UK naval shipbuilder Babcock has marked a key milestone in the build programme for the delivery of a fourth Offshore Patrol Vessel for the Irish Naval Service as it successfully floated the 90 metre vessel currently under construction at its Appledore facility, North Devon.
The ship when completed will be formally named and commissioned into the Irish Naval Service as LÉ George Bernard Shaw.
The float-out, a significant moment in the build of a new ship, was attended by representatives from the Irish Naval Service and Babcock’s workforce.
Bearing the name of the Irish Playwright, the ship was floated up within the main build hall and then moved out into the River Torridge at high tide to complete work at the tidal wharf.
Speaking about the float-up and undocking, the Minister with Responsibility for Defence Mr Paul Kehoe acknowledged the relationship between the Defence organisation and Babcock which has already seen five of the current in-service Irish Naval Service vessels built in the Appledore facility together with the ongoing build which will see the sixth ship delivered later this year. He complimented Babcock: “for its ability to produce very well designed and stylish ships with state of the art equipment which have already proven their value to the Naval Service both at home and on overseas missions”.
The float-up marked the long standing and successful partnership between Babcock and the Department of Defence and the Irish Naval Service at Appledore. LÉ Roisin and LÉ Niamh were the first two ships built in the Appledore facility over sixteen years ago. Babcock has successfully delivered three vessels in the same class; the LÉ Samuel Beckett, the LÉ James Joyce and the LÉ William Butler Yeats. The shipyard has also played an important role in delivering key steel sections for the assembly of the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.
Craig Lockhart, Managing Director, Babcock Naval Marine said: “This event marks a great moment as it once again showcases our workforce’s commitment and craftsmanship to designing and building first class highly capable and flexible ships. We are proud of our work with the Irish Naval Service and the Department of Defence and look forward to delivering another cost effective and “state of the art” vessel that will support both protection and humanitarian activities long into the future.”
The 90-metre long and 2256 tonnes vessel will have a top speed of 23 knots and a range of 6,000 miles at its cruise speed of 15 knots. With accommodation for 44 crew and an additional 10 trainee berths the patrol vessel will have a comprehensive command, control and communications package along with a 76mm gun as its main weapon. The vessel will also be able to act as a mother ship for up to three fully independent rigid inflatables.
LÉ George Bernard Shaw is due to be completed in July 2018.
By Jake Frith