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Written Answers. - Offshore Exploration.

Tuesday, 3 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 4

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 279. Mr. Allen Information on Bernard Allen Zoom on Bernard Allen  asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Information on Dermot Ahern Zoom on Dermot Ahern  if his Department has examined a situation whereby no Irish nationals are working on oil exploration rigs off the coasts; and the discussions which have taken place with the exploration companies to obtain work for Irish citizens on those oil rigs. [24664/02]

Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. D. Ahern): Information on Dermot Ahern Zoom on Dermot Ahern I do not have any statutory function or remit in employment matters, but rather in the licensing of exploration and production.

My Department has, however, facilitated discussions between the interested parties – the industry, ICTU and Government agencies. As a result of these discussions FÁS, in consultation with SIPTU, established last year a procedure to identify suitably qualified personnel who wished to be considered for any specific vacancies for work both in the development of the Corrib field and in the Irish offshore. This procedure was advertised recently by FÁS last year in the national press and resulted in offers of employment to 38 personnel.

Exploration and production companies employ Irish workers in offshore exploration and development, particularly in the Kinsale gas field. I have continually impressed on the Irish Offshore Operators' Association and the individual operators that Irish workers and suppliers of goods and services, including service ports, must be given opportunities to participate fully in such activities and I will continue to do so. In an address to the Institute of Petroleum on 6 November last, the Minister of State, Deputy Browne, made it clear that the Government does not expect the industry to avail of Irish goods, services or employment where these are clearly uncompetitive, but the Government does, however, expect the industry to encourage and facilitate potential Irish suppliers to compete for the services required. Any company operating in Ireland for the long-term should see that it is in its best commercial interest to build strong links into the Irish economy and to demonstrate a significant economic and social dividend both at regional and national level.

In addition Enterprise Ireland has the co-operation of the Irish Offshore Operators' Association and individual operators to ensure there is early notification of future offshore work to potential Irish suppliers. I am glad to say that the [1086] Irish Offshore Operators' Association is committed to fully support these opportunities. In this regard, I understand that both Irish and Norwegian contractors are having difficulty finding qualified and available seagoing personnel for standby and supply vessels but, nevertheless, the sole Irish contractor has obtained about one third of the available business.

Apart from work on rigs and platforms there is also work arising from the standby vessels, which support each rig and platform, and the supply vessels delivering supplies and equipment. There is also work for Irish personnel in specialised companies such as those providing geological and geophysical support and interpretation.

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