Defence Minister Simon Coveney agreed to give the recently decommissioned LÉ Aoife to Malta following a meeting in Latvia with his Maltese counterpart, Carmelo Abela.
“The Maltese authorities require the ship for their armed forces to assist in the patrolling of the Mediterranean Sea to deal with the ongoing difficult refugee crisis in the region. Recent tragic events in that part of the Mediterranean have underlined the significant challenges which need to be addressed by the international community and Ireland is very keen to play an active part in this regard,” Mr Coveney said.
Talks between the two ministers also focused on future potential co-operations.
“I welcome this very important contribution from Ireland which will help in bridging a gap in Malta’s naval capacity pending our future acquisition of a new offshore patrol vessel,” Minister Abela said.
Meanwhile, the Naval Service looks poised to send ships to the Horn of Africa as part of an EU anti-piracy mission.
The Department of Defence confirmed that initial work on a contribution by Ireland to the EU maritime mission, Operation Atalanta, is being undertaken.
It is likely that the Naval Service would send one of its newer ships out to the north-east coast of Africa, where Somali pirates in particular have reeked havoc with commercial shipping.
The EU launched Operation Atalanta in December 2008 in response to the rising levels of piracy in the Western Indian Ocean.
Incidents of piracy have fallen recently from a peak in 2011 when Somali pirates launched attacks on an almost daily basis, sometimes holding cargo and crew hostage for huge ransoms.
A number of the ships were heading for Europe with important cargoes.
The EU decided to act to protect economic interests and vessels operating the World Food Programme in Somalia.
It is expected that Irish vessels sent to the Horn of Africa would typically work two-week patrols with three days off over a three-to-four-month period.
The Naval Service will shortly be back up to full strength after losing two of its eight vessels for a number of months due to asbestos contamination.
The new €50m LÉ James Joyce is due to be delivered to the Navy around St Patrick’s weekend.