The Navy is to buy two new patrol vessels for its fleet, it was announced today.
The €100m order will replace older ships in 2014 and 2015 to maintain defence, customs and fisheries duties on Ireland’s 3,500 miles of coastline.
Defence Minister Tony Killeen said he was delighted to announce Government financial backing for the vessels.
“The acquisition of two new modern vessels will ensure that the Naval Service continues to be fully equipped to carry out its day to day roles in enforcing the State’s sovereign rights over our waters and our fisheries and meeting Ireland’s obligations in the area of maritime safety and security and fisheries protection,” the minister said.
“I am acutely aware of the difficulties for Irish fishermen arising from the damage inflicted by over-fishing of some key stocks off our coast. The Naval Service plays a significant role in helping to return these stocks to sustainability.”
The navy fleet plays a vital role in fisheries protection and works closely with gardaí and customs officials in the seizure of drugs.
By 2015, all but two of the current fleet of eight Naval vessels will be at least 30 years old, and it is not recommended that ships remain in service for more than 35 years.
Babcock Marine, a British shipyard, has been contracted to build the two new Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs). Negotiations on the finer details are ongoing.
The two new OPVs will be 90m (295ft) vessels with a crew of 44 and 10 trainees, and will have a cruise speed of 16 knots with a capability of reaching 23 knots. The ships will be packing a 76mm (3in) cannon, two heavy machine guns and four general purpose machine guns.
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan announced the deal with Mr Killeen on board the LE Niamh after returning to its base in Haulbowline, Cork, following a 10-week mission to Latin America.
The tour was in support of cultural and heritage links with the region and marked the celebration of the bicentenaries of independence by Mexico, Argentina and Chile.
It also promoted trade links between Ireland and these countries.