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25 Jan 2024

New Naval Service flagship to cost estimated '300 million: The Irish Times

New Naval Service flagship to cost estimated '300 million: The Irish Times
Irish Defence Forces / All images are for illustrative purposes only.
Originally posted on The Irish Times -By Conor Gallagher

A replacement for the Naval Service’s flagship the LÉ Eithne, which was decommissioned in 2022, is set to cost about €300 million, significantly more than the €200 million cost cited by politicians in recent years.

The ship will be a “multi-role vessel” (MRV) and significantly larger and more advanced than the Eithne. It will be capable of carrying out a much broader set of tasks. It will be by far the largest ship in the history of the Naval Service.

According to procurement documents published by the Department of Defence, the ship will cost an estimated €300 million.

A full request for tender has yet to be issued but is expected later this year. Once issued, it will take between three and four years to build the vessel or possibly longer depending on the schedule of shipyards.

The MRV will serve as the new flagship of the Naval Service and will be equipped with a helicopter landing pad, hospital facilities and the ability to transport vehicles and troops.

One of the ship’s main tasks will be to support Irish overseas deployments, negating the need to rely on private shipping. It will also be capable of deploying to disaster zones at short notice to aid local populations.

The “Preliminary Information Notice”, published on Tuesday by the department, seeks a ship “capable of providing a flexible and adaptive capacity for a wide range of maritime tasks, both at home and overseas”.

The notice adds: “It is anticipated the new vessel will also be enabled for helicopter operations, freight/personnel carrying operations and will be the flagship of the Irish naval fleet.”

As part of the initial procurement process, naval officials have been examining several similar vessels in operation in other fleets. Officials have been in discussion with a Dutch company, Damen shipyards, which constructed the Royal Netherlands Navy flagship, the Karel Doorman.

One option is to commission a smaller version of the Karel Doorman, a ship which can carry 300 troops and up to six helicopters. It cost about €350 million in 2014.

Officials have also examined the British Royal Navy’s Type 31 frigate, a smaller vessel built by Babcock International, which costs about €250 million.

One of the biggest concerns for defence officials will be having capacity to man the new vessel. The Naval Service will have to reverse an ongoing exodus of personnel to the private sector if it hopes to have enough sailors to crew the ship along with the rest of the fleet.

The Naval Service has less than 70 per cent of its establishment strength of 1,094 and is only capable of putting two ships to sea at a time.

The Government has accepted recommendations from the Commission on the Defence Forces to acquire a “balanced” fleet of nine ships, with two crews per ship to ensure the maximum number are at sea at any one time.

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