Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Questions (79)

Dara Calleary

Question:

79. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the precautions taken to ensure that the former LÉ Aisling was not sold to organisations that would be in contravention of UN arms embargoes; his views on a newspaper report on same (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53591/19]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

The former Naval Service vessel LÉ Aisling has been the subject of a report by the United Nations Panel of Experts on Libya that the decommissioned vessel which was sold by way of public auction on 23 March 2017 was subsequently disposed of to a Libyan military commander, Khalifa Haftar, represents a breach of a UN arms embargo by a company in the United Arab Emirates. 

Naval Service vessels are withdrawn from service when they have come to end of their useful life, which in the normal course is expected to be around 20 - 25 years. The decommissioned vessel LÉ Aisling was withdrawn from service in 2016 after being in service since 1980 having well exceeded her notional life expectancy. In engineering terms, the equipment onboard was obsolete and the reliability and capability of the ship was impacted. In order for the Naval Service to carry out its roles as assigned by Government the fleet must be capable, reliable and safe to operate in the often hostile North Atlantic where sea conditions during prolonged winter storms are not exceeded anywhere in the world.

Following her decommissioning in 2016, I made the decision to sell the former LÉ Aisling by way of public auction to the highest bidder to maximise the return to the Exchequer. This is in keeping with the Department's standing policy for the disposal of surplus defensive equipment. This approach is also in accordance with the Comptroller and Auditor General’s 2015 Report which provides that “a competitive sales process or auction should normally be used for the disposal of State assets with a significant market value.  Such a process helps to ensure transparency and is more likely to achieve the fair market price.”

All weaponry systems, defensive equipment and specialist Naval equipment were removed in their entirety from the decommissioned vessel prior to the sale. The main weapon consisted of the L70 Bofors 40mm crew served cannon which was complemented by two 20mm auto cannons. All of these were directly attached to the deck and were removed in their entirety from the vessel. In accordance with Maritime law this means that the ship was no longer classified as a warship. There were no armaments or offensive military capability on board this vessel to sell or to export.  

The sale of the decommissioned vessel was by way of a public auction, it was fully transparent and was open to all interested parties. The vessel was sold on an "as seen" basis to a Dutch shipbroker in March 2017, and was removed from the Naval Base in Haulbowline and towed to Holland by the purchaser. 

Once the decommissioned vessel was sold to the Dutch buyer, my Department ceased to have any trailing obligations in relation to the vessel and had no role or responsibility with regard to the future use of the vessel or the future supply chain for this vessel. The resale of the decommissioned vessel was a matter for the Dutch buyer and any subsequent resale onwards and compliance with UN arms embargoes was a matter for other State authorities.