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Displaying items by tag: Crew Crisis

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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Just six young Naval Service recruits passed out of training in what's believed to be the smallest class in modern times encountered by the navy, which is already dogged by personnel shortages.

Normally, the Naval Service would get anything between 25 and 40 in a recruit class and needs to ratchet up recruitment significantly as it is already more than 200 personnel short of the minimum number it requires.

The Irish Examiner understands that initially, 15 people enlisted in this particular recruit class. They were primarily trained at the army's Collins' Barracks in Cork City because there is more space there than the Naval Service headquarters on Haulbowline Island and extra space was required due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Nine dropped out during training, leaving just six to pass out after completing a 22-week course.

Click here for more on the chronic shortage of naval crew.

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The current dire condition of the Naval Service led Ireland to rely on a European Union (EU) ship to help patrol its fishing zone for the first time this year.

According to the Irish Times, the Irish Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFCA) requested and received the support of the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) in patrolling Irish waters on four occasions between January and March in 2021.

This was considered necessary because “the Naval Service could not commit to increase its patrol days at sea under a joint-EU initiative co-ordinated at EU level by EFCA.”

It was the first time Ireland had to rely on the EFCA’s vessel (Afloat can reveal as the Lundy Sentinel). 

The revelation was contained in a blunt assessment from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine to the Commission on the Defence Forces which is examining the future role and capabilities of the Irish military.

Fishery protection is the core role of the Naval Service, which has been hit particularly hard by the manpower crisis impacting the entire Defence Forces.

Last year there was a 25 per cent decrease in the number of fishery patrols carried out by the Naval Service compared to 2019.

For more on this notable first fishery patrol duty performed by the EFCA in Irish waters, click here.

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