As previously published in An Cosantóir in May 2013 issue.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos: Cpl Colum Lawlor, 105 Sqn
On March 28th staff from An Cosantóir joined the Naval Service’s LÉ Emer (P21) on a patrol in the Irish Sea.
It was a cold, early start for us on Dun Laoghaire’s east pier, where our escort picked us up in a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) powered by twin Yamaha 400 outboard engines. We were given a safety brief, which was precise and to the point – life jackets were fitted and its safety devices pointed out – “Sit forward, at all times keep your arms and feet inside, and don’t let go” – and then we were off.
The RIB parted the emerald waters of the Irish Sea as we made our way out into Dublin Bay to LÉ Emer where the crew awaited our arrival.
The ship, which is due to be decommissioned as part of the fleet replacement programme when the first of two new naval vessels enters service; P61 is due January 2014.
LÉ Emer still looked really impressive as we drew alongside. The RIB was hoisted aboard and we were very warmly greeted by the ship’s executive officer and 2 i/c, Lt (NS) Gavin McCarthy, who gave us another safety brief as we removed our life jackets and wets. We were also informed that we would be told when and where we could take photos, as much of the ship’s operations and equipment are classified.
Our first visit was to the bridge, where we were introduced to the ship’s captain, Lt Cdr Daniel Wall, and some of his crew. We were invited to observe the ship’s navigation system and view our lane out of Dublin Bay and into the Irish Sea. As the ship moved out smoothly in the Force 5 sea-state, Lt
McCarthy told us about the ship’s recent activity and upcoming tasks. “On Monday and Tuesday we took part in a two-day examination at sea for future ships captains’ who were undergoing the Senior Command Operations Course (SCOC) conducted by the Naval College,” he told us.
“This is the culmination of a six-week course for our future ships captains. On Wednesday we were on a fishery patrol on the East Coast; today we have a press visit; on Sunday some of the crew are involved in the 1916 commemoration ceremony at the GPO; and then on Monday we start a four-week fishery patrol.”
Lt McCarthy then gave us a brief rundown on what is involved on a fishery patrol, including boarding operations. “Being boarded for inspection is very common for fishing vessels,” he explained. “It’s just like drivers being stopped and having their tax and insurance checked by An Garda Síochána.” He then showed us the screen displaying the Fishery Intelligence System (FIS), which is updated hourly by satellite and enables the NS to monitor all of the vessels in their patrol zone.
After the bridge we were given a tour of the ship, where we met many of the crew going about their daily routine. While at sea there will generally be around 20% of the crew resting at any one time due to shift rotations. We were then invited to lunch in the Senior Rates Mess, were we relaxed and conversed with the crew over some tasty soup and rolls.
Later the ship’s crew gave us a fire-fighting demonstration and a display of a boarding party’s equipment and tactics.
Unfortunately my sea legs went missing for parts of the visit, much to the amusement of my fellow visitors and the ship’s crew, but during those absent times I at least had the pleasure of visiting many of the ship’s ‘heads’ and I felt I did my bit to help keep them clean after use.
Although we only spent a few hours on board, I think our short visit still gave me a good understanding of what it takes to be a member of the Naval Service. They truly are a dedicated team of hard-working professionals; even seasick sailors still have to get on with the job.
The Naval Service is acknowledged, nationally and internationally, as a flexible, impartial, multi-skilled, well trained, highly motivated, professional maritime service that is responsive to the needs of the nation. The primary role of the Naval Service is the maintenance of our maritime sovereignty by the delivery of operational patrols, over which Ireland claims jurisdiction by establishing a physical presence at sea.
This includes deterring intrusive or aggressive acts, conducting maritime surveillance, maintaining an armed naval presence, ensuring right of passage, protecting our fisheries and other marine assets, and combating illegal drug and weapons smuggling. The Naval Service must also be capable of supporting army operations through sea-lift and close naval support.
In 2012 the Naval Service patrolled 132,000 sq miles of sea (approx four times the land mass of Ireland, representing 15% of Europe’s fisheries) during their 1,480 patrol days. They boarded and inspected 1,325 fishing vessels from Ireland, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Lithuania, Belgium, Portugal, Denmark and the Faroes. 40 fishing vessels from Ireland, UK, Spain, France and Lithuania were warned for 53 infringements and they made 20 detentions for alleged infringements of fishing regulations. The Naval Service Diving Section is the states primary dive agents and was called out on 79 operations. They were involved in 14 separate Search and Recovery operations following requests from the Coastguard and An Garda Síochána lasting 49 days.
All of the Naval Service operates 24 hours per day, 365 days a year. It is a testament to the men and women of the Naval Service that this feat is achieved with a small fleet of eight ships and only 1,094 personnel. To find out more about the Naval Service visit: www.military.ie/naval-service/
Read these stories and more in An Cosantóir (The Defender), The official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces – www.dfmagazine.ie