18 May 2023
By Tom Collins
Welcome News, but raises questions: Are the boats too small? How will they be staffed in a recruitment crisis? Why does Ireland not have a dedicated Minister for Defence? (the role is a job share with the Tanaiste)
Following an epic 35 day, 10,000 nautical mile voyage from Auckland, New Zealand on a large heavy sea lift transport vessel to the Port of Cork and after being towed into the Naval Base at Haulbowline, Cork the Tánaiste stated that:
“The Government has acknowledged that there are ongoing challenges in the Naval Service and these are being addressed as part of a planned approach to regeneration of the Naval Service. This has seen the withdrawal of three ships from service – LÉ Orla, LÉ Ciara and LÉ Eithne and their replacement on a phased basis.
The investment of some €26 million in these two Inshore Patrol Vessels, will provide replacements for LÉ Orla and LÉ Ciara. These Inshore Patrol Vessels have a lesser crewing requirement than the ships they replace, and will provide the Naval Service with an enhanced capacity to operate and undertake patrols in the Irish Sea on the East and South East Coast. This will allow the remaining fleet to focus on operations elsewhere.
These ships have certainly had a long journey, not just their sea voyage but also the extensive regeneration project that was undertaken in New Zealand over the last year. I would like to thank all those involved in this successful project that came in on time and under budget, including the New Zealand Defence Forces and their contractors, the Naval Service, the Department of Defence and the transport company along with the Port of Cork for getting the ships safely to Ireland. This is not the end of these ships voyage, they will undergo further work in the Naval Base in Cork. Then following familiarisation, crew training and preparation for operational readiness, they will both be named and commissioned into the Irish Naval Service before commencing their operational service early next year.”
Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service, Commodore Michael Malone added,
“This IPV procurement and timely delivery is a vital part of the Naval Service’s HR regeneration efforts and will assist the Naval Service in returning to its mandated number of hulls. The IPV’s will introduce certain new Electronic Warfare and intelligence gathering capabilities and enhance the patrol profile of the Naval Service on the East and South East Coast.”
Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Seán Clancy concluded,
“The changing face of maritime security in the Irish Sea highlighted a requirement for a specialist inshore capability in order to protect Irish interests. The new IPVs will allow the Naval Service to continue to modernise and tackle the dynamic and ever changing maritime environment that we operate in 365 days a year.”
The Defence Forces have reviewed the requirements and capabilities, and consider that the Inshore Patrol Vessels (IPVs) are suitable for Irish operations in the Irish Sea on the east and south-east coast. Once delivered to the Naval Service, a plan will be developed to achieve initial operating capability for the IPVs.
It is expected that the nature of patrols conducted by the IPVs will be shorter in duration compared to the traditional patrols conducted by the Naval Service, with the potential for more day long patrols that provide for a more family friendly working environment for the crew and support personnel.