THE fourth new vessel for the Irish Naval Service will be ready for operations next year.
The newly named LE George Bernard Shaw will replace the LE Eithne and will be based at the naval headquarters in Haulbowline.
The vessel, which will cost €67 million, will join its fellow new vessels, the LE Samuel Beckett, the LE James Joyce and the LE William Butler Yeats.
Work has now commenced on the ship at Babcock International shipbuilders in Devon, with the keel laying ceremony taking place on Tuesday. The ship will replace the LE Eithne, which was built in 1984.
The ceremony was attended by the Minister for Defence, Paul Kehoe TD, senior representatives from Babcock, the Defence Forces and the Department of Defence, as well as Naval Service members involved in the build project.
Minister Kehoe said: “Whether it is carrying out defence and security operations, on sea fisheries patrols, search and rescue operations or on overseas missions such as the humanitarian operation in the Mediterranean, the efforts of the Naval Service are enhanced by having access to new vessels equipped with the latest available capabilities.”
The ceremony was held as the Naval Service prepares for the sale of the LE Aisling, which was decommissioned last year. The vessel will be auctioned at the Carrigaline Court Hotel on March 23.
The ship’s history includes involvement in the apprehension of the Marita Anne off the Kerry coast in 1984 with arms on board, as well as the recovery mission following the Air India disaster off the west Cork coast in 1985. 38 bodies were recovered in that operation.
The LE Ciara and LE Orla are also due for replacement in the coming years. Both ships were also built in 1984.
A tender process will follow to select the supplier of replacement ships.