New life as luxury liner or research ship awaits navy's oldest vessel
THE Naval Service's oldest vessel will end 35 years of proud service next month and be auctioned off for conversion to a luxury cruise ship or research vessel.
LE Emer, which was commissioned in 1978, is on her last patrol and will be taken out of service on September 20.
If a private sale cannot be agreed, the vessel will be sold by public auction before September 27.
She will be replaced by the first of two new €98m patrol vessels that are being completed at a shipyard in the south of England.
The vessels, due for delivery in 2014 and 2015, will be named after literary figures rather than being given famous Irish women's names, which has been the tradition.
The first new ship will be named LE Samuel Beckett and the second, due for delivery in 2015, will be LE James Joyce. They will replace LE Emer and LE Aoife.
LE Aoife is currently undergoing repairs after her hull was damaged last Sunday in a collision with a pontoon in Cork harbour during a Gathering event.
The collision was filmed by Scandinavian holidaymakers and has gone viral on the internet.
Naval engineers are examining the ship, but she is expected to remain in service for the next 12 months.
The incident has been blamed on a mechanical problem with the ship's steering control system.
Like the LE Emer, LE Aoife will also be sold.
Auctioneer Dominic Daly said there is traditionally very strong interest in such former military vessels as they are built to a very high specification and are meticulously maintained.
"We have had expressions of interest from Ireland, Europe, Turkey and Africa," he said.
Mr Daly sold the last Naval Service ship to be disposed of when LE Deirdre fetched €230,000 at auction in 2001.
She was converted into a luxury cruiser and now operates in the Mediterranean.
The two new navy ships are updated versions of the LE Roisin and LE Niamh design and will be 12 metres longer at 90 metres.
The vessels, which cost €49m each, will be delivered from next January by Babcock Marine.
They will be vastly more advanced than the ships they replace and are capable of handling both drone aircraft and remote-controlled robotic subs.
The LE Samuel Beckett will be delivered in January but will then undergo three months of trials before being commissioned.
With a top speed of 23 knots, the new ships will be more than 30pc faster than the ageing vessels they are replacing.
By the time the two new ships are commissioned, six of Ireland's eight-strong fleet of naval ships will be more than 30 years old. The vessels are the first new ships commissioned for the Naval Service since the LE Roisin (1999) and LE Niamh (2001).