Naval Service personnel are being kept occupied maintaining a decommissioned ship as the Government remains undecided about its future.

A skeleton crew has been maintaining the LÉ Aisling’s engines, pumps and other equipment since she was decommissioned on June 20 last after 36 years of service, during which she arrested the IRA gun-running ship Marita Ann.

They will, however, have to keep maintaining the vessel which clocked up in excess of 628,000 nautical miles — an equivalent of circumnavigating the globe 32 times — in the event of it being auctioned.

Built in 1980, the ship has been maintained to a very high standard by the Naval Service and, if put on the market, could fetch in the region of €300,000, or more.

However, there are many possible outcomes apart from auction.

Minister with responsibility for defence Paul Kehoe said a request had been made by a group in Galway to take charge of the vessel, for its use as a floating museum.

He is awaiting a detailed proposal from the group before making a decision.

All Naval Service ships are twinned with Irish cities. LÉ Aisling had been twinned with Galway.

In the meantime, the Irish Examiner has learnt two countries have expressed interest in acquiring the vessel, one party is in the Middle East and the other in Africa.

Sources have also revealed that the Maltese government could be interested in acquiring LÉ Aisling, as it is a sister ship of LÉ Aoife and it could be used for spare parts.

During his time as Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney gifted the LÉ Aoife to the Maltese government in early 2015.

At the time, the minister had said he wanted to help the Maltese with humanitarian rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea, primarily to save north African migrants who regularly pass through its waters in flimsy boats seeking a better life in Europe.

Previous ships have been auctioned off.

After LÉ Deirdre was decommissioned in 2001, she was sold at public auction for £190,000 after being purchased by English yacht chartering company Seastream International for conversion into a luxury charter yacht.

In 2013, LÉ Emer was also sold for €320,000 to a Nigerian businessman. Cyprian Imobhio, chief executive and managing director of Uniglobe Group had said, at the time, he planned to upgrade the vessel but had been uncertain about its future uses. However, he subsequently sold it to the Nigerian navy.


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