Meet The Fleet | The Eight Big Ships of Ireland’s Naval Service

The Irish Naval Service for 70 years has been providing fisheries protection, sea patrols, surveillance and smuggling prevention.

Ireland’s marine territory is not small. It extends far beyond the coastline, encompassing 880,000 km 2, this huge area is more than 10 times our land mass. And their work isn’t restricted to this area with ships being occasionally deployed in support of other elements of the Defence Forces, Irish peacekeepers serving with the United Nations and most recently to assist the humanitarian efforts in the Mediterranean.

So what ships does the Naval Service have to carry out this important work? Currently the fleet comprises one Helicopter Patrol Vessel (HPV), three Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV), two Large Patrol Vessel (LPV) and two Coastal Patrol Vessels (CPV).

Let’s check them out in order of commissioning date starting with the eldest:

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LÉ Eithne returning home from Mediterranean

1. LÉ Eithne (P31) 

LÉ Eithne is a Helicopter patrol vessel. Built at Verolme Dockyard, Rushbrook, County Cork, she was commissioned in 1984. She is the flagship of the Irish Navy.

As a Helicopter patrol vessel, she was designed to carry helicopters and is the only naval vessel with a flight deck. Recently she was deployed to the Mediterranean as part of the EU’s ongoing rescue mission for migrants.

Vital stats: Length 85 metres – Weight 1,910 tonnes – Top speed 20 knots

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LÉ Eithne at home in Haulbowline Cork


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LÉ Orla out by the Skelligs

2. LÉ Orla (p41)

LÉ Orla is a coastal patrol vessel. She was originally designed for use by the British Royal Navy in Hong Kong waters, and was delivered in 1985 by Hall, Russell & Company as HMS Swift (P243). She was purchased by the Irish government in 1988 and renamed LÉ Orla.

As Coastal Patrol vessel, she keeps close to Ireland’s coastline, the shallow hull proving an important design feature. In November 2008, She was involved in Operation Seabight which resulted in the largest seizure of cocaine in the history of the Irish state.

Vital stats: Length 63 metres – Weight 712 tonnes – Top speed 25 knots

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Standing to attention on board LÉ Orla



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LÉ Ciara on patrol

3. LÉ Ciara (P42)

LÉ Ciara is a coastal patrol vessel. Just like her sister ship LÉ Orla, she was originally designed for use by the British Royal Navy in Hong Kong waters, and was delivered in a year earlier in 1984 by Hall, Russell & Company as HMS Swallow(P242). She was commissioned in 1988 by the Irish navy as LÉ Ciara

Vital stats: Length 63 metres – Weight 712 tonnes –  Top speed 25 knots

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LÉ Ciara – Training days


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LÉ Róisín on a mission

4. LÉ Róisín (P51)

LÉ Róisín is a Large patrol vessel, one of two operated by the Irish navy. She was built at Appledore Shipyards, Devon and was commissioned in 1999.

As a Large Patrol vessel, she patrols the Irish EEZ as well as waters further out into the Atlantic Ocean. Róisín took part in a surveillance operation of the yacht Makayabella in September 2014 before it was boarded 320 km off Mizen Head and subsequently had €80m worth of cocaine seized.

LÉ Róisín has recently returned from her humanitarian mission in the Mediterranean.

Vital stats: Length 79 metres – Weight 1,500 tonnes – Top speed 23 knots

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LÉ Róisín


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LÉ Niamh back in Cork

5. LÉ Niamh (P52)

LÉ Niamh is the second Large patrol vessel of the navy. She was built at Appledore Shipyards, Devon and commissioned in 2001.

From July to September 2015, Niamh took part in a humanitarian operations in the Mediterranean rescuing migrants from unseaworthy vessels.

Vital stats: Length 79 metres – Weight 1,500 tonnes – Top speed 23 knots

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LÉ Niamh arriving home

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LÉ Samuel Beckett – Off to the Mediterranean

6. LÉ Samuel Beckett (P61)

LÉ Samuel Beckett is an Offshore patrol vessel  She was built at Appledore Shipyards, Devon and commissioned in 2014. As an Offshore patrol vessel, Samuel Beckett has undertaken a three-month humanitarian tour in 2015, rescuing more than 1,000 migrants in the Mediterranean.

Vital stats: Length 90 metres – Weight 1,933 tonnes – Top speed 23 knots

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LÉ Samuel Beckett


 

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LÉ James Joyce – Commissioning cermony in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin

7. LÉ James Joyce (P62)

LÉ James Joyce is an Offshore patrol vessel.  She was built at Appledore Shipyards, Devon and was commissioned in 2015. She is the second of three OPV’s recently ordered by the Navy.

LÉ James Joyce is currently assisting in the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean, having taken over from the LÉ Róisín.

Vital stats: Length 90 metres – Weight 1,933 tonnes – Top speed 23 knots

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LÉ James Joyce


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LÉ William Butler Years – Float out at Appledore Shipyards, Devon

8. LÉ  William Butler Yeats (P63)

LÉ  William Butler Yeats is an Offshore patrol vessel, the third and final OPV ordered by the Irish navy. She was built at Appledore Shipyards, Devon.

She recently arrived at her new home in Cobh and was fully commissioned into the fleet in September and received the prefix ‘L.É’. In October it will be twinned with the city of Galway in a ceremony officiated by the Taoiseach.

Vital stats: Length 90 metres -Weight 1,933 tonnes – Top speed 23 knots

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LÉ William Butler Yeats





About the Author

Daniel Farrell
Interested in all things on the Irish coast and sharing the best of it. // Email: Daniel@coastmonkey.ie // Follow on Twitter: @DanielsSeaViews