Naval Service

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The Naval Service is based in Haulbowline, Cobh, Co Cork. It is a modern and sophisticated multi- tasked organisation operating a fleet of eight ships. The fleet is equipped with state of the art machinery, weapons, communications and navigation systems.



Following the Treaty in 1922 the United Kingdom retained control over Irish waters. The Irish Government had responsibility to police fisheries and customs. To this end the Coastal and Marine Service was set up in 1923. Although the Service was disbanded in 1924 the unarmed MIURICHU (EX HELGA) continued fishery protection duties for the Department of Fisheries patrolling the three miles of Irish territorial waters. In 1936 the MUIRICHU was armed to make her more effective on patrols. In 1938, when the waters and ports (Bere Haven, Lough Swilly and Cork Harbour) were handed over to the Irish Government, she was joined by the FORT RANNOCH. The British Royal Navy withdrew from Cork Harbour on 11 July 1938. The waters of Ireland were now the full responsibility of the Irish Government.

1939 -1945

In May 1939 an order was placed with Vospers UK for two Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB's). The outbreak of war in September that year spurred the Government to set up the Marine and Coastwatching Service. Ireland's neutral stance further highlighted the necessity for Ireland to have its own Navy to uphold its neutrality. Following the outbreak of war, the order for MTBs was increased from two to six. By 1941 the Service consisted of a force of 6 MTBs and 4 assorted craft and manned by about 300 all ranks. The task during the war years focused on port control duties such as mine laying (Cork and Waterford), regulation of merchant shipping, upkeep of navigational aids and fishery protection. At the end of the war in 1945, the Coastwatching Service was disbanded and the Marine side was wound down.

1946 - 1971

In Sept 1946 the Marine Service became a component of the Defence Forces . Thus was born the modern day Irish Naval Service. From numbers which had slipped from about 1,300 to 160 all ranks, strength increased rapidly. Three Flower Class corvettes were purchased from Great Britain in 1946/47. They were named Cliona, Maev and Macha and so began the NS tradition of naming ships after figures in Celtic mythology. With the disposal in 1952 of the last craft which had served during the war, these three corvettes became the backbone of the Naval Service during the 1950's and 60's. During these years the numbers of personnel (400 ratings and 40 officers) remained constant. The first Naval Service Cadet intake were trained at Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, UK in 1947. Between 1968 and 1970, the corvettes had reached the end of their working lives all were withdrawn from service. In 1970 a decision was taken to buy 3 coastal minesweepers from the U.K. These were taken over and commissioned in 1971. They were called Grainne, Banba and Fola.

1972 - 1999

In 1971 a contract was signed with Verlome Cork Dockyard (VCD) to build an offshore patrol vessel for the Naval Service. This ship, L.É. DEIRDRE, was commissioned in 1972. The building of L.É. DEIRDRE marked a milestone in the development of the N.S., being the first ship purpose-built in Ireland to patrol in Irish waters. In 1976 our Exclusive Economic Zone was extended from 12 to 200 miles. This placed a huge additional burden on the Naval Service. This was recognized by the European Community who part funded the building / purchase of subsequent ships. Three new patrol vessels were built (L.É. EMER, L.É. AOIFE & L.É. AISLING) between 1978 and 1980 - all improved on L.É. Deirdre which was the prototype of the class. The fleet was briefly strengthened by the auxiliary ships L.É. FERDIA chartered for one year in 1977 and L.É. SETANTA purchased from Irish Lights in 1976 and sold in 1980. The last ship built at VCD was the Naval Service flagship - HELICOPTER PATROL VESSEL (HPV) L.É. EITHNE in 1984. The three minesweepers were sold between 1984 - 1986. Much of their work had been coastal patrol duty and they were replaced by two coastal patrol vessels (CPVS) L.É. CIARA and L.É. ORLA in 1988. These CPVs were built in the UK for service in Hong Kong and were subsequently purchased by the Irish Government.

1996 - 2001

In 1996 the Naval Service celebrated its 50th Anniversary. The high point of the year long celebration was a Fleet Review in Cork Harbour conducted by H.E. the President, Mary Robinson. In 1999 a new ship was delivered to the Naval Service. Named L.É. Róisin, she was the first of a class of new larger and faster offshore patrol vessels. L.É. Niamh was commissioned into the Naval Service in mid-September 2001.


Primary Role National Security

The objective of the Naval Service in this role is to defend the State against armed aggression and to provide for its security, by maintaining a naval and maritime service for the State in that part of the seas where State jurisdiction applies; internal waters, territorial sea (12 mile limit) and the Irish Sector of the European Economic Zone (EEZ) (200 mile limit)) and on the High Seas. This mission is sub - divided as follows:


The Naval Service is tasked with patrolling the Irish Economic Zone, an area of approximately 132,000 square miles or 16% of the total EU sea fisheries. This represents almost five times the land area of Ireland and encompasses perhaps one of the most productive fisheries in the world. It is an area of great economic importance not only to Ireland but to the whole European Union. Whilst all roles are important the majority of effort is allotted to fishery protection. Annually, the Naval Service boards and carries out thorough inspections on several hundred fishing vessels. For example, in 1995, 928 fishing vessels were boarded and inspected. Of these, 79 vessels were issued warnings and 51 were detained.

To assist in this highly important role and to assist in the effective implementation of European and national fisheries regulations, the Naval Service established the Naval Supervisory Center as a national recording center for sea fisheries.

The Naval Supervisory Center (NSC) in Haulbowline is the national recording center for Sea Fisheries. It supervises and co-ordinates all matters concerning fishery that are within the Naval Service's area of responsibility. In addition, it keeps Naval Command fully briefed on current activity, trends and development in sea fisheries. To assist the NSC & Ships in the role of fishery protection, the Naval Service has developed a number of software packages as follows:

Fishery Data Base The fishery database stores information on all fishing vessels operating off our coast. Details stored include fishing vessel characteristics, registration & license particulars, owners, skippers, sightings, boarding, position / activity reports, catch activity reports, warnings and detentions.

Fisheries Legislation Expert System (FL.E.S.) This system was devised to assist the ships to correctly interpret complex fishery law. In a live scenario at sea, the ship's onboard computer supplies accurate, up to date legal information to the ship's captain.

Naval Service Geographical Information System (N.S.G.I.S.) This system incorporates a visual screen display of all fishing vessel positions and activity recorded in the data base. This system is utilized to give fisheries briefs to Naval Command and ship's officers, to assist planning, and to analyze seasonal, EU national, and species fishing effort.

The above information packages are maintained and kept up to date by NSC staff. Ship's computers are constantly updated by Satellite link. Further projects in hand include a pilot project in the satellite monitoring of fishing vessels (LIRSAT). If fully developed and approved by the EU, real time monitoring of fishing vessels can be implemented.

Aid to the Civil Power

The Naval Service is available to support the civil authorities as required. Usually the NS assists the Gardai and Customs and Excise in operations of a marine nature. There are also other areas the Naval Service can be called on such as the Cork Harbour Emergency Plan where the Naval Base and its resources may be called on in the event of a major disaster, environmental or otherwise.

Drugs Interdiction

The Naval Service regularly cooperates with Gardai and Customs and Excise in this area. Drugs interdiction is now an integral part of our operational profile. In recent years the Naval Service has been directly involved in major drug seizures at sea, including a seizure of Cannabis Resin worth £20 million in July 1993 off the South West Coast. It was at that time, by far the largest seizure in the history of the State. To date, the Naval Service has acted in support of the Gardai and Customs and Excise in drug operations. In 1994 the Criminal Jurisdiction Act was passed enabling Naval Officers to act as Drug Enforcement Officers. This development greatly enhances the Service's contribution to drug enforcement as it allows a Naval ship to carry out an operation without the requirement to have a Garda or Customs Officials onboard. However, such operations are not unilateral but operate under the command structure of the Joint Task Force involving the Naval Service, Gardai and Customs and Excise.

Maritime Safety

The Naval Service frequently assists other agencies in the area of search and rescue. Ships at sea and the communications center at Haulbowline maintain a 24hr watch on all distress frequencies. Naval ship's at sea are ever ready to respond to distress calls.

Diving Operations

The Naval Base at Haulbowline houses a highly professional diving unit which, in addition to its routine roles, assists civil authorities in a range of activities such as body searches both inland and at sea. The Diving unit's operations include:

Underwater Ordnance Disposal. Surveys and ships hull maintenance Body searches. Assist in Drugs Search/Seizures Operation of the re-compression chamber (located in Haulbowline). Pollution Control

The Naval Service's role in this area may be summarized as follows:

Monitoring and reporting of pollution for Irish Marine Emergency Service (IMES). IMES may call on Naval Service to assist in clearing up of pollution. The Naval Service will be empowered to enforce Regulations pertaining to Dumping at Sea. Overseas Mission Support

Naval Service ships may deploy overseas in support of Irish diplomacy and trade, and to support other elements of the Defence forces engaged in peace support operations. Naval Service personnel may serve overseas for example with United Nations Peacekeeping Forces.