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The former flagship of the Naval Service, the LÉ Eithne (P31) which was decommissioned almost a year ago and which remains in Haulbowline naval base, faces an uncertain future following the withdrawal of two bids.

According to the Department of Defence, both of the bids from the Dublin Port Company and Cork County Council have been withdrawn.

The port and council had each shown their interest in using the former 1,920 tonnes helicopter patrol vessel (HPV) as a possible marine visitor attraction.

Since the bids were withdrawn, Cork City Council and Limerick City and County Council have expressed an interest in taking the twin funnell LÉ Eithne as a visitor attraction that features a helicopter hanger and associated flight-deck.

According to a spokesperson, it has been confirmed that officials have met with both councils about their proposed plans for the LÉ Eithne which is held in great affection given its historical maritime significance, notably as Afloat adds the flagship was the last ever vessel to be built at a shipyard in the Irish Republic.

LÉ Eithne also represented the last patrol ship for the Naval Service to have been built in Ireland and which took place at the Verolme Cork Dockyard (V.C.D.) in Rushbrooke near Cobh in 1984.

The flagship which had a crew complement of 86 (9 officers and 77 ratings) also became the first vessel of the Naval Service to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 1986.

In more recent years L.É. Eithne was the first Naval Service patrol vessel to be deployed to the Mediterranean Sea in 2015 to assist Italian authorities in humanitarian search and rescue (SAR) activities.

More from this RTE News story of last week and the fate of two 'Peacock' class former coastal patrol vessels (CPV), LÉ Orla & LÉ Ciara which were also decommissioned last year.  However, they have been replaced by two Inshore Patrol Vessels (IPV) from New Zealand that recently arrived into Cork Harbour to berth in the Naval Basin.

The Peacock twins are no longer berthed in Haulbowline, as Afloat this week observed the vessels rafted together alongside the former V.C.D. shipyard. This site is currently where the Doyle Shipping Group carry out shiprepair and general engineering operations.

Published in Navy

Patrol ships of the Naval Service have been decommissioned at the same time, with speculation mounting about what is next for these three vessels.

It is an unprecedented move and questions remain as to whether they will be gifted to foreign governments, sold privately, or even converted into public amenities.

The decommissioning on Friday of (former flagship) LÉ Eithne (built by V.C.D. in Cork Harbour) and the two inshore patrol vessels LÉ Orla and LÉ Ciara will free up some of the skeleton crews who have been maintaining them to work on other ships.

Speculation has mounted in the Philippines that its government is looking for LÉ Orla and LÉ Ciara (former UK Royal Navy Peacock class). It has some of the same type in its navy, mainly used for patrols around its large number of islands.

A Dutch businessman is also understood to be interested in purchasing some of the vessels.

Irish Examiner has more on this end of an era of the trio of 1984 built patrol vessels. 

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According to the the Naval Service is set to decommission three patrol vessels next week.

The Government are considering that the former (ageing) Irish Navy flagship the LÉ Eithne become a floating museum either in Cork city or in Dublin.

Sources have said that one consideration for the LÉ Orla and LÉ Ciara is that they be sold to a navy in Asia however the Department of Defence (DOD) has said this has not been confirmed.

“No final decisions have been made regarding the disposal of the three vessels post-decommissioning. Department officials are examining options to determine the most efficient and effective manner to dispose of the vessels,” a spokesperson said.

The DOD said that there were a number of options being considered including “safe and environmentally sound recycling via an EU approved ship-recycling facility”.

They are also considering a sale by auction to a private or foreign Government buyer, a direct transfer between Governments and also to donate the ships for a visitor’s attraction or museum.

“Consultations are ongoing with Dublin Port and Cork County Council regarding the donating of LÉ Eithne for use as a tourist attraction or a museum piece. 

More here on the story.

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In a last-ditch effort a campaign is underway to see the Naval Service flagship converted into a maritime museum, rather than sold for scrap.

Cork County Council is writing to the Minister for Defence and the secretary-general of the Department of Defence asking that LÉ Eithne be retained in Cork Harbour as a monument, rather than scrapped or sold.

Some of the main reasons for the request lie with LÉ Eithne’s significant history and association with the region. It was the last Naval Service ship built in Ireland, by the Verlome Cork Dockyard (V.C.D.) in Cobh in 1984, and the first to cross the Atlantic and visit South America.

The flagship and two ageing coastal patrol vessels, ‘Peacocks’ LÉ Orla and LÉ Ciara, are due to be decommissioned this year and rumours have circulated that all three will be sold for scrap metal value, rather than auctioned off.

The reasoning behind that theory is it might avoid further diplomatic embarrassment. The last to be auctioned ended up in the hands of a Libyan warlord, although through no fault of the Irish authorities.

A previous one was given free to Malta. However, it didn’t go down well there as former senior naval commanders on the Mediterranean Island described it as junk.

More from the Irish Examiner on this development to save the unique final Irish built ship whose adopted homeport is Dun Laoghaire Harbour.  

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A tender has finally been implemented by the Department of Defence for consultants to help it procure a €200m multi-role vessel (MRV) for the Naval Service.

As far back as 2015, the White Paper on Defence identified the need to replace the ageing Naval Service flagship LÉ Eithne with a new vessel, such as an MRV, which would be capable of carrying troops, freight and a helicopter.

The Department of Defence has gone to tender to seek consultants to provide the best design and value for money for the new ship, which it says will be “tailor-made to meet the requirements of the Defence Forces.”

The department said the design specification of the ship must make it “capable of providing a flexible and adaptive capacity for a wide range of maritime tasks, both at home and overseas.”

In addition the Irish Examiner has more and Ireland's membership of the UN Security Council. 

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#NavalService - The Irish Naval Service flagship LÉ Eithne has recently been accredited as the first in the fleet to achieve "paperless navigation” writes Jehan Ashmore

The 1984 custom-built P30 class Helicopter Patrol Vessel (HPV), Afloat adds notably the last Irish built vessel for the Naval Service and of any ship in the Republic, now has Warship Electronic Chart Display and Information System (WECDIS).

The milestone took place this day last week, where the electronic systems according to the INS will greatly enhance navigation safety, situation awareness & tactical planning capabilities.

L.É Eithne is in the same company of the ageing P40's Coastal Patrol Vessel (CPV) pair, L.É. Orla and L.É. Ciara which also date to 1984, though they were originally commissioned for the UK Royal Navy. 

The remaining patrol vessels of the fleet are all Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV), beginning with the elder pair of P50 Róisín class L.É. Róisín and L.É Niamh, the latter completed in 2000. The reference to '80' refers to the length overall (LOA) of each of the sisters built by Appledore Shipbuilders, north Devon.

They are to recieve mid-life extension survey refits involving a Scottish marine consultancy firm.

A further trio, known as enhanced Róisín class followed suit, again from the same UK shipbuilder site but under management of Babcock Marine. They are the P60 OPV90's L.É. Samuel Beckett, James Joyce and William Butler Yeats.

The latest newbuild, again a OPV90 class, L.É. George Bernard Shaw was completed this year, though it would appear that the 2,250 tonnes vessel is the final to be built at the yard, following announcement of closure.

L.É. George Bernard Shaw is currently not part of the 8-strong fleet. As reported earlier this year, the €67m OPV newbuild is according to the IDF to be formally named and officially commissioned into the Naval Service this year.

Plans are afoot to replace LÉ Eithne with a new Multi Role Vessel MRV (a first for the INS), following the Budget, where total Defence spending across the three branch forces (air corps, army and navy) is to increase to €946m next year.

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#NavalService - Due to adverse weather conditions Naval Service flagship LÉ Eithne will now be open to the public today in Dublin Port at Sir John Rogersons Quay, and not Dun Laoghaire Harbour as previously advertised. 

The crew of LÉ Eithne will continue to provide guided public tours this morning and in the afternoon between 2–4 pm. 

LÉ Eithne was built in Verolme Cork Dockyard in 1984 and is designated as a helicopter patrol vessel (HPV), though the use of the ship's design for French built 'Dauphine' helicopters were rarely used and took place early in the career of the 1,900 tonnes flagship.

The tour will include the large aft-deck where the helicopters landed and took-off next to the aircraft hanger. At the bow is mounted the main arnament, a Bofors 57mm canon.

In recent years, LÉ Eithne was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea under Operation Sophia tasked in the rescue mission of migrants off north Africa.

A fleemate offshore patrol vessel (OPV) LÉ James Joyce which was in the region to disrupt people trafficking returned home this morning to Haulbowline Naval base in Cork Harbour to be welcomed by loved ones of the crew.

The vessel has been serving since it was deployed in July.

#Navy - According to The Irish Times, two Naval Service vessels were prevented from leaving their Haulbowline base last week due to crew shortages.

The LÉ Orla and LÉ Niamh were both kept at their docks while reserve members were drafted to cover shortages on the flagship LÉ Eithne.

Last week’s situation — linked to a reduced level of personnel retention — is a symptom of a bigger problem within the Defence Forces, The Irish Times reports, with one lieutenant colonel saying the command structure “is breaking down”.

The Irish Times has much more on the story HERE.

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#Refugees - LÉ Eithne of the Irish Naval Service writes the has rescued approximately 183 people yesterday (25 June) in the Mediterranean Sea, just north of the Libyan capital Tripoli.

While on patrol at around 6 am, the LÉ Eithne located and rescued 113 refugees from an inflatable craft 40km north-west of Tripoli.

The crew on the ship then identified another craft in distress, and a second rescue operation was launched.

A further 70 people were rescued from this boat.

There are currently 183 on board the LÉ Eithne and the Irish vessel is enroute to assist in another rescue operation in the region.

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#RefugeeRescue- Following a request from the Italian Maritime Rescue Co-Ordination Centre, LÉ Eithne yesterday located and rescued a total of 135 migrants off Libya.

The migrants were found on an inflatable craft approx 83Km off the north-west coast of Tripoli.

The LÉ Eithne was subsequently appointed on scene coordinator by the Italian Maritime Rescue Co-Ordination to coordinate the rescue efforts of 3 NGO vessels dealing with 10 platforms in distress (PIDs).

The Naval Service flagship has now completed a second and third rescue of 211 migrants from two further inflatable craft, as well as taking 85 migrants on board from one of the NGO ships.

On board are 431 migrants  (346 rescued, 85 transferred from NGO vessel) and is proceeding to two further PIDs, while also coordinating the NGO ships.

The migrants on board received food water and medical treatment where required.

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