#MigrantMission - Flagship LE Eithne of the Naval Service is to be deployed again on humanitarian missions in the Mediterranean Sea, so to assist in the ongoing refugee migrant crisis off north Africa, writes Jehan Ashmore.
The 1984 built Helicopter Patrol Vessel unique in the eight-strong navy was equipped with such aircraft but earlier in her career, is expected to depart Haulbowline Naval Base, Cork Harbour on 1st May.
In response to Afloat, the Department of Defence issued a statement that said the deployment of LE Eithne is on foot of a Government decision so to enable to assist humanitarian search and Rescue (SAR) operations in the region.
The Department added LE Eithne’s role is subject to finalisation of bilateral arrangements with the Italian authorities on the deployment and operation of the vessel. This will involve LE Eithne on the disembarkation and reception of persons rescued or vessels in distress.
This second deployment of the flagship follows the Defence Forces involvement in ‘Operation Pontus’ last year. This saw three Naval ships and over 150 Naval Service and Army personnel deployed to the Mediterranean in response to the humanitarian crisis supporting the Italian Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre with SAR assistance.
During 2016 a total of 7,029 migrants alone were rescued. Since the Naval Service began such missions in recent years more than 15,000 people have been saved.
The role of the navy in humanitarian operations was recognised recently when an Honorary ‘Freedom of Entry to the County’ was bestowed to the Naval Service from Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council last month. Crew from the flagship that docked in its adopted homeport attended the ceremony.