New Zealand’s CDF Visits Ireland as Discussion Around Ship Sale Heats Up

Air Marshal Kevin Short, New Zealand’s Chief of Defence, visited Dublin over the weekend where he met Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces Lieutenant General Seán Clancy. During the meeting, they discussed ongoing negotiations between the two governments about the purchase of two former Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) Lake-class Inshore Patrol Vessels (IPV) for the Irish Naval Service. 

Lookouts are posted as HMNZS Hawea and HMAS Wollongong conduct Officer of the Watch exercises and training in the South West Pacific. (Commonwealth of Australia)

New Zealand’s four Lake Class IPVs entered into service during the late 2000s, as part of Project Protector, which sought to modernise the RNZN’s capabilities in several areas including EEZ protection and amphibious transport. In addition to the four IPVs, the program also delivered two offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), as well as a single multi-role vessel (MRV) to the RNZN. 

All of the vessels acquired under Project Protector were delivered with “capability shortfalls and deficiencies that were subject to a mediation claim and settlement.” To rectify them, New Zealand established the Protector Remediation project, which saw modifications undertaken to HMNZS Canterbury and the two Protector Class OPVs. In 2016, faced with a crew shortage as well as the vessels not being suitable for offshore operations, New Zealand put two of the IPVs up for sale; they were formally decommissioned in 2019 in the wake of the publication of the Defence Capability Plan. 

The Royal New Zealand Navy Canterbury-class multi-role vessel HMNZS Canterbury (L 421) departs from Pearl Harbor to commence the first sea phase of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans. Twenty-two nations, 49 ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC. (Royal Australian Navy photo by Leading Seaman Imagery Specialist Peter Thompson/Released/140708-O-ZZ999-041-AU2)

There is an intriguing connection to Ireland throughout the whole program. The two Protector class OPVs are themselves based on Róisín-class, which has been operated by the Irish Naval Service since 1999. While HMNZS Canterbury traces its design origin to a commercial freighter that operates in the Irish Sea. The sale of the two IPVs would mark an interesting development in the ongoing relationship. 

BOSTON (Oct. 07, 2019) The Samuel Beckett class offshore patrol vessel LE Samuel Beckett departs Boston Navy Yard. This is the first time an Irish Navy ship has visited the United States in 13 years. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Samoluk/Released)

The New Zealand Defence Force told Overt Defense that “Negotiations are progressing” and that, while Air Marshal Kevin Short’s visit was not focused on the vessels the issue was discussed.

Either way, given Ireland’s dire need for new vessels and the high-level visit, a potential deal could be imminent that would see the IPVs transferred across the world.

Cover Image Courtesy Commonwealth of Australia