Wednesday, 6 May 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
64. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence if he will ensure that a preventative maintenance manual will be developed for each vessel in the Naval Service as recommended in the value for money review of Naval Service vessel maintenance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17787/09]
103. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence if he will establish a dedicated maintenance management team for Naval Service vessel maintenance as recommended in the value for money review of Naval Service vessel maintenance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17786/09]
The value for money review of Naval Service vessel maintenance was recently completed and was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas earlier this month. The review comprehensively examines all aspects of Naval Service vessel maintenance and was undertaken by a steering committee comprised of civilian personnel from the Departments of Defence and Finance and military personnel from the Defence Forces. The review discovered there was a low incidence of unscheduled maintenance resulting in lost patrol days and that the maintenance function was appropriately focused on supporting the operational targets of the Naval Service. This is underpinned by an ongoing programme of planned preventative maintenance.
The recommendations to which the Deputy’s questions refer are but two of a range of such recommendations aimed at improving the maintenance function within the Naval Service. The recommended completion of a planned preventative maintenance manual for each vessel and the introduction of a dedicated maintenance management team will enhance the co-ordination of maintenance resources within the Naval Service.
The planned preventative maintenance manuals will contain a detailed list of maintenance activities on a ship-by-ship basis outlining the number of personnel required to complete each task, the necessary parts and consumables, the frequency of task and an estimate of the duration of each task. This will inform maintenance planning and provide a basis for better monitoring of the efficiency of maintenance tasks undertaken. As noted in the review, the Naval Service has already commenced work on these manuals.
The review recommended the establishment of a dedicated maintenance management team. This team will complement and draw from the existing management structures and will provide high-level and centralised co-ordination of maintenance execution. This will ensure that maintenance resources are optimally deployed in line with maintenance priorities. The Naval Service has established this team, the work of which is ongoing.
I am pleased that many of the issues highlighted by the steering committee in the review were already being addressed by the Naval Service and that many of the recommendations identified during the course of the review were quickly acted upon, where possible. The defence organisation has a good track record of implementing the findings of value for money reviews and I am confident that the further recommendations outlined in this review will be acted upon in due course.
Deputy Brian O’Shea: I was surprised to discover that there is not a preventative maintenance manual for each vessel. I would have thought that such manuals would be provided as a matter of course. Are makers’ maintenance manuals not provided with each vessel? Such manuals are provided with motor cars and surely they must also be provided with large vessels. It is also extraordinary that an overall management team is not in place. The Minister stated that these matters will be dealt with in due course. Is that good enough, particularly if that which we are discussing is important in the context of ensuring better efficiency and value for money and bringing about savings? Should the Minister not focus on these matters immediately and ensure that prompt action is taken in respect of them?
Deputy Willie O’Dea: I agree with the Deputy. The management team has already been put in place and work on the preventative maintenance manuals has already commenced. The value for money review highlighted a number of issues, on many of which the Naval Service was already working. As already stated, the Department of Defence has a good record in implementing the findings of value for money reviews. In view of the fact that the management team has been established and that work on the preventative maintenance manuals has already begun, it is evident that the response has been prompt.
Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: One of our naval vessels will soon be 30 years old and will by that stage have outlived its usefulness. It is possible that, due to cutbacks, this vessel may not be replaced in the immediate future. Will the Minister clarify whether it will be replaced? If the vessel is to be retained, then it is important that it be properly maintained. Maintenance is going to be extremely important not only in the context of the vessel in question but also with regard to the other two vessels that are due to reach the end of their operational lifespans in the next two to three years.
Deputy Willie O’Dea: The value for money review discovered there was a low incidence of unscheduled maintenance resulting in lost patrol days. However, it also discovered that the situation could be improved in two ways. The first of these is by putting a dedicated maintenance management team in place, which has been done, and the second is by drawing up preventative maintenance manuals for each ship, work on which has already commenced.
I agree that the economic situation may impact on the replacement of naval vessels. To date, however, I have not received instructions to the effect that I should not proceed in this regard. A system is in place to replace the vessels in question and I have not, as yet, been informed that I should discontinue the process of replacement.
Deputy Brian O’Shea: I take the Minister’s point with regard to the fact that restrictions have not been placed on him in the context of proceeding to acquire the three new vessels that are needed. However, should a cost-benefit analysis not be carried out in respect of the older vessels, particularly in view of the fact that maintenance costs begin to increase and stack up as vessels get older and become decrepit? A balance must be struck between maintaining older vessels and purchasing new vessels which would require a much lower level of unscheduled maintenance. The purchase of such vessels would lead to savings being made.
Deputy Willie O’Dea: I would appreciate all the assistance Deputy O’Shea can provide when I am discussing this matter with the Department of Finance. It is true that the older a vessel, the more difficult and expensive it is to maintain. The position will improve as a result of the implementation of the recommendations in the value for money review. We are all aware that approximately 30 years is the extent of the operational lifetime of any vessel. It is much better that vessels be replaced as the end of that 30-year period approaches. As already stated, I have put in place plans to replace the vessels that are nearing the end of their operational lifetimes. I have not, as yet, been instructed to discontinue the process in this regard.
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