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Irish Lights Look to Future Replacement of Aids to Navigation Vessel ILV Granuaile

2nd February 2022
Irish Lights aids to navigation vessel ILV Granuaile (named after the 16th century Mayo pirate queen) has been the workhorse for more than two decades in the servicing of offshore buoys and lighthouses off the entire Irish coast in addition to providing other multifunctional duties. The Dun Laoghaire Harbour based vessel is seen alongside its homeport berth at St. Michaels Wharf, where the scene captures buoys on the aft-deck which is at the centre of operations with the use of a 20t (20m outreach) crane in a raised position. While an accompanying tender cautiously approaches the starboard side. Irish Lights aids to navigation vessel ILV Granuaile (named after the 16th century Mayo pirate queen) has been the workhorse for more than two decades in the servicing of offshore buoys and lighthouses off the entire Irish coast in addition to providing other multifunctional duties. The Dun Laoghaire Harbour based vessel is seen alongside its homeport berth at St. Michaels Wharf, where the scene captures buoys on the aft-deck which is at the centre of operations with the use of a 20t (20m outreach) crane in a raised position. While an accompanying tender cautiously approaches the starboard side. Credit: Jehan Ashmore

The Commissioners of Irish Lights, the General Lighthouse Authority (GLA) responsible for aids to navigation in waters off Ireland, operates the buoy-laying vessel ILV Granuaile which this year entered its 23rd year in service, writes Jehan Ashmore.

For more than two decades ILV Granuaile has served in its primary function to place and service the 150 offshore buoys of Ireland's long and rugged coastline notablyalong the western seaboard. The bouys warn mariners of the location of sand banks, reefs and other offshore hazards near shipping routes, essential to an island nation given our economic trade is highly dependent on maritime routes connecting Europe and beyond.

ILV Granuaile began service in January 2000, a newbuild that was then one of the most advanced vessels of its type in the world. The newbuild's design, saw buoy operations radically shifted away from the traditional located forward work deck area near the bow to that of the aft-deck.

When ILV Granuaile made its debut in the first month of the millenium, this marked a notable prototype for Irish Lights and would lead to GLA counterparts in England, Wales, Channel Island & Gibraltar (Trinity House) and for Scotland & the Isle of Man (Northern Lighthouse Board) to follow suit with similar vessels. This led to the commissioning of THV Galatea and NLV Pharos respectively.

In addition, ILV Granuaile also formed a prototype for Relume, that initially served the Middle East Navigation Aids Service (MENAS) and in which during last summer, the vessel carried out survey work off the Irish east coast for a windfarm project.

Plans are in place to replace two buoy-laying vessels in the coming years, as Afloat previously reported, Trinity House's ageing THV Patricia (built 1982) and the Northern Lighthouse Board's NLV Pole Star (built 2000). In the same year ILV Granuaile was delivered to Irish Lights, having been built in a Romanian shipyard and with outfitting carried out in the Netherlands. 

Irish Lights Statement on replacing ILV Granuaile

Afloat contacted Irish Lights in regards to the operational life-span of the aids to navigation vessel with CIL responding below on the possible future replacement of the vessel.

The Commissioners of Irish Lights is a maritime organisation delivering an essential safety service around the coast of Ireland, protecting the marine environment, and supporting the marine industry and coastal communities. We provide maritime aids to navigation services to meet the State’s legal obligation under SOLAS Chapter V, Regulation 13 and we enhance safety of navigation for all seafarers, including the merchant fleet, the fishing sector and the leisure sector.

In delivering our services we rely substantially on the capability of our buoy tender vessel, the ILV Granuaile; the third Irish Lights vessel to bear the name Granuaile. Built in 2000, the current Granuaile is extremely maneuverable as a Class 1 DP vessel and capable of a wide variety of mission profiles including maintenance of aids to navigation, wreck response and reacting to new dangers to navigation, Search and Rescue/Recovery and response to oil pollution. (See related pollution recovery exercise, as featured in 'Maritime Dalkey' DCC Newsletter, Feb.2015 p. 11 and 13). 

Irish Lights operates in close cooperation and mutual support with our sister GLA, Trinity House and the Northern Lighthouse Board. In total, the three GLAs operate seven vessels, of which two vessels THV Patricia and NLV Pole Star (have both Afloat adds shared duties in Irish waters) are approaching end-of-service life and will be replaced in the coming years.

ILV Granuaile has benefitted from all required upgrades and maintenance during her service life, including new bridge navigation and control equipment suite, enhanced sonar capability and upgrades to all critical systems onboard. This has allowed the ship to exceed the requirements for certification by Lloyds and the Flag State. Therefore, it is expected that the ship will continue to operate successfully well into the latter part of this decade.

However, like all vessels she will eventually require replacement and Irish Lights has included this requirement in our strategic planning considerations for the period out to 2030.

It is expected that Irish Lights will benefit greatly from the lessons learned by our sister organisations in Scotland and England in terms of fuel choice and energy efficiency of any new vessel design.

For the moment, we will continue to successfully operate the ILV Granuaile providing maritime services to the State and our user groups, while we begin to work on planning for her eventual replacement in the medium to long term.

Charter Role

The versatile design of ILV Granuaile also makes her ideal for commercial hire, which allows Irish Lights to use any reserve capacity of the vessel to reduce the cost of provision of aids to navigation to the State.

Published in Lighthouses
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Irish Lighthouses

Irish Lights is a maritime organisation delivering essential 24/7 safety and navigation services around the coast of Ireland 365 days. Its focus is reliable and cost-effective services which protect people, property and the marine environment, and support marine industry and coastal communities.

Irish Lights is responsible for providing marine aids to navigation under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention. This remit includes: providing and maintaining over 300 general aids to navigation, managing about 4,000 local aids to navigation and marking or removing dangerous wrecks outside harbour areas around Ireland. Irish Lights also provides contract commercial services for ship charter, buoy and marine data services and supports tourism and heritage activities.

Emergency Response: If you notice any aid to navigation is not functioning correctly please contact our 24-hour emergency number 01 280 1996

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