have a schedule of trips to make. If repairs are necessary to these ships at any time they have to be done in many cases away from Cork and away from Ireland (1) because, in many cases, it is the most economical way of doing it and (2) it enables them to fulfil their timetable to carry freight from other ports where they have engaged to pick up cargo. In the particular case to which the Deputy refers, it was possible for the vessel to be repaired while the vessel was being unloaded. As a result of having the work done under these conditions, it was possible to have the work in the case of the Irish Plane done in between four or five days whereas, if it had to be brought to Cork, it would have taken four or five weeks, with serious subsequent losses to Irish Shipping, Limited, if they were not able to take up the cargo which they had contracted to carry.
Mr. MacCarthy: Does the Minister not agree that other nations, who have dockyards of their own, employ tugs to bring disabled ships to their dockyards and that they impose a levy if that is not done? Would the Minister not further agree that Rushbrooke Dockyard are carrying a technical staff and, in consequence, they have to put on that price to the next contract in order to carry the staff?
Mr. Norton: In the case of the Irish Plane, the Cork Dockyard Company furnished an estimate to do the job in between four and five weeks. It was possible, by having the work carried out in the manner indicated in my reply, to complete the work in four or five days. If the company had not acted as it did in this particular case, it would have cost them an additional £5,000.
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