O'Dea decides against 'unaffordable' salvage of 'Asgard'

 

It has been decided not to attempt a salvage of the Asgard IIfollowing its sinking off the northwest coast of France last year, Minister of Defence Willie O’Dea announced today.

Mr O’Dea said the board of Coiste An Asgard had a “full discussion” on salvaging the national sail training vessel but came to a unanimous view that a salvage operation should not be pursued, and that he had accepted its recommendation.

”Spending in the region of €2 million on a salvage effort, the outcome of which is uncertain, is something we cannot afford at this time,” the Minister said.

“A real risk exists whereby more than €2 million could be expended on a salvage effort that proves unsuccessful or, following which, the vessel is found to be damaged beyond repair.”

Mr O’Dea said although the Asgard IIis a “well-loved and well-regarded” vessel, it was a 30-year-old wooden vessel with ever-increasing maintenance costs.

“The board was of the view that vessels that sink are “never the same” after restoration and are likely to have on-going maintenance problems,” he said. “The costs and risks involved in attempting to salvage and restore Asgard IIare too great.”

”The board also took into account the view that parents of potential trainees . . . may be reluctant to allow their children to sail on a vessel that has sunk,” according to Mr O’Dea.

Although he could not allocate public monies to a salvage, the Minister added he was open to considering “any realistic and funded proposals from private individuals or groups as to the future of the Asgard II”.

The Minister said he had accepted a recommendation from board of Coiste An Asgard to acquire a new boat with a steel hull and facilities to cater for persons with physical disabilities.

Mr O’Dea said although it was a “difficult conclusion” for the board to reach, he accepted it as being “right and sensible”.

“There is no doubt Asgard II was an outstanding sail-training vessel and was held in the highest regard both at home and abroad. She was an excellent ambassador for this country for close on 30 years.”

A a limited cruise programme will be provided on the Creidne, which was used for sail training prior to Asgard IIand a number of places for Irish trainees will be reserved on the Norwegian sail training vessel, the Christian Radich, during the Tall Ships races.

All 25 crew and trainees were evacuated to life rafts when the ship began taking in water in the early hours of September 11th last year some 22km west of Belle-Ile en route to La Rochelle. They were picked up by French rescue services and the 27-year-old brigantine sank several hours later.

An initial survey showed that the ship was sitting upright and in good condition in some 83 metres of water. Images showed damage to one of its planks that may have been consistent with a collision with a floating object.

Fine Gael’s defence spokesman Jimmy Deenihan said the decision not to salvage the ship is “deeply disappointing”.

Mr Deenihan said “any chance that the vessel would be recovered were seriously undermined by the Minister's own hesitancy on the matter.”

“The crew of the vessel have expressed their ‘distress and dismay’ at the news and I share in their disappointment,” he added.