Dáil Éireann - Volume 658 - 02 July, 2008

Written Answers. - Naval Service Vessels.

Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Defence the progress that has been [515] made on the replacement programme for Naval Service vessels including funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25778/08]

  Deputy Willie O’Dea: The Naval Service provides the maritime element of the Defence Forces and has a general responsibility to meet contingent and actual maritime defence requirements. In the 2000 White Paper on Defence, the Government decided that the Naval Service would be based on an 8-ship flotilla and committed to a modernisation and replacement strategy to maximise the operational capacity of those 8 vessels consistent with the roles assigned to the Naval Service. The White Paper specifically provides that “New vessels will be brought on stream to replace older ones as these fall due for replacement”. Naval Service Vessels are replaced when they have come to the end of their useful life, which is normally around 30 years. Three ships will fall due for replacement over the next 3 to 5 years — LE Emer, commissioned in 1978, LE Aoife, commissioned in 1979 and LE Aisling, commissioned in 1980.

Following a detailed examination of the needs of the Naval Service within my Department, a vessel replacement strategy for the Naval Service was put in place to cover the period up to 2012. The strategy combined with a continuous process of refurbishment will ensure that the operational capability of the Naval Service is maintained at a very high level.

Following Government approval in July 2007, notice of a tender competition for the purchase of replacement vessels for the Naval Service was sent to the Official Journal of the European Union on 24 August 2007. The competition is for the purchase of two Offshore Patrol Vessels with an option of a third and one Extended Patrol Vessel with an option on a second. The options provide an effective value for money opportunity, at locked in prices, to provide replacements for Naval Service vessels which will reach the end of their service life in the years immediately following the current replacement programme. The competition uses a Restricted Procedure comprising two stages — the first stage a Request for Proposals and the second stage an Invitation to Tender.

The closing date for stage 1 was 26 October 2007. The evaluation of proposals has now been completed. Detailed specification development for the vessels is nearing conclusion. It is expected to issue the invitation to tender for the second stage of the competition for the OPV in August this year. Tender evaluation will take place in October and it is intended to award a contract in late 2008.

In relation to the larger EPV, my Department intends to undertake further analysis of the proposals in relation to the EPV project before the second stage is initiated. Once this has been completed, my Department will review the matter with a view to initiating the second stage of the EPV competition, probably later in the year.

The purchase of the vessels will be subject to Government approval on funding. This matter will be reviewed in detail following the conclusion of the tender competition at which point detailed costings will be available to inform the Government decision. It is expected that the vessels will be delivered on a phased basis between 2010 and 2012. The Government is committed to continuous investment in the equipment needs of the Naval Service to enable it to carry out the roles assigned to it.

Question No. 100 answered with Question No. 77.