The government is set to announce an agreement soon to purchase two warships from New Zealand to bolster the country’s maritime security, while the naval service has shifted into high gear to recruit more personnel to fill its exhausted ranks.
theunderstands that several months of negotiations between the Irish and New Zealand governments resulted in an agreement to purchase the two vessels, which were decommissioned as they did not meet the New Zealand Navy’s long-range patrol requirements.
The short range vessels are however ideal for the Irish Navy’s needs for the protection of the Irish Sea, as they do not need to be as robust as the P60 vessels which have to endure wilder voyages in Atlantic. They can also be staffed with fewer staff.
Although the cost of the ships has not yet been released, it is known that they are “Lake-class” ships.
These warships are smaller, at 180 feet in length, than the larger, more modern P60-class warships – such as LÉ James Joyce and LÉ George Bernard Shaw – that the Naval Service relies on for patrols of the Atlantic.
The British-built New Zealand vessels will be used extensively for fishing patrols in the Irish Sea and are likely to be based on the east coast.
The Naval Service P60s require a crew of around 45 each, but the Lake-class ships only need 25.
The purchase comes at a time when the naval service is sorely understaffed. Currently, it is 200 short of its minimum strength of 1,094.
As a result, in June 2019, he was forced to ground two ships, the flagship LÉ Eithne and LÉ Orla.
Since then it has lost more staff who resigned for better pay and conditions in the private sector.
As a result, the crew of the two smaller ships will pose a problem and could result in the tie-up of another ship, LÉ Ciara, and the transfer of its crew to other ships in the fleet.
In an attempt to address personnel shortages, the Naval Service recently embarked on a major recruiting drive, sending personnel to schools, malls and markets in an effort to generate interest in the Navy as a career choice.
The recruitment drive is targeting people between the ages of 18 and 27 for general marine positions.
The service is also sorely lacking in specialists in many key areas. In some cases, patrols were delayed because the crew lacked a specialist to board.
It has also embarked on advertising a number of ‘direct entry’ positions for specialists working in the private sector.
These vacancies include marine engineers, engine room fitters, carpenters, chefs and electricians.
Those participating in the recruiting drive speak passionately about their Navy careers, the friendships they have made and the skills they have learned on the job.