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#CrewRest – The Dutch embassy has contacted to say the submarine that docked in Dublin Port was not in directly for repairs but for a crew rest and recreational call to the capital, writes Jehan Ashmore.

HNLMS Walrus had sailed into Dublin Bay on Sunday. The submarine dating to 1992 is the leadship of the 'Walrus' class quartet. They are regarded as one of the most advanced non-nuclear attack submarines in the world.

The 68m long HNLMS Walrus (ship's prefix refers to: His Netherlands Majesty's Ship) is to depart tomorrow on King's Day, where in the Netherlands the day celebrates King Willem Alexander’s official birthday. The annual celebration is marked with parties, street markets, concerts and special events for the royal family.

In neighbouring Belgium, a flotilla of navy vessels from that country are due to dock in Dublin Port on Friday.

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#SubRepairs - It transpires the Dutch submarine HNMLS Walrus which made a call to Dublin yesterday is in port due to repairs according to the Dutch Embassy, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The 2,650 displacement tonnes (when submerged) 'Walrus' class are regarded as one of the most advanced non nuclear attack submarines.

HNLMS Walrus arrived in Dublin Bay having rounded Howth Peninula. When off the Baily Lighthouse, the submarine initially headed to Scotmans Bay off Dun Laoghaire Harbour before entering the port.

Work on the almost 68m long submarine dating from 1992 is scheduled to be completed so to enable a departure on Wednesday.

HNLMS Walrus which has a 6.6m / 22ft draft is berthed on the west side of Ocean Pier within Alexandra Basin.

This stretch of quayside water is also deep enough to accommodate the largest cruiseliners that can currently dock in the port.

Notably the largest ever ship to call was cruiseship MSC Splendida which made a maiden call last year. The giant cruisehip towers 18 decks and below the waterline the hull has a draft of 8.29m /27.2 ft.

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#NATOrefugees- NATO military vessels writes The Irish Times, are to be deployed to the Aegean Sea to help Turkey and Greece crackdown on criminal networks smuggling migrants and refugees into Europe, allied defence ministers said on Thursday.

The move, discussed by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ministers for the first time at a meeting in Brussels, is aimed at helping the continent tackle its worst migration crisis since the second World War, with more than a million asylum seekers arriving last year.

Although the plan is still to be detailed by NATO generals, member states are likely to use ships to work with Turkish and Greek coast guards and the European Union border agency Frontex.

Afloat adds the Irish Naval Service (a non-NATO member) last month had plans in place to deploy another patrol ship, LÉ Roisin (P51) to the Mediterranean Sea. This would be in the event that the next government decides to renew last year’s humanitarian mission to the region. 

Also last year, the Defence Budget for 2016 was announced and the White Paper on Defence policy was published, to read more click here.

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#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 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

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.

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#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

#AoifeSeaTrials - The former Naval Service OPV LÉ Aoife (P22) which underwent a refit at Cork Dockyard to prepare for a new career with the Maltese Navy departed today for sea-trials, writes Jehan Ashmore

The 1,019 tonnes OPV (new pennant number P62) departed at lunchtime to carry out sea-trials off the Irish coast for the next 24 hours. According to Cork Dockyard, the 'Aoife' is scheduled to depart Cork Harbour on 21 November for the delivery voyage to Valetta, Malta.

She donated by the Irish Government to the Meditterranean island state amid much controversary as critism was raised by Maltese military brass given her age and overall suitability in the role of rescuing refugees.

In January this year the 'Emer' class OPV was decommissioned at her adopted homeport of Waterford City having served 35 years. She was built in 1978 on the same site of Cork Dockyard, at the former Verolme Cork Dockyard.

The 65.5m long patrolship is to join the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) maritime squadron and carry out in search and rescues duties as part of a deal between Ireland and Malta to increase closer co-operation on defence matters and on the migrant crisis.

The transfer of Aoife will be the largest vessel to join the AFM's navy fleet. It is understood, however she will act as an interim measure as a new OPV is to be acquired in the next four years.

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#BringViolaHome - last year reported on an ambitious project by SMS Towage to bring back to the UK an abandoned trawler now 109 years old from South Georgia, the remote South Atlantic island.

The Viola, a derelict North Sea trawler launched in Beverley in 1906, was requisitioned in 1914 by the Admiralty and set sail on a mission to hunt U-boats and sweep for mines during World War 1. She was involved in the sinking of two U-boats and despite a campaign led by Dr. Robb Robinson of Hull University has she has yet to return to her home port of Hull.

For more than a decade Dr. Robb Robinson of Hull University has campaigned to bring the 'Viola' a former North Sea trawler from South Georgia to its homeport of Hull, 100 years after she sailed to take up her part in the war.

Good news has arisen as results from a feasibility study on the veterean vessel was carried out by Beverley-based Solis Marine, which were very encouraging. Using all the data provided from SMS Towage of Viola in South Georgia and that from the original salvage team, Solis were able to outline options for her return to Hull.

All this data was presented to Hull City Council during the Spring and SMS Towage are pleased to report that it was very well received. Hull City Council are currently looking at options to re-vamp Hull’s waterfront and it is hoped that one day Viola can form part of a new fishing heritage location in the city.

Associated British Ports have expressed their desire to support the project and in the last few weeks they, together with Paul Escreet of SMS Towage, have conducted a site survey of potential final resting place for Viola.

An official request, together with details of recovery plan and proposed end use, have now been submitted to the Governor of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands to consider. We await to hear if our request for the recovery of Viola has been granted.

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#NewChiefofStaff - Vice Admiral Mark Mellett DSM* will formally be appointed the new Chief of staff of the Defence Forces, from midnight tonight, having previously been proposed by the Minister for Defence Mr Simon Coveney TD and accepted by the Irish Government on the 30th of June. He will succeed the current Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Conor O’Boyle DSM and is the first Irish Naval Service Officer to hold the honour.

Speaking on his new role VADM Mellett DSM said; "It is humbling to be Chief of Staff of Óglaigh na hÉireann, particularly in this landmark time for Ireland and the Irish people. I would like to thank my predecessor Lieutenant General Conor O'Boyle DSM for the direction and guidance he has brought to the Defence Forces and his mentoring to me over his tenure. I look forward to the continuance of this work through the pursuit of the goals laid out in the White Paper over the coming period."

Vice Admiral Mark Mellett DSM, PhD

VADM Mark Mellett DSM is the Chief of Staff of Óglaigh na hÉireann, the Irish Defence Forces, having been promoted to the appointment by the Irish Government on the 29th of September 2015.

Prior to his current position, VADM Mellett was the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces where he had responsibility for materiel and support functions, including personnel, finance and logistics in the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service. He has thirty eight years service, much of it seagoing, including three naval commands.

VADM Mellett previously served as Flag Officer Commanding the Irish Naval Service. During shore rotations he held appointments in Naval Headquarters, Naval Operations and Support Commands. for over two decades he has been a change leader in the Irish Defence Forces, contributing to it's ongoing transformation, positioning the forces in a post-modern setting.

He has served as Head of Naval Plans and Policy, Commandant of the Naval College and Associate Head of the National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI.)

*In addition to citations for service in Afghanistan (2004) and Lebanon (1989) in 1994 VADM Mellett was decorated by the Irish State, receiving "The Distinguished Service Medal (DSM)" for intercepting a major maritime narcotics shipment.

VADM Mellett is a founding member of the Irish Maritime and Energy resource Cluster (IMERC) and a member of it's governing authority. IMERC serves as an 'Innovation Network,' and acts as a stimulant for enterprise and job creation in the maritime and renewable energy spheres. It has a particular focus on marine energy, shipping logistics and transport, maritime security and safety and yachting products and services.

VADM Mellett has a PhD (2009) in Political Science from the National University of Ireland, Galway and an M Com (2004) in Government and Public Policy from University College Cork. He has been a Visiting Professor at Liverpool Hope University (UK.) He is a distinguished graduate of the US Naval War College, Newport RI (1999); the Irish Command and Staff College (1998) and the Royal Naval College Greenwich (1989.)

VADM Mellett has a keen interest in research and has been a member of the European Security research Innovation Forum (ESRIF.) He has published on innovation, security, governance and maritime affairs.

He is a former naval diver and enjoys running, cycling and fitness. He is married to Liz and has four children.

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#BlueEconomy - The Irish Times writes that the "blue economy", Ireland's maritime sector is performing on average better than the general economy according to a report published by the Socio- Economic Marine Research Unit based at NUI Galway.

Indicators show that Ireland's maritime economy grew by 9 per cent between 2010 to 2012, while growth in Irish GDP during the same period was only 4.75 per cent.

In the period 2012 to 2014, the maritime economy continued to outperform the national economy, with growth rates of 8 per cent. Employment has also increased, from 17,425 to 18,480 full-time equivalents.

The report provides trends across 13 marine sectors from 2010-2012 and also provides estimates for 2014. It says the direct economic value of Ireland's ocean economy is €1.4 billion, or approximately 0.8 per cent of GDP. The sector had a turnover of €4.5 billion last year.

For more on the story click here.

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#AoifeToMalta- Former Naval Service OPV Aoife now under the ownership of the Maltese authorities is berthed alongide Cork Dockyard today in readiness for her new role in the Mediterranean Sea, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The transfer of the 1,019 tonnes offshore patrol vessel follows completion of administration arrangements between Maltese officials and the Department of Defence. This will see Aoife join the Armed Forces of Malta maritime squadron. Among her duties she is expected to be tasked in the rescue of refugees in the worsening humanitarian crisis. 

Earlier this year discussions began regarding the donation to Malta of LÉ Aoife (P22), the oldest unit of the Naval Service fleet which after 35 years-service was decommissioned in January. The proposal drew criticism from quarters within Maltese military describing the vessel as "past its sell-by date" and of "junk" status.

The introduction of Aoife according to the Maltese Government will address a shortfall in the capability of having a longer range vessel and given the country's role in UN mandated missions. In fact the Aoife's role will almost be full-circle (see report) and she will become the largest vessel of the Maltese fleet.  

Aoife made the short passage today from the Naval Service basin on Haulbowline Island to the berth outside the dockyard. Likewise the facility at Rushbrooke is where her elder sister Emer underwent work following her sale by public auction in 2013. 

The former LÉ Emer (P23) was sold for €320,000 to Nigerian interests to serve as a personnel transfer carrier and security vessel for the oil industry off West Africa.

Emer has since changed hands as in February this year she was commissioned into the Nigerian Navy and renamed NNS Prosperity.

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