The White Paper on Defence underpins the ongoing replacement of the Naval Service fleet.
The most significant investment of recent years by the Defence Organisation has been on the procurement of the new Off-Shore Patrol Vessels for the Naval Service. This programme has seen the delivery of three new Naval Service vessels in recent years. The LÉ Samuel Beckett was commissioned in May 2014, LÉ James Joyce was commissioned in September 2015 and LÉ William Butler Yeats was commissioned into service in October 2016.
In June 2016, a contract for an additional sister ship was placed with Babcock International, a British company, bringing investment in the new ships programme to some €250 million since 2010. The fourth ship, to be named LÉ George Bernard Shaw is scheduled for delivery in mid-2018.
The White Paper also 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. Planning has commenced on this project and it is intended to hold a public tender competition in due course to cover the supply of the MRV. This, of course, is 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.
The acquisition of these modern new vessels, combined with an ongoing maintenance regime for all vessels within the fleet, will ensure that the operational capabilities of the Naval Service, as the State’s principal seagoing agency, are maintained to the greatest extent.