MINISTER FOR Defence Alan Shatter has signalled that delivery of two new patrol vessels for the Naval Service is on target, following a keel-laying ceremony in Devon, southern England yesterday.
The €99 million contract plus VAT for the two vessels will also involve an additional €8 million plus VAT on weapons systems.
The weapons will be similar to those existing on the LE Róisín and LE Niamh.
The keel-laying for the first of the two 90m offshore patrol vessels was described as a “significant milestone” by Mr Shatter.
He was represented at Appledore shipbuilding yard in Devon by senior department official Brian Spain, along with Naval Service Flag Office Commodore Mark Mellett.
Mr Shatter said the first vessel was scheduled for delivery in early 2014 and the second would follow in 2015. Both would replace two older vessels, which would be withdrawn from operational service.
He added that payments on the latest contract had been scheduled over eight years, from 2010 to 2017, from within the annual defence budget.
The vessels have been designed to last 40 years and to withstand North Atlantic conditions out to and beyond the 200-mile exclusive economic zone. Maximum speed will be 23 knots, with a 6,000 nautical-mile range and a 21-day endurance. Accommodation will be provided for 44 crew and 10 trainees.
The Naval Service has been redefining its role and has become a stakeholder in the Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster in Cork.
At a recent conference hosted by the cluster, Dr Michael Mulqueen of Liverpool Hope University said the Defence Forces, including the Naval Service, could contribute to the reconstruction of the Irish economy through “innovation-led partnerships” with foreign direct investment and small and medium enterprise sectors.
The maritime domain provided a key protection against future economic shocks, Dr Mulqueen said, and could provide “significant insulation when next the global market starts to eat itself”.