18th October

The Naval Service

The Naval Service (NS) is the principal seagoing agency of the State and is responsible for patrolling Ireland’s 132,000m2 Exclusive Fishery Limit (EFL). This area represents approximately 12 per cent of EU waters and is about six times the size of Ireland. The NS also conducts fishery protection in waters beyond the 200-mile EFL as part of Ireland’s contribution to bodies such as NEAFC, NAFO, etc (North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission, North Atlantic Fisheries Commission), writes Cdr Gerard O’Flynn.

Provision of a fishery protection service is one of the stated roles of the Defence Forces and is fully delegated to the NS. The work of monitoring, inspection and control is conducted by a fleet of eight patrol ships ranging in age from the 27-year-old LE Emer to the newest ships, LE Niamh and LE Roisin, both commissioned within the last five years.


Two Air Corps operated maritime patrol aircraft, CASA CN-235 Persuader, support the work of the ships. Provision of fishery protection services is the primary task of NS ships; however they are multi-tasked, meaning that fishery patrols are part of a series of concurrent other tasks that can include maritime policing, surveillance, search and rescue, security duties, drug interdiction and military training.

Satellite monitoring
The NS operates the National Fisheries Monitoring Centre (FMC), which is staffed on a seven-day week basis. The FMC supports the activities of the eight patrol ships and its responsibilities include enforcement of satellite- based monitoring of fishing activity commonly referred to as VMS (Vessel Monitoring System). The system, which was introduced on a phased basis in January 2000, will apply to all vessels over 15 metres in length from January 2005.

Fishing vessels transmit their registration code and position to their national FMC. The information is then automatically retransmitted to the FMC in whose waters the fishing vessel is operating at a particular time. In the case of the Irish FMC, such positions are displayed on a system known as FGS – Fisheries Geographic System (FGS) where at any one time the position of over 300 fishing vessels are displayed. This includes vessels fishing within the 200 mile Irish EFL as well as Irish vessels fishing anywhere in the world. The FMC currently supplies the patrol ships with paper-based snap shots of the VMS picture. From early 2005, all patrol ships have be equipped with an electronic display.

The FGS forms part of an IT suite known as the Fisheries Protection Information system, whose other main components include a legislation system known as the FLS and the core component, the Fisheries Information System (FIS)

The Navy has a close working relationship with the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources on whose behalf it provides the fishery protection service. A formal Memorandum of Understanding incorporating a service level agreement defines the working relationship.

In 2003, the NS conducted 1,511 patrol days, 90 per cent of which were dedicated to fishery protection, 1,950 fishing vessels were inspected at sea, resulting in 27 detentions. Written warnings were issued to a further 119 vessels. In 2005, the Navy has programmed a total 1,660 patrol days, being the culmination of an ambitious five-year development plan that has seen a significant increase in overall output.


Fact file
The Naval Service is located at Haulbowline Naval Base, Cork Harbour, and has a total staff of over 1,100, the majority of whom are recruited as school leavers or University graduates, hence at any one time a large number of personnel are engaged in training.

The Navy occasionally recruits bridge watch keeping and marine engineer officers from the merchant navy. The new National Maritime College (NMCI), opened in October 2004 is located close to the Haulbowline Naval Base, and supplies all non-military training needs of the Naval Service. This world-class facility is operated jointly with Cork institute of Technology and is a world-class facility that is already proving a magnificent boost to the Irish maritime sector.

The Naval Diving Section provides 365-day coverage to the Gardai and other authorities to assist with various diving operations, mainly SAR (search & rescue) and security. The diving team provides expertise in explosive ordnance disposal, where activities include disposal of WW2 mines/depth charges. Their search expertise has been enhanced through the acquisition of an under water remotely operated vehicle (ROV), and side scan sonar equipment.

Although relatively small by international standards, the Naval Service is a dynamic organisation populated by young well-educated people. It has invested wisely in ships, IT and other infrastructure, and its involvement in the development of the NMCI augurs well for its future well-being.
To quote from a recent article in Jane’s Navy International:

Within the framework of constraints and considerable challenges it faces, it appears the NS is punching well above what initial impressions of its size and capabilities might suggest and manages to balance its broad range of defence and maritime policing commitments

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