The director of harbours insists there is no shortage of divers to cover emergencies.
Work to inspect and repair a leak in Peel’s sewage outfall pipe had to be delayed last week due to two of the Department of Infrastructure’s divers being on sick leave, and a third being on holiday.
The DoI has three other qualified divers it can call on within its staff but none was available last week to do the job. Safety rules require a minimum of five divers for every assignment.
Michael MHK Alfred Cannan, chairman of the Manx Utilities Authority, said: ‘It seems to be a ridiculous situation that we are unable to facilitate a dive team. We need to ask what would happen if there was an emergency.’
But director of harbours Ann Reynolds said that with one diver back from holiday and another who had been on sick leave returning to work this week, the inspection of was due to take place this week, weather depending.
She said the lack of availability of divers last week was ‘unfortunate’ but due the weather, the earliest an inspection could have been carried out would have been Friday anyway.
She said: ‘We employ five full-time divers and we can call on three others from elsewhere in the department. I am absolutely sure we can provide a team of divers to cover emergencies. We always provide divers, if needed, for the Ben-my-Chree.’
The DoI is looking at the merits of outsourcing its diving operations. Ms Reynolds explained: ‘We have changed many practices and made lots of savings.
‘The only area still left to consider alternative means of service delivery was the diving section.’
A prior information notice was issued in April seeking expressions of interest from providers who could operate the government’s commercial diving service. Ms Reynolds said there had been a dozen responses.
The department then sent out a questionnaire asking for further details, and nine responded, some based on-island and others off-island.
The harbours director said the next stage was to put it out to tender, a process which would take four to six months.
If the costings did not work out, the service would continue to be provided in-house, she said.
And she added: ‘At present, it’s business as usual.’