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Asgard II 'shall not be salvaged'

23rd February 2009

The Asgard II, which sank last September off the coast of France, will not be lifted from the seabed inspite of an Afloat petition that generated thousands of comments and signatures. The Minister for Defence, Willie O'Dea, has announced that he has accepted the recommendation of the Asgard Committee, Coiste an Asgard, to leave the ship where it is. Minister O'Dea said that there was a risk that €2m could be spent on a salvage effort that might be wasted. The Minister's statement says that Coiste an Asgard said that it would not be the same and that parents would not let their children sail on a vessel which had sunk once.

The 30-year-old vessel has been an Irish marine icon representing the nation around the world at tall ships' races.

The Minister has come in for strong criticism for leaving the vessel so long on the seabed without a decision about its future.

Salvage experts had said it could have been raised quickly after the sinking.

Thousands of people have signed a national petition to raise the vessel.

The Minister for Defence Mr. Willie O’Dea TD announced in a statement this morning Asgard II will not be raised. The statement reads: "At its last meeting the Board of Coiste An Asgard had a full discussion on the possibility of salvaging the Asgard II. The unanimous view of the Board was that a salvage operation should not be pursued any further. Having carefully considered the Board’s report to me, I have 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. 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.


The fact is, that until the vessel is salvaged, it would not be possible to assess whether it can be restored and the cost of doing so. Clearly, the greater the damage, the higher the cost of restoration.


The Asgard II is a well-loved and well-regarded 30-year-old wooden vessel that would have ever-increasing maintenance costs in the years ahead. 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. In addition, the possibility of increased regulatory requirements by the Department of Transport could add substantially to the cost of restoration.


The Board also took into account the view that parents of potential trainees (particularly those with no sailing experience) may be reluctant to allow their children to sail on a vessel that has sunk.


While the name “Asgard” has been associated with two noble and important vessels, it is also about sail training and introducing young people to the experience of sailing. My priority is to ensure the continuation of the sail-training scheme.


I have accepted the Board’s recommendation to initiate planning for the procurement of a new vessel that will be similar in design to Asgard II but with a steel hull (a steel hulled vessel would be less expensive to build and maintain than a wooden hulled vessel). I would also hope that the future Asgard III would have facilities to cater for persons with physical disabilities, something the Asgard II could not.


Pending the acquisition of a new vessel, the following arrangements will be put in place in the interim:


(1). A limited cruise programme (mainly in Irish waters) will be provided on the Creidne, which was used by Coiste an Asgard for sail training prior to Asgard II. It is now under the control of the Naval Service. A programme of extensive refurbishment of the Creidne is nearing completion and the vessel is expected to be available by May.


(2). An Coiste will enter into an arrangement whereby it will reserve a number of places for Irish trainees on board the Norwegian sail training vessel, the Christian Radich, during the Tall Ships races.


I know that it was a very difficult conclusion for the Board to reach, but it is one I accept as being right and sensible. The costs and risks involved in attempting to salvage and restore Asgard II are too great. 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. However, I believe the measures I have outlined in terms of planning for a new vessel and the interim arrangements will ensure sail training in this country continues.


I want to express my appreciation to Allianz Plc., the insurer of Asgard II, for their valuable assistance and co-operation with Coiste an Asgard since the sinking of the vessel. The insurers have indicated that the vessel remains the property of the Irish government.


I have been impressed by the expressions of support for the Asgard II and the offers of practical support. While I cannot commit public monies to a salvage operation, I am open, over the coming months, to considering any realistic and funded proposals from private individuals or groups as to the future of the Asgard II vessel.

NOTE ON CREIDNE


1.Creidne was used as the national sail-training vessel from 1975 to 1980.

2. She was built in Norway in 1967.

3. She is a 48 ft bermudan ketch, originally named Galcador.

4. She was purchased by the Department of Defence in 1975 as a temporary replacement for the original Asgard, pending the building of Asgard II.

5. At the end of the 1980 sailing season, Creidne was handed over to the Naval Service, primarily for use by the Naval Reserve (Asgard II launched in March 1981)

6. Over the past couple of years, the Naval Service has carried out an extensive refurbishment of Creidne which is expected to be completed in May 2009.

7. The proposed use of the Creidne as a sail-training vessel is a stopgap measure, pending the acquisition of a permanent replacement for Asgard II.

8. Creidne has a capacity for about 8 trainees compared to 20 on Asgard II

Click this link for all Afloat's coverage of Asgard II's sinking, and the plans to raise, dive and replace her

Raise the Asgard - Afloat's 2008 online petition
Published in Asgard II
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