Dáil Éireann - Volume 538 - 21 June, 2001

Other Questions. - Naval Service Vessels.

12. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Defence the nature of the mechanical problems which have arisen on the new Naval Service vessel, the LE Niamh; when it is expected the vessel will be available for operational duties; the representations which have been made to the shipbuilders regarding the problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18311/01]

Mr. M. Smith: The building of a second new ship for the Naval Service by Appledore Shipbuilders Limited in England is almost complete. The ship, to be named the LE Niamh, is a replacement for the LE Deirdre which has reached the end of its economic life and has been decommissioned.

During “builders” sea trials, which take place in advance of customer acceptance sea trials, a problem arose with the port gearbox on the ship. Subsequent examinations indicated that there was also a problem with the starboard gearbox on the ship. The contractual issues in regard to both gearboxes are being addressed by Appledore Shipbuilders Limited with the manufacturer of the gearboxes, Scana Volda of Norway. My Department and the Naval Service are in daily contact with Appledore Shipbuilders Limited on developments in this regard.

When both gearboxes are reinstated and re-commissioned, the ship will undergo customer acceptance sea trials, which will be attended by representatives of the Department of Defence and the Naval Service. These sea trials are now scheduled for the second week of July 2001. When these trials are completed, and if everything goes well, the ship will be officially handed over to the Department. The ship will then sail to Haulbowline and will enter operational service as soon as possible thereafter. The ship was originally scheduled for delivery in September 2001.

Mr. Wall: Has this unfortunate development increased the cost of the LE Niamh or what effect has it had? What is the position regarding the training of Naval Service personnel for the ship? Will the proposed date in July be met?

Mr. M. Smith: I hope so. It is still two months before the original scheduled date of delivery. [1053] Training is ongoing. There are no problems in that regard and, of course, the LE Róisín is already there.

There are no financial ramifications to this problem. It is primarily a matter for the ship builders themselves and the agents from Norway who build the gear boxes. In the sea trials, our task will be to make sure everything is satisfactory. We are looking for a longer guarantee than we would normally seek for this aspect of the ship, arising from the difficulty which has arisen. However, there are no financial implications.