Thursday, 7 November 2019
Department of Defence
Naval Service Operations
22. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the status of each of the ships of the Naval Service, for example, in dry dock or at sea, if and each has a full complement of crew; and when he expects all ships will be at sea at the one time in view of the challenges of drug smuggling, sea fishery protection, possible UN or EU duty in the Mediterranean Sea or local search and rescue and ordinary sea patrols, in the case of ships not in service. [45676/19]
As the Deputy will be aware, the Naval Service is the State's principal sea-going agency tasked with a variety of defence and other roles. In this context, I would highlight the security role of the Naval Service, a role which by its nature can go unrecognised or unacknowledged.
I am advised that the fleet is managed to ensure maximum availability to meet operational requirements. In that context, there is always a sub set of Naval Service vessels on patrol within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone at any one time.
Maintenance and drydocking works are carried out on an on-going basis to ensure the operational capability of the Naval Service is maintained to the greatest extent possible. I am advised that one ship, LÉ Ciara, is currently in Dry-dock. In addition, LÉ Róisín’s mid-Life Extension Programme commenced earlier this year with an initial dry-docking phase followed by an extended period of equipment upgrade and refit works. LÉ Niamh’s extension programme is due to commence in 2020. Two ships, LÉ Eithne and LÉ Orla, are currently on Operational Pause.
The personnel challenges in the PDF have been recognised and my priority is on returning the Defence Forces, including the Naval Service, to full strength.
A joint civil and military team has been reviewing the issues facing the Naval Service and its overall viability, and continue to plan ahead to ensure we maximise operational outputs. As we deal with these issues, the safety of serving personnel must be the number one priority.
As the Deputy will appreciate, the individual unit strength cannot be disclosed for operational reasons.
However, I can assure the Deputy that the Naval Service will continue to carry out its various roles using available resources.