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Displaying items by tag: Crew Crisis

With a fleet including several Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV), the Naval Service has only been able to put one such ship into operational duty for the past month due to a combination of mechanical issues and a lack of specialist crew.

According to the Irish Examiner, it has also learned that the personnel shortage include expert technicians which has in part, delayed the deployment of two former Royal New Zealand inshore patrol vessels (IPV), costing €26m, which arrived to Cork Harbour as deck-cargo on board a heavy-lift ship from New Zealand last May. The ‘Lake’ class patrol cutters are unlikely to become operational until this winter.

The ongoing crewing crisis, despite following a recruitment campaign of recent months, has meant that no decision has yet been made on whether an OPV will again be deployed this summer for the EU’s IRINI mission in the Mediterranean Sea. The overseas deployment mission is aimed to enforce an oil export embargo from Libya and prevent gun-running activities into the same north African country.

Queries from newspaper on the availability of just one OPV to patrol one million square kilometres of the Republic’s Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) was responded by the Defence Forces which said it "does not give specifics on operational units nor their movements, for operational security reasons".

"The Defence Forces also does not offer comment on personnel movements, for similar reasons," it said. The newspaper understands that the one ship which was involved on patrolling, was only able to maintain such a role, by swapping a crew from a second vessel which too  hasn’t been operational.

More here on the newspaper's story and for Afloat’s coverage last week, of the Wärtsilä five-year maintenance contract with the Naval Service, which will fill the void caused by the shortage of the navy's own specialists. has since confirmed with the Naval Service, that the contract with Wärtsilä, not surpringly applies to the more modern OPV's in the fleet, the quartet of the P60 class, among them L.E. James Joyce (P62) as seen above at Dun Laoghaire Harbour last month.

The OPV would later that month return to Dublin Bay but call to the capital and then depart on 24th January for further patrol. 

Published in Navy

Naval Service crew are to see their allowance payment doubled as the Government has announced such payments will take effect, but only after ten days are spent at sea, reports RTE News.

Currently, the Patrol Duty Allowance (PDA) is paid at just over €64 per day to all crew, but as of 1 January, 2024, the allowance will be increased to over €128 per day after an initial ten days are conducted on voyage patrol duties.

Announcing the measure, Tánaiste and Minister for Defence said: “I very much welcome this new measure, which provides greater clarity on the overall package available to our Naval Service personnel and potential recruits."

“The challenges facing the Naval Service and the wider organisation are well documented, but the commitment, courage and excellence of our serving members is clear, as recently demonstrated in the recent detention of the cargo vessel MV Matthew."

“This is part of our ongoing investment in our Defence Forces; in its people, infrastructure, capabilities and culture.”

Introduction of next year’s measures, it is hoped will help to reduce the crewing crisis of recent years in the Naval Service and make the job more attractive in recruiting new personnel.

In addition to the doubling of the PDA, in turn this to boost the ability of the Naval Service to have all of its ships, Afloat adds with exception of Inshore Patrol Vessels (IPV) due in service next year, rather than having the majority of them in dock, as is currently the case because of a lack of crew.

RTE News has more here.

Only two vessels, Afloat highlights are operational for the remainder of this year, the offshore patrol vessels (OPV) of the P60 class, the leadship LÉ Samuel Beckett (P61) and LÉ William Butler Yeats (P63).

Published in Navy

Just two patrol vessels of the Naval Service will be available to go to sea until the new year.

As reports sources have said that considerations are being made to have a reduced fleet in 2024 due to the ongoing crew staffing crisis.

The two vessels available to go to sea for the remainder of this year will be the offshore patrol vessel (OPV) 90 series LÉ Samuel Beckett (P61) the leadship, and LÉ William Butler Yeats (P63). The latter OPV recently returned from a deployment to the Mediterranean.

As part of the reduced fleet measures, it is understood a third OPV ship will be kept on standby.

The development follows a high-level meeting at the Naval Service base on Haulbowline Island, Cork Harbour, where discussions on the issue took place in recent days.

Senior naval officers following the meeting met the affected crew of the vessels to inform them that they were forced to tie up patrol vessels at the Naval Base. This will mean that all but two of the eight patrol ships of the naval fleet will be in service until the end of the year.

Of this fleet total of eight ships, Afloat highlights that two are Inshore Patrol Vessels (IPV) that previously served the Royal New Zealand Navy, however the pair will not be entering service until 2024.

More from here on the reduced capability of the Naval Service.

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Crew from one of the Naval Service’s tied-up ships in Cork Harbour are to be transferred to fill staffing gaps on two ships so to enable the retention of patrols in Irish waters as a vessel is dispatched to the Mediterranean.

The offshore patrol vessel (OPV) P60 class LÉ William Butler Yeats in six weeks is to depart overseas so to participate in Operation Irini. This operation is an EU mission to prevent arms smuggling into war torn Libya in north Africa.

Sources according to The Journal, have said staffing levels are so grave in the Naval Service base in Haulbowline Island, (opposite of Cobh) that the crew of LÉ James Joyce will be transferred on board two other OPV P60 class vessels so to enable patrols to be maintained.

The two P60’s involved in domestic duties are the LÉ George Bernard Shaw and LÉ Samuel Beckett in which the latter is the leadship of the quartet of the class otherwise known as the ‘Beckett’ class.

Currently the LÉ James Joyce is undergoing refurbishment work and it is understood from these same sources is that the plan is to delay the ship’s return to service.

The delay would therefore allow its crew to help keep both Beckett class ships at sea.

If this scenario arises, this will leave the Naval Service with just two ships patrolling Irish waters.

More here on the operational challenges given the crew crisis.

Published in Navy

A pair of Naval Service offshore patrol vessels (OPV) according to The are to be tied up in Haulbowline, Cork Harbour as there are not enough crew to operate the vessels.

It has been confirmed by the Department of Defence (DOD) that the OPV P50's series LE Róisín (P51) and LE Niamh (P52) will be unable to head to sea due to crippling staffing retention and recruitment crisis in the Defence Forces.

(Afloat adds this would leave the naval fleet with just a quartet of OPV P60 series among them the final member LE George Bernard Shaw (P64) which came into service in 2018. All four ships in addition to the older OPV P50 / Róisín series were built in Appledore, England and before the Harland & Wolff Group acquired the shipyard in north Devon).

The development to reduce the fleet came a day before Tánaiste and Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin visited Irish troops in Lebanon (yesterday)for the first time since he took over at the DOD.

The decision to mothball OPV P50's according to sources was made last week in discussions during a high level meeting of defence civil servants and senior officers in the Defence Forces.

The same sources it is understood said that the remaining members of the OPV P60's ships’ crews (each with 44 crew and 6 officers) have yet to be informed of the move.

Another pair of naval vessels acquired from the Royal New Zealand Navy are scheduled to arrive in the coming months, however it remains unknown if crew numbers can be found to operate these Inshore Patrol Vessels.

Further reading here on this story. 

Published in Navy

To address the persistent crew crisis in the Naval Service, the Defence Forces is considering attempting to recruit sailors from outside the country.

The Naval Service which celebrated its 75th anniversary last year, is almost 300 below its establishment strength of 1,094 personnel, having seen levels fall to 800 currently.

The possibility of hiring a “marine specialist talent acquisition agency” is under examination by officials. If established, the agency would conduct a global search for expert mariners to replace the large numbers of personnel that in recent years have departed the Naval Service.

Of the three branches that form the Defence Forecs, the most affected is the Naval Service as the staffing crisis has led to patrol ships been unable to head to sea. Last July, three patrol vessels were decomissioned reducing the fleet total to six ships, however a pair of secondhand Royal New Zealand Navy inshore cutters are to due enter service this year.

In much demand from the private sector are highly trained navy marine technicians, electricians and engineers. This has led to personnel quitting the navy as the draw to the private sector typcially offers more attactive pay and conditions.

The Irish Times has more including the ongoing process to purchase a 'multi-role vessel' as Afloat previously reported. 

Published in Navy

The strength of personnel in the Naval Service which celebrated its 75th anniversary last year, has fallen below the 800 mark which is over 200 below its minimum staffing level of 1,094.

There are no captains heading cavalry squadrons when they are supposed to have at least three, while infantry battalions have three when they should have eight. In addition to the crewing crisis, there is also a shortage of doctors within the Defence Forces.

With an ever-worsening personnel crisis has led the president of the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (RACO), the officers’ association, to maintain it is time to say no to certain demands that military management might make.

Across the three wings of the Defence Forces, vacancies remain in the army, the air corps but the navy continues to suffer the most where member numbers have been reduced to 799. 

More from the Irish Examiner  which understands that so far this year, 102 people have quit the navy, with just 28 recruits joining the force.

The number of patrol vessels has also reduced this year from 9 down to 6 as Afloat previously reported following the decomissioning of a trio of ageing vessels all dating to 1984.

Due to lack of crew technicians, further ships may also be tied-up along with a pair of coastal patrol vessels which the Department of Defence acquired earlier this year from the Royal New Zealand Navy.

The 'Lake' class cutters however have yet to arrive in Irish waters. 

Published in Navy

About €1.2 million is to be spent on external contractors to keep Naval Service ships at sea due to the drastic shortage of personnel, reports The Irish Times.

In recent years, electrical artificers, who are responsible for maintaining and repairing patrol ships’ electrical systems, have been departing the navy in large numbers due to high demand in the private sector as Afloat previously reported.

An entire class of trainees also recently left for the private sector in one go.

Currently the Naval Service is in the process of seeking to replace these workers with contractors from private companies. These will work alongside sailors in the electrical electronic section under the direction of its commanding officer. The intent is to augment the section “and not replace” it, the Naval Service said in procurement documents.

The private contractors will carry out planned and unplanned maintenance but will not be expected to go to sea.

“Due to a short-term lack in skilled electrical artificers (electronic technicians/electricians) the Naval Service require a contracted service assistance to provide technical support to the existing staff within the EES,” it said.

More from the newspaper here.

Published in Navy

Two large patrol vessels of the Naval Service will be forced to tie up along with mothballing two smaller ships it purchased from New Zealand if immediate steps are not taken to recruit fully-trained engine room specialists to crew them.

At present, highly trained Engine Room Articifiers (ERAs) — technicians who are vital to keeping the ships running — are operating at 41% of their minimal strength, while the Navy's electricians' branch is at operating at just 32%.

Projections of a further exodus of such experts from the Naval Service have prompted warnings that the LÉ Roisin and LÉ Niamh could be tied up in 2023 and/or 2024. Such highly-trained specialists are extremely thin on the ground in Ireland and to plug the gaps the Navy may have to source them in Europe.

The figures also suggest it will be very difficult to provide ERAs to crew the two smaller New Zealand patrol ships due to arrive next year.

More from Irish Examiner on the PDFORRA conference and the Air Corps.

Published in Navy

The strength of the Naval Service is at its lowest ebb in 42 years with the exodus of highly experienced people showing no sign of abating.

There is increasing concern that by the late autumn it could be getting close to just 800 personnel – whereas it should have a minimum of 1,094.

There are just 841 personnel on the books at present, but the Irish Examiner (which has more) understands this includes an unspecified number, (believed to be around 30) who have officially signalled they want to leave and are waiting their discharge papers.

This would bring the Naval Service ever closer to what experts say is a "critical 800-level" making it increasingly difficult to "keep the ship/s afloat" especially as recruitment isn't keeping pace with departures.

Despite the best efforts of a cohort of Naval Service personnel – who have embarked on around-the-country recruitment campaigns in shopping centres, second-level schools etc – the latest recruit class of enlisted personnel had just six in training.

Published in Navy
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