Ebola threat at Aughinish ‘remote’

Colm Ward

Reporter:

Colm Ward

The RUSAL Aughinish plant on the Shannon Estuary
The risk of an Ebola incident at Aughinish Alumina has been described as “remote” by the company.

The risk of an Ebola incident at Aughinish Alumina has been described as “remote” by the company.

The plant near Askeaton receives regular shipments of bauxite - the raw material in the production of alumina - from Guinea in West Africa, which has the third highest reported incidents of Ebola after Liberia and Sierra Leone.

However, the company has taken a number of stringent measures to protect against transmission of the virus to ships crew or staff.

In a statement, the company said: “At RUSAL Aughinish we place the highest value on the health and safety of our employees, contractors and visitors. Our safety programmes and performance, our health facilities and our practices and procedures confirm this. In line with this, the response to the possible threat of the Ebola virus has been timely, swift and comprehensive.”

A company spokesman pointed out that there had been no reported cases in the Port Kamsar region, from where the bauxite is shipped.

He added that the company had been monitoring the situation on a daily basis in Guinea since last March.

“Although there have been no cases of Ebola in the Port Kamsar region, restrictions have been put in place at Port Kamsar for bauxite ships and these have been in place for a number of months. Shore leave for ships’ crews is not permitted in Port Kamsar. Ships’ crews do not go ashore and no physical contact takes place with any Port Kamsar personnel,” the spokesman said, adding that Port Kamsar was a closed port.

“The procedures put in place at Port Kamsar are checked by Aughinish with every vessel’s ship’s captain arriving at the Aughinish port to ensure that the stated restrictions are fully in place. All information to date has verified these strict precautions.”

The company pointed out that loading the ships, which generally takes 24 hours, was carried out by an automatic system and that all vessel owners and captains were fully up to date with health and safety issues in the region.

The company also has strict procedures for all ships arriving at its port on the Shannon estuary to ensure that there is no risk of disease transmission.

“In addition to the precautions at Port Kamsar, any vessel entering Ireland to unload must complete a Maritime Declaration of Health Form for the relevant authorities before being allowed to dock; this has been supplemented by an additional health surveillance document which is part of an overall procedure required by Aughinish. If either of these documents is not completed in advance or there is an ill person on board, the ship will not be allowed to dock without further investigation,” the company added.

The spokesman pointed out that with regard to the Ebola threat, Aughinish was liaising with the Irish and world health authorities in relation to best practice. “We have on-going contact with HSE Public Health Department. We will also continue to liaise with Port Authorities and our local medical practitioners.

“We have also had direct and on-going contact with the Government’s Task Force on Emergency Planning, including direct contact with Minister Simon Coveney. This also includes contact with the appropriate officials in the Department of Transport. They are assured that the strict procedures in place at both Aughinish and Port Kamsar are the appropriate measures to be taken.”

The statement concluded: “Because of the stringent procedures in place at both Port Kamsar and Aughinish and the on-going advice from the HSE, we firmly believe that the risk or threat of an Ebola incident at Aughinish is remote.”