News

Irish navy vessel sold for paltry €100k now on sale for $750k

LÉ Aisling
LÉ Aisling

A PATROL vessel disposed of by the Naval Service for €110,000 is now on sale in the Netherlands for almost seven times the price.

LÉ Aisling, one of the most famous ships in modern Naval Service history, was sold for €110,000 at public auction to a Dutch ship broker last March.

Now, the vessel is being offered for sale from a Rotterdam ship yard for €685,000 ($750,000) - with the new owners warning that, as improvements and upgrades are made to the vessel, the price will inevitably go up.

However, Naval Service sources warned that there is no guarantee the former Irish flagship will sell for the specified amount.

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 recent 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.

There was only one other bidder.

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

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

Mr van der Kamp acknowledged that the purchase was a gamble and that the market for specific types of ships was quite depressed.

"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.

"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 LÉ 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.

The former Irish patrol vessel is now berthed in Rotterdam and is sold as being: "Just decommissioned from naval service and in very good condition. Price will go up as owners will spend money on further improvements. Better be quick!"

Mr Daly admitted last March 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

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.