Babcock has floated the Irish Naval Service's second offshore patrol vessel (OPV), LÉ James Joyce, at its Appledore shipyard in North Devon, UK.
Currently 92% complete, the 90m-long OPV's lighting, forward and aft capstans were activated during floating, paving the way for its final outfit. It will then undergo trials, test and commissioning, before being delivered to Ireland next year.
Ireland's Department of Defense awarded a £81m contract in 2010 for the construction of the OPVs.
The 2256t LÉ James Joyce is equipped with autonomous engine rooms and can cruise at a top speed of 23k. It has a 6,000nm range at a cruise speed of 15k on a single engine.
Babcock Shipbuilding director Andrew Hamilton said: "We are delighted to have achieved this important and highly visible milestone to quality, budget and schedule, demonstrating our innovation and capability in this field.
"We will now be focusing on completion of the programme, ready for sea trials and then [the] handover of a further highly capable OPV to the Irish Naval Service on time and in budget, in early 2015.
"Work is also now underway on the third OPV, with first steel cut in September this year and keel laying scheduled for April 2015."
LÉ James Joyce's propulsion makes use of a diesel electric drive system, which provides a loiter function of approximately 6k.
Upon being commissioned, the vessel will join LÉ Samuel Beckett, which is already operational.
In addition to a comprehensive command, control and communications package, the OPV is also equipped with a 76mm gun, two 20mm cannons and four general purpose machine guns.
The OPVs can be deployed for a range of missions, including fishery protection, search and rescue, anti-pollution and maritime security duties, as well as vessel boarding.
The Irish Naval Service has exercised an option to build a third vessel under the original contract, with work currently underway for an anticipated delivery date of mid-2016.