€98m deal for new Navy patrol ships

THE Irish Naval Service will take delivery of two new patrol vessels by 2015 to replace some of the six existing ships that are now passing their maximum 30-year lifespan.

Defence Minister Tony Killeen and Finance Minister Brian Lenihan jointly announced that Government approval had been given to the €98 million spend on two Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs).

Mr Killeen said the Government hoped to be in a position in the next few months to sign the contracts with chosen shipbuilder Babcock Marine.

“At this point, three of our naval vessels have exceeded the 30 years of age limit, which is considered to be close enough to the end of their useful lives,” he said. We cannot be accused of doing it before time.”

He said by the time the naval service takes delivery of the two vessels, six ships will have reached 30 years.

Of those, three are already at maximum age. The LE Emer was commissioned in 1978, LE Aoife in 1979 and LE Aisling in 1980.

Mr Killeen said the naval service carried out important work, particularly in monitoring fishing activity and patrolling for drug smuggling.

Minister Lenihan justified the spend at a time when there is severe pressure on the country’s finances.

“We have a very small efficient fleet which manages one of the largest maritime spaces in the European Union,” he said.

“Side by side with that, compared to the naval arms of the other member states in the European Union, we are very sleek and efficient.

“But those who go down to the ships at sea deserve to be in modern ships.

“We cannot allow the naval service to go back to the bad old days of the forties and fifties where they struggle around with a few Corvettes.

“It has to have modern equipment and we have to plan for that equipment in a structured way over time. That is how we keep the cost down for the taxpayer.”

The announcement of the Government approval for two new vessels came as one of the existing fleet, LE Niamh, and its crew of 47 men and women returned from a 18,000 mile voyage that took them around South America.

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