The Republic of Ireland’s Department of Defence is set to take delivery of two decommissioned inshore patrol vessels sold by the Royal New Zealand Navy for NZ$42 million ($26.3 million). While New Zealand’s needs evolved for vessels with a broader capability, Ireland reports that the ships’ specialized inshore capability meets its evolving security needs.
The NZ Navy announced that the two Lake-class vessels, Rotoiti and Pukaki, will be craned on board a large sealift vessel at Auckland’s Captain Cook Wharf in readiness for their voyage to Ireland after undergoing a refit and mobilization to ensure that they met operational seaworthiness standards. While purchasing the ships in March last year, Ireland made a condition of the transaction that the NZ Navy must ensure they are seaworthy. At the time, the NZ Navy estimated the works would cost about NZ$16-$19 million ($10-$12 million) and would be carried out in the country’s major commercial shipyards.
The NZ Navy said that more than 15 businesses in the country spent last year bringing the vessels back to a seagoing state, with the project generating NZ$26 million ($16.3 million) in an economic boost for all the local maritime contractors and sub-contractors involved.
While at the shipyards, the vessels underwent an overhaul of all major machinery including the main engines, generators, drive shafts, propellers, stabilizers, and boat davits. They also had a number of system upgrades installed including a new integrated platform management system, maritime communications suite, and CCTV system.
Built in Whangarei on New Zealand’s North Island and commissioned into the Navy in 2009, the two ships were in service for a decade with their main mission being fishery monitoring, search and rescue, border security, and maritime surveillance operations around the country’s 15,000 km coastline. However, in 2019 a project team within the Navy identified that a better capability would be achieved by utilizing the current offshore patrol vessels Otago and Wellington, supplemented with a Southern Ocean patrol vessel planned for the future.
“At the time of their entry into service, the IPVs provided operational capability around our coastline. But now we have a far greater need to project a presence further afield and that’s something these ships simply weren’t designed to do,” said Rear Admiral David Proctor, Chief of New Zealand’s Navy.
The vessels were formally decommissioned in October 2019. While they were laid up at Devonport Naval Base for 18 months, they however became the subject of interest from several overseas navies. The Republic of Ireland identified a key role they could perform.
The two ships will be deployed to service with the Irish Naval Service for use in fisheries protection and patrolling in the Irish Sea where they are suited due to the calmer conditions of the waters. This will allow the larger offshore patrol vessel of the Irish Navy to focus on Atlantic Ocean operations. The Rotoiti and Pukaki will replace Irish Naval vessels LÉ Orla and LÉ Ciara which were decommissioned in July last year for the patrol missions.
“The changing face of maritime security in the Irish Sea has highlighted a requirement for a specialist inshore capability in order to protect Irish interests,” said Lieutenant General Sean Clancy, Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces. He added that the vessels will strengthen the ability of the Naval Service to fulfill its role in protecting the country’s national sovereignty.