Tuesday 22 August 2017

Famous Navy ship LÉ Aisling sold in Cork auction for €110k

LE Aisling
LE Aisling
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

Arguably the most famous ship in modern Naval Service history, LÉ Aisling, was sold for €110,000 at an auction to a Dutch ship broker.

LÉ Aisling was decommissioned from fleet service last year after steaming 600,000 nautical miles over a 36 year service career.

The vessel was sold by public auction in Carrigaline, Co Cork.

Auctioneer Dominic Daly said LÉ Aisling represented an unique purchase despite the difficulties in the global shipping sector.

Netherlands ship broker, Dick van der Kamp, bought the ship for €110,000 with just the second bid at the auction.

The vessel sold for roughly one-third of the €320,000 the LE Emer made at public auction almost four years ago.

LE Deirdre, which was auctioned off in 2001, made €240,000.

Mr van der Kamp said the purchase was a gamble.

"The offshore ship market has collapsed over the past few years. That is why this ship made much less than the previous ship auctioned off," he said.

He said the ship will be towed to the Netherlands within a matter of weeks and his firm will then consider expressions of interest in it.

"Sometimes you buy ships and it is a bargain. But it is also a gamble," he said.

"I don't know yet (what will happen with LE Aisling). It might be converted as a private yacht, it might be used as a guard ship."

The Dutch firm currently have 25 other vessels on their books and have supplied vessels for use as pilot boats and even ice-breakers.

While the global ship market has dramatically declined, places like Africa are still purchasing vessels.

Mr Daly admitted it was "a little disappointing" there were only two bids at auction for the ship.

"It is part of a class built in Cork. The first was LÉ Deirdre and she was sold off a number of years ago and converted into a private yacht," he said.

"The second was LÉ Emer which was also sold and is now a training ship in the Nigerian Navy."

"The third, LÉ Aoife, was given to the Maltese Navy last year."

LÉ Aisling was built at Verolme Dockyard in Cork in 1979 – the second last to be built at the Irish facility – and gave almost 36 years sterling service to the navy.

Some 65 metres long and displacing 1,020 tonnes, LÉ Aisling’s most famous mission was leading the successful interdiction of an IRA arms smuggling operation with the trawler Marita Ann off Kerry coast in 1984.

LÉ Aisling was part of a three vessel force with LÉ Emer and LÉ Deirdre which intercepted the Marita Ann and recovered seven tonnes of weapons and ammunition brought from the US on the larger vessel, Valhalla.

The ship was also involved in a highly-publicised attempt to intercept the Spanish trawler Sonia which had been illegally fishing in Irish waters in 1984.

It was also one of the first vessels to respond to the Air India tragedy off the Cork coast.

LÉ Aisling further became the first Naval Service vessel to have a female commander when Lt Cmdr Roberta O’Brien took charge in 2008.

LÉ Aisling has since been replaced in the Naval Service fleet by LÉ William Butler Yeats.

A proposal to use LÉ Aisling as a floating museum came to nothing when experts ruled it was unsuitable for adaptation.

Five Irish ships – LÉ  Niamh, LÉ  Roisin, LÉ  James Joyce, LÉ  Samuel Beckett and LÉ William Butler Years – have been built to essentially the same offshore patrol vessel design since 1999 at a UK shipyard.

A sixth, LÉ George Bernard Shaw, will enter service in 2019.

The Government is examining the requirements of the new White Paper on Defence which commits Ireland to replacing the three oldest vessels LÉ Eithne, LÉ Orla and LÉ Ciara.

LÉ Eithne, the fleet flagship, is the oldest having been commissioned in 1984.

LÉ Orla and LÉ Ciara both date from 1988 but are less than one third the size of LE Eithne which displaces 1910 tonnes.

Ireland is now committed to operating seven offshore patrol vessels and one multi-role vessel (MRV) which, as well as being larger, will be able to co-ordinate helicopter, underwater and land operations.

However, to reduce costs, the proposed new MRV will not boast a helicopter landing facility.

It is expected to enter service in 2019/2020 though it is still are the design planning stage.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he would like to see the new larger vessel have a medical centre capability to allow it deploy for major humanitarian missions.

The Naval Service aims to replace vessels once they approach a 35 year service life – though five of the eight vessels in service are now relatively new.

The three new ships are larger developments of the basic LÉ Róisín design.

However, they are 12m bigger at 90m in overall length and displace 433 tonnes more.

With a top speed of 23 knots, the new ships are also over 30pc faster than the ageing vessels they replaced.

They are vastly more advanced and are also capable of handling both drone aircraft and remotely controlled robotic subs.

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