The Irish Naval Service is poised to welcome the latest additions to its fleet following the arrival today in Cork Harbour of two former New Zealand navy ships purchased by the Department of Defence for a total of €26 million.
The department confirmed on Sunday afternoon that a cargo ship, Big Lift Happy Dynamic carrying the two Inshore Patrol Vessels had arrived in Cork Harbour following a month long 18,000km journey from New Zealand and had berthed at Ringaskiddy Deep Water Quay.
The two ships will be unloaded from the Dutch owned cargo vessel in Ringaskiddy on Tuesday once certain preparatory work is done and they will be lowered into the water and then towed by tug to the Irish Naval Service’s HQ at the nearby Haulbowline Naval Base.
The two ships, Rotoiti and Pukaki were formally handed over to the Department of Defence at a ceremony in Auckland on March 14th at which the Irish government was represented by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue.
The Department of Defence purchased the two vessels for €26 million in 2022 after they were deemed surplus to the requirements of the New Zealand navy and the handover followed a year-long project overseen by the Irish Naval Service to modify the vessels to operational seaworthiness standards.
Speaking at the handover ceremony, Mr McConalogue thanked all those who were involved in the project to regenerate and modify the vessels including the Naval Service, the Department of Defence, the New Zealand Defence Forces and the various contractors.
“I am aware of the considerable work that has been carried out here in New Zealand to restore the vessels to class and to fit specific equipment required by the Irish Naval Service,” said Mr McConalogue at the ceremony at the New Zealand navy’s HQ at Devonport Naval Base.
The two ships, named Rotoiti and Pukaki after two lakes in New Zealand, were built between 2005 and 2008 and served as New Zealand Navy Fishery inshore patrol vessels but they were deemed surplus to requirements and were withdrawn from service in 2019.
The two ships, which at 55 metres long are smaller than the 62 metre long LE Ciara and Le Orla which they are replacing, each require a crew of just 20 as opposed to the 39 strong complements required to crew the bigger vessels which Ireland acquired from the Royal Navy in 1988.
The new additions will bring the Irish Naval Service fleet to six after several ships were withdrawn from service in recent years due to crew shortages and Naval Service management hope the small crew numbers required for the two new IPVs will mean they can be at sea more consistently.
The two ships, which will be renamed on entry into service with the Irish Naval Service, were used by the New Zealand Navy to patrol within 24 nautical miles or 44 kms and it is expected that they will be deployed by the Naval Service to patrol the Irish Sea following the UK’s departure from the EU.
Speaking following the formal handover of the vessels in Auckland, Minister for Defence, Micheál Martin said: “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.”
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.”