Friday 23 March 2018

Active talks ongoing with Malta over LE Aoife despite vessel branded 'junk' Newsdesk Newsdesk

Simon Coveney’s office remains in “active discussion” with Malta over the gifting of the LE Aoife, despite claims it was branded ‘junk’.

The Minister for Defence this week announced that he was donating the decommissioned vessel to the Maltese for humanitarian missions to help save stricken refugees who attempt to cross in to Europe from Africa by sea.

However, it appears former personnel from Armed Forces Malta (AFM) have described the LE Aoife as “past its sell-by date” and that accepting it would set a "bad precedent for other junk" to be dumped on it.

The Malta Independent said AFM personnel have expressed a number of concerns on both the policy of accepting donated hand-me-down equipment from other armed forces, as well as the actual capabilities of the LE Aoife.

However the Department of Defence maintains it is “in active discussions with the Maltese Authorities in relation to the transfer of the LE Aoife”.

“As the Minister indicated in the Dail this week, he has been favourably disposed to acceding to Malta's request for this vessel as same is required to assist Malta in dealing with the refugee crisis,” said a spokeswoman.

The Malta Independent online – which also uploaded a video clip of the naval ship ploughing into a pontoon in Cork harbour in August 2013 - queried if the donation would be an asset or a shipwreck.

Read more: Video: Dramatic moments when Navy vessel strikes Cork pontoon

The publication said AFM personnel were concerned over the age of the LE Aoife - which was launched in 1979 - and the fact she has travelled enough miles to circumnavigate the globe 28 times.

At the time, it was believed the vessel had developed a malfunction and was propelled forwards, instead of backwards and into a pontoon, and that its age may have had contributed.

The vessel was due to be sold this month by public auction by auctioneers Domnic J Daly if it did not have a new home.

Maltese personnel have reportedly raised concerns that it is “past its sell by date” and has no capabilities to launch a small craft from its stern, something which is deemed essential in search and rescue operations involving flimsy craft that migrants often use for the crossings.

It is also claimed its slow speed could hamper rescue efforts, and that it does not have a large holding area where migrants can be put once they are brought aboard.

“This donation of a military vessel beyond its useful service life severely reverses back the clock of things and is going to see history repeat itself. And it sets a very very bad precedent for other junk to follow being dumped on us,” a retired AFM source told the Malta Independent.

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