The Government has taken formal possession of two Naval Service vessels from New Zealand, which will be used to patrol the Irish Sea and the southeast coast.
Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue represented the Irish Government at a handover ceremony for the Inshore Patrol Vessels (IPVs) in Auckland on Tuesday.
The ships, which have a crew of 20 each, will now be loaded on to a heavy-lift transport ship for the journey to Ireland, a trip that will take at least a month.
The vessels were purchased second hand from New Zealand last year for €26 million. This was followed by a year-long process “to regenerate and modify the vessels to operational seaworthiness standard”, the Department of Defence said. “All work was overseen by the Irish Naval Service and the Department of Defence.”
Once in Ireland, the ships’ crews will undergo a familiarisation and training process before they enter service. This is expected to happen in early 2024.
The ships will bring the Naval Service’s operational fleet to six. A number of ships have been withdrawn from service in recent years due to crew shortages. Naval management hopes the small crew numbers required for the two new IPVs will mean they can be at sea more consistently.
“The evolving nature of security at sea has brought to light the need for these vessels to safeguard Irish waters and enhance our maritime security activities,” Tánaiste and Minister for Defence Micheál Martin said on Monday.
The ships are called Rotoiti and Pukaki but are to be renamed once in Ireland. They were first acquired by New Zealand in 2009 and were later laid up after being judged surplus to requirements.
Commodore Michael Malone, Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service, said the ships would have new electronic warfare and intelligence-gathering capabilities and would enhance patrol capabilities on the east coast. “Their timely delivery is a vital part of the Naval Service’s HR regeneration efforts.”