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‘Aoife’ Finally Departs Cork Harbour On Delivery Voyage to Malta

21st November 2015

#AoifeVoyageMalta - ‘Aoife’ (P62) departed Cork Harbour for the final time marking an end of an era for the Naval Service, as she passed Roches Point Lighthouse bound for Malta to serve a new career yet remain in a naval role, writes Jehan Ashmore.

As previously reported on Afloat which has been monitoring movements of the former Naval Service OPV LÉ Aoife (P22) which on Monday this week had passed the same lighthouse at lunchtime. Then that departure was confirmed to Afloat by Cork Dockyard as the 1,019 tonnes vessel was about to begin sea-trials following a refit at the facility.

The decision by the Irish Government to donate the second ‘Emer’ class patrolship dating to 1979 to Malta, had raised eyebrows by military brass from the island state. The concerns were over her age and it was questioned as to the suitability in the role of shoring up the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) naval squadron in search and rescue (SAR) missions of refugees in the Mediterranean Sea.

Under a new pennant number of P62, the patroship easily becomes the largest to serve in the AFM’s naval squadron. The delivery voyage to the Maltese capital of Valetta is expected to take a week.

To reflect on the career of LÉ Aoife that spanned 35 years of service to the State in which she travelled in excess of 600,000 nautical miles. That’s the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe 28 times. Her crew boarded over 4,700 vessels at sea and detained over 440 fishing vessels. In this role which was primarily her main work as fishery protection vessel, however she also carried out SAR and most notably, the recovery in 1985 of the black box from Air India Flight 182 off the south west coast.

As for the debate over her donation, there were calls domestically to retain the OPV. In Waterford, her adopted homeport there were calls to keep the Irish built (Verolme Cork Dockyard) OPV as a floating museum. This was regarded as an apt proposal given she was decommissioned in the south-eastern cityport.

In addition Cork County Mayor also called for the same proposal by having the OPV turned into a floating museum located near Naval Service headquarters at the base on Haulbowline Island in the face of what was regarded as a ‘snub’ by the Maltese.

This leaves the question what will become of the final ‘Emer’ class OPV? The LÉ Aisling (P23) given in the knowledge that she will be replaced in 2016 also in the form of a final sister, that been the newbuild LÉ William Butler Yeates. 

She is the final unit from the current batch of a trio of OPV90 class sisters also dubbed the ‘Beckett’ class that are phase one of the Naval Service’s replacement and modernisation programme.

The second sister LÉ James Joyce (P62) was commissioned into service this year.

LÉ Samuel Beckett (P61) since September has been in the Mediterranean as part of 'Operations Pontus'. The OPV90 leadship has been tasked to assist in SAR missions that has seen almost 1,000 people saved from overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels controlled by people traffickers while off the coast of Libya, north Africa.

So what shall become of the future role of LÉ Aisling? To keep the vessel in Irish waters as part of our maritime heritage? or placed to serve in the same role of her elder sister in the ongoing crisis in the Med?

Or for the Irish Government to assess in another humanitarian mission elsewhere in the world? 

Published in News Update
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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