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Minister Killeen announces Government approval to finalise negotiations for the purchase of Two New Naval Service Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs)

The Minister for Defence, Mr. Tony Killeen, TD, with his cabinet colleague the Minister for Finance, Mr. Brian Lenihan, TD, were today (Thursday 15th July 2010), at the Naval Service Base in Haulbowline, Cork to welcome home the Naval Service vessel the L.E. Niamh from her ten week mission to Latin America. This deployment was in support of the strong cultural and heritage links between Ireland and South America, to mark the celebration of the bicentenaries of independence by Mexico, Argentina, and Chile, and to promote Ireland and Irish trade links in these countries. The Captain of the LE Niamh is Lieutenant Commander Kenneth Minehane, a native of Bantry, Co. Cork, and there were 46 crew on the mission.

Speaking on the LE Niamh in Cork Minister Killeen said “The trade and diplomatic mission to Latin America, which was undertaken by the LE Niamh, was a significant initiative from Ireland’s perspective and is an example of the continued effective inter-departmental cooperation, particularly in the area of trade. The Captain and crew of the ship have carried out excellent work on behalf of the State in furthering our national interests in the region. I would like to commend them on their achievements and thank them for their service.”

Minister Killeen continued “I am delighted to be able to announce today that following discussions with my cabinet colleague Mr. Brian Lenihan, T.D., Government approval has been received for the Department of Defence and the Naval Service to enter into discussions with UK based shipbuilder Babcock Marine, with a view to finalising negotiations for the purchase of two new Naval Service Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs).

The decision to proceed with the final award of the contract to purchase the OPV’s is subject to these negotiations reaching a satisfactory outcome. I hope to be in a position to make a formal announcement regarding the award of the contract for the new OPV’s by November 2010. However, as you can appreciate, as negotiations are ongoing it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on them at this time except to wish the officials in the Department of Defence and the Naval Service well in these negotiations”.

Minister Lenihan said “I am also pleased to be here in Haulbowline this afternoon with Minister Killeen for this major announcement. I am especially pleased that in agreeing the Defence Estimates for 2011 it has been possible to provide for this key defence priority.”

The older naval ships have a nominal lifespan of 30 years. By 2015, all but two of the current flotilla of eight Naval vessels will be at least 30 years old (which is the normal maximum lifespan of such vessels). The continued use of older vessels is expensive in terms of both maintenance and, more importantly, loss of days on patrol. Notwithstanding increased inspections, maintenance and repair, it is not recommended that any vessel should remain in service beyond 35 years.

The three oldest vessels, LE Emer commissioned in 1978, LE Aoife commissioned in 1979 and LE Aisling commissioned in 1980, remain in service through a programme of continuous planned and preventative maintenance and inspections. These inspections have recently resulted in extensive repairs being carried out to all three vessels with holes in the hull plating of each being detected and repaired in the course of dry docking. All three vessels were out of service for approximately 6 weeks.

Minister Killeen added “The acquisition of two new modern vessels will ensure that the Naval Service continues to be fully equipped to carry out its day to day roles in enforcing the State’s sovereign rights over our waters and our fisheries and meeting Ireland’s obligations in the area of maritime safety and security and fisheries protection. I am acutely aware of the difficulties for Irish fishermen arising from the damage inflicted by over fishing of some key stocks off our coast. The Naval Service plays a significant role in helping to return these stocks to sustainability.” ENDS


Note for Editors:

A vessel replacement strategy for the Naval Service has been in progress since 2007 when Government approval to proceed with a tender competition was granted. In 2009 Babcock Marine, was selected for the purchase of two Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) with an option on a third. Following some discussions with Babcock the cost of the two OPVs was set at just under €100m. This price was agreed in principle last summer and was based on the execution of a contract at that time and with delivery of the vessels in 2011 and 2012.

Agreement has now been reached between the Minister of Finance, Mr Brian Lenihan, TD and Minister Killeen in the context of the 2011 Estimates for the funding arrangements for the vessel replacement programme. The proposed contract will provide for delivery of two OPVs, one in 2014 and the other 2015 with payment extending out to 2017.

The Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes considered the Naval Vessel Replacement Programme and recommended that it be extended over a longer timeframe than initially envisaged. Originally, the replacement programme was due to run from 2008 to 2012. By extending the lifespan of the current vessels, the lengthy build process means they will not now be replaced until they have been in service for at least 36 years. Payment for the vessels will be made over a number of years out to 2017.

Babcock Marine
Babcock Marine is a division of Babcock International Group PLC and is based at Roysth Dockyard in Scotland. They provide a wide range of support services to the Royal Navy and are part of the consortium building a new aircraft carrier for them. Babcock have shipyards in Roysth, Davenport and Appledore. The majority of the work on the Naval Service vessels will be completed at Appledore where the LE Roisin and Niamh were built in 1999 and 2001 respectively.


LE Niamh’s Voyage to South America
LE NIAMH set sail on 3 May and arrived at her first South American port of call, Rio de Janeiro on 15 May, and went on from there to visit Buenos Aires in Argentina and the Chilean port of Punta Arenas in the Magellan Straits near Cape Horn – the first time a Naval Service ship has sailed that far south. Having navigated the Magellan Straits, the LE NIAMH entered the Pacific Ocean en route to Valparaiso and sailed from there to the Panama Canal, making another bit of history as the first Irish Naval Service vessel to transit the Canal. The next port of call was Vera Cruz in Mexico, with the visit scheduled to coincide with the International Tall Ship regatta celebrating Mexican independence, and the final stop was Miami before setting sail for home.

For further information please contact: Derval Monahan Press Adviser to Minister Killeen, Department of Defence, Mobile + 353876781608 or Deirdre Creaney Press Officer Department of Defence ph 01 8042108 and mobile +353872340397




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