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Navy reservists help regenerate Irish patrol ship

Three Royal New Zealand Navy reservists have assisted the Irish Navy in the regeneration of one of their fleet acquisitions from New Zealand.

27 June, 2024

In 2022 the Irish Department of Defence purchased two of the Royal New Zealand Navy’s retired Lake-class Inshore Patrol Vessels (IPV), HMNZS Rotoiti and HMNZS Pukaki.

They were sealifted to Ireland in early 2023 and renamed LE Aoibhinn and LE Gobnait.

At the request of the Irish Naval Service, former IPV Commanding Officer Lieutenant Fletcher Slierendrecht, Warrant Officer Marine Technician (Propulsion) Wayne Freeman and Leading Marine Technician (Electrical) William Ikenasio travelled to Haulbowline Naval Base in County Cork.

The three personnel, all from Auckland reserve force unit HMNZS Ngapona, brought extensive experience in operating Inshore Patrol Vessels during their Regular Force careers.

Their task was to work with the Irish Naval Service to carry out initial sea trials for LE Aoibhnin.

LT Slierendrecht says the Irish commissioning crew had been well prepared, with key members previously visiting New Zealand for sea rides aboard IPV HMNZS Taupo when he was in command.

“They had also had sea trials aboard their own purchased IPV during the acquisition process,” he says.

“With that, on top of the preparation they had done prior to us arriving in Ireland meant they had a very good baseline.”

The RNZN team provided informal training and advice across a variety of areas from ship handling, davit operation and machinery and auxiliary system familiarisation.

“We were really there to provide that additional five to ten per cent from our experience operating these vessels in New Zealand.”

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Irish Naval Service ship LE Aoibhinn, formally HMNZS Rotoiti, gets underway from Haulbowline Naval Base in County Cork, Ireland.

He says Royal New Zealand Navy personnel often have other ancillary roles outside of their chosen trade, while the Irish Naval Service personnel tended to keep to their specialisations. For their IPVs, he says the Irish were looking at adopting the New Zealand model, with the benefit of having a smaller crew.

The sea trials involved 10 days at sea off the south coast of Ireland, achieving Initial Operational Capability for LE Aoibhnin.

LT Slienrendrecht says it was a successful tour of duty. “Every day the ship’s company got more familiar with systems and by the end we became passengers. The North Atlantic treated us pretty well and we had the opportunity to see some of Ireland’s rugged coastline.”

LE Aoibhnin’s captain, Lieutenant Commander Aonghus Ó Neachtain, says the New Zealand team were “professionally excellent, and great shipmates”.

Commodore Michael Malone, Flag Officer Commanding Naval Service in Ireland, complimented the team in a letter his New Zealand counterpart, Commodore Andrew Brown, Acting Chief of Navy.

“The team was invaluable in assisting the ship’s company in becoming familiar with the operation of the ship, which is a new class for our Navy. Your team integrated seamlessly with the ship’s company, and their conduct and enthusiasm was a credit to themselves.”