The Republic of Ireland is to give an offshore patrol vessel to Malta to help it cope with the migration crisis.
Defence Minister Simon Coveney agreed to give the recently decommissioned Le Aoife to Malta following a meeting in Latvia with Home Affairs and National Security Minister Carmelo Abela in the margins of the informal meeting of EU Defence Ministers.
“The Maltese authorities require the ship for their armed forces to assist in the patrolling of the Mediterranean Sea to deal with the ongoing difficult refugee crisis in the region. Recent tragic events in that part of the Mediterranean have underlined the significant challenges which need to be addressed by the international community and Ireland is very keen to play an active part in this regard,” Mr Coveney was quoted as saying as The Irish Examiner.
“I welcome this very important contribution from Ireland which will help in bridging a gap in Malta’s naval capacity pending our future acquisition of a new offshore patrol vessel,” Mr Abela said.
Le Aoife, which is 65.2m long and has a displacement of 1019.5 tonnes, will be the biggest vessel to join the maritime squadron of the Armed Forces of Malta.
It was built 35 years ago and used mostly on fishery protection duties but is also sailed in other parts of the world including the Mediterranean to supply Irish troops involved in UN missions. It was in Malta in 2007.
The ship was the oldest in the Irish Navy and sailed in excess of 600,000 nautical miles. Its crew has boarded over 4,700 vessels at sea and detained over 440 fishing vessels. It was decommissioned last month.
The ministers also discussed further cooperation including in the training of Maltese personnel in Ireland and future potential operations, building on the successful joint training team Malta and Ireland provided to the EU Training Mission in Somalia.