Former Navy ship Aisling redesigned as ‘superyacht’

Conversion could cost $10million and multiply value of ship sold for €110,000 by State

An Australian company has drawn up designs to convert the State's former Naval Service patrol ship Aisling into a luxury "superyacht".

The proposed refit could cost several million US dollars, but would add significantly to the value of the 64 metre patrol ship.

The Aisling, formerly "long Éireannach", is currently on sale with Dutch shipbrokers Dick van der Kamp and has been renamed Avenhorn.

The "concept proposal" drawn up by Sabdes Design of Sydney for the Dutch brokers involves two options for refit in a "modern classic style," allowing for ample leisure facilities and helicopter pad on deck.


The designers point out that the ship is in “very good condition” and “offers a rare opportunity to create a yacht based on a strong naval platform”.

The Aisling, which has been involved in some of the most dramatic episodes in recent Naval Service history, was sold for €110,000 at auction last March.

Mr van der Kamp’s company was one of just two bidders, and there was no reserve.

However, when it was advertised by its new owners for $750,000, or approximate €685,000, the Permanent Defence Forces' Representative Association (PDFORRA) expressed concern.

Irish Shipbrokers and Chartering Ltd director Glenn Murphy said it wasn't an unusual conversion plan as many vintage vessels such as naval, research and offshore vessels find a new life as a private yachts.

"A new superyacht or megayacht (above 25m) is typically costing $1m per metre to build and fit out to a very high specification in European shipyards, so at 64m, a new ship the size of the Aisling could cost $64m," Mr Murphy said.

“A conversion project, depending on the specification of the refit, could be anywhere from a couple of million upwards to $10m to achieve the high end luxuries that the super rich market desires,”he said.

Current classic vessels for sale with “higher spefication units” like swimming pools, helipads and state rooms cost from $2m up to $15-20m on the market, he said.

Mr van der Kamp’s company declined to comment on the conversion design, but it is understood that the vessel is still for sale.

Auctioneer Dominic Daly pointed out that Mr van der Kamp's company has already invested in the former patrol ship, as it had to be towed to Holland.

“This is because such military ships have no papers, and classification for papers involves the expense of dry docking and survey,”he explained.

Mr Daly has pointed out that the market for such vessels was far better when the Aisling's sister ship, Emer was sold four years ago, but a collapse in the oil and gas servicing business meant there was far less interest from this sector.

The Emer fetched €320,000 when she was bought by Nigerian businessman, Cyprian Imobhio, in 2013, and was then taken on by the Nigerian Navy as NNS Prosperity.

The Aoife, also in the same class and built in Verolme dockyard, was donated to the Maltese armed forces.

The older Deirdre also fetched more than the Aisling, at €240,000 in 2001, and was subsequently converted to a yacht.

The Department of Defence has said that the auction of the ship was advertised nationally and internationally in maritime publications by Mr Daly and that the selling prices of €110,000 was the best bid made for the ship.

During 36 years in service, the Aisling was involved in the apprehension of the Marita Ann carrying guns for the IRA in 1984.

A year later, under the command of Captain Jim Robinson, the ship's crew recovered 38 bodies from the wreckage of the Air India plane which was blown up in a bomb attack off the Irish coast, with the loss of all 329 passengers and crew.

The retention of the vessel since its decommission in June 2016, until April 2017, cost about €370,000 for the assignment of a skeleton crew and about €10,000 on tug hire costs, according to a Dáil question answered by former taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times