Department of Defence looking to buy New Zealand naval ships 

Department of Defence looking to buy New Zealand naval ships 

Lake-class inshore patrol vessels similar to the ones that could be purchased by the Irish defence forces.

The Department of Defence has confirmed that it is currently exploring the possibility of purchasing two New Zealand navy ships to be used for fisheries protection duties in the Irish Sea.

The Irish Examiner understands that the ships are 'Lake Class' 55 m (180ft) inshore patrol vessels.

The Royal New Zealand Navy was supplied with four of them by British shipbuilders Brooke Marine. Two have since been decommissioned.

In a statement, the Department of Defence said: "A potential acquisition by Ireland of two Royal New Zealand Navy Inshore Patrol Vessels is currently being explored. No contractual agreement has been signed (as of yet), and in accordance with normal practice the Department does not comment on commercial discussions."

The ships being looked at are much smaller than the more modern vessels used by the Irish Naval Service.

The navy needs larger vessels to patrol the Atlantic, particularly due to the rough weather that can be experienced there.

However, the weather is not as bad in the Irish Sea and, therefore, smaller vessels like the 'Lake Class' inshore patrol boats would be ideal there.

Also, and just as importantly, the New Zealand ships need smaller crews than the larger Naval Service vessels.

Typically a Naval Service ship needs a crew of around 45 personnel. The Lake Class ships can be crewed with just 25 people.

Personnel shortage

The Naval Service is critically short of personnel and would be unlikely to be able to adequately crew new ships of a larger size.

At present, the Naval Service is short around 200 personnel of the 1,094 minimum it's supposed to have.

If the purchase goes through, it is likely the ships will be permanently based on the east coast, around Dublin and Dún Laoghaire.

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney wants to put the vessels on fisheries patrols in the Irish Sea in light of Brexit.

Meanwhile, it's understood that the Naval Service Reserve (NSR) will soon be getting four new boats, primarily for port security duties.

It's expected that Mr Coveney will shortly sign off on a contract for the badly-needed boats.

The NSR was equipped with motor launches, but over the years they deteriorated because of age and became useless. The last was decommissioned three years ago.

The new boats will allow the NSR to provide armed security in the strategic ports of Cork, Dublin, Foynes, and Waterford.

The vessels - which will be around 30 tonnes and up to 15m in length - will be considerably more modern than what the NSR previously had.

They will also be built to specifications which will allow them to be used as a platform for navy divers.

It is estimated that the four will cost more than €2.5m.

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