Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Questions (85)

Bobby Aylward


85. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the position regarding the patrol vessel LÉ Ciara; his plans to upgrade same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46743/19]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

My priority as Minister with Responsibility for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service is maintained to the greatest extent possible. This is primarily to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government as set out in the White Paper on Defence.  Equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are being considered in the context of the lifetime of the White Paper on Defence as part of the capability development and equipment planning process. 

The White Paper underpins the ongoing replacement of the Naval Service fleet. A significant investment over recent years has been on the procurement of new Off-Shore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) for the Naval Service. The fourth ship in the programme, LÉ George Bernard Shaw, was commissioned into service in May 2019 reflecting an investment by the Government of over €250 million in the new ships programme since 2010. The four ships are performing well in operational service.

Naval Service ships are required to complete drydock maintenance, survey and inspection, twice during each ship five (5) year cycle. An intermediate drydock is carried out between two and a half (2.5) and three (3) years. A full drydock is carried out at five (5) years. Naval Service Ships which are beyond their originally projected thirty (30) year asset life, are drydocked for inspection every year, in order to manage ageing hull risk.

Notwithstanding the capital maintenance programme (for drydocks) detailed above, Naval Service ships are required to undertake planned routine and non-routine maintenance on plant and machinery every day, 365 days a year, regardless of whether the ship is on patrol, undertaking Maritime Defence and Security Operations (MDSO) or alongside the Naval Base off Sailing Order. LÉ Ciara is one of three ships in the current flotilla that are over 30 years old (LÉ Eithne and LÉ Ciara were built in 1984 and LÉ Orla was built in 1985).  Accordingly, LÉ Ciara is currently undergoing a planned annual dry-docking.

The White Paper provides for the replacement of the current Naval Service flagship LÉ Eithne with a multi role vessel (MRV) which will be enabled for helicopter operations and will also have a freight carrying capacity. It is the intention to hold a public tender competition in due course to cover the supply of the MRV subject to the availability of funding within the overall Defence capital funding envelope. The cost of the MRV will only be known once the tender competition is concluded.

Future Naval Service capabilities are being planned as part of the White Paper project planning process which will determine the Defence Organisation’s maritime capability requirements.