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Former Aoife Arrives As ‘P62’ New Flagship of Maltese Navy

28th November 2015

#AoifeArrivesMalta – The former LÉ Aoife (P22) donated by the Irish Government and which is now known as ‘P62’ completed today a week-long delivery voyage from Cork Harbour to Valetta, Malta, writes Jehan Ashmore.

P62 was yesterday underway in the Mediterranean Sea offshore between Tunisia and Sicily before firstly calling into Mellieha Bay on the north coast of Malta.

It was during the summer months, that maintenance refit works were carried out at Cork Dockyard as previously reported on Afloat.ie. This had involved personnel from the Irish Army according to the Times of Malta and those from the Armed Forces (AFM) of Malta.

The delivery voyage to Malta was under the command of Major James Grixti accompanied by 41 young Maltese soldiers. On arrival at Haywharf Base, Valetta, the P62 was welcomed by Home Affairs Minister Carm Abela along with the happy occasion as family and friends greeted the crew ashore (see, video above).

OPV LE Aoife was built by Verolme Cork Dockyard and commissioned into the Naval Service in 1979. For the next 35 years she served a career primarily in the role of fishery protection duties. The 1,019 tonnes 65.2m OPV will now serve as the new flagship of the AFM maritime squadron.

Like the rest of the AFM fleet, mostly of smaller patrol vessels/ craft, they do not have an actual name but are referred by the assigned pennant number, as in the case of the ‘Aoife’ (P22) which changed to the Maltese 'P62'. By coincidence the same pennant number used by her direct Irish Naval Service replacement, OPV LÉ James Joyce (P62).

The AFM's P62 takes over from the last flagship, P61 of 399 tonnes. The 53.4m ‘Diciotti’ (modified ‘Saettia’) class patrol vessel is based on the design of an Italian Coastguard cutter.  Unlike the newcomer, P61 features a helicopter deck and stern ramp for launching a 7 metre RHIB.

As widely reported in the media here and in Malta, following her donation, there were some concerns raised by military brass in the AFM due to the ageing ‘Aoife’ with comments that she was of ‘junk’ status.

Against that backdrop, there were calls from Cork and Waterford to save ‘Aoife’ as a floating museum in either south coast ports, however, this leaves the question over the fate of the final 'Emer' OPV class LÉ Aisling (P23). This vessel is due to be replaced by the final OPV90 class LE William Butler Yeates (P63) in 2016.

Initially, the AFM are according to the Times of Malta to use P62 for offshore patrols until works are carried out on P61 and until the Maltese army obtains another OPV as previously reported on Afloat.ie

Also on today's inaugural arrival of P62 to Valetta, the Royal Navy’s HMS Bulwark (L15) was berthed in the Maltese capital, where Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh paid a visit on board the amphibious landing platform dock-ship. 

Earlier this year, the Naval Service flagship, LÉ Eithne (P31) transferred rescued refugees to HMS Bulwark (then the RN's flagship), and also the UK’s leadship in the humanitarian role. HMS Echo (H87) has since taken over albeit in more of a reconnaissance co-ordination role.

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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