The Irish Naval Service has officially christened and commissioned LÈ Samuel Becket, the first of two Babcock-built Samuel Beckett-class offshore patrol vessels (OPV).
The first vessel, which was ordered by the Irish Navy as part of a £81m deal signed in October 2010, was delivered to the service late last month, upon completion of sea trials.
According to Babcock, it is designed to offer an operational capability for several years of service in the North Atlantic, which is its main area of operation.
Babcock Shipbuilding director Andrew Hamilton said: "LÈ Samuel Beckett demonstrates that a commercial build, coupled with commercial off the shelf equipment, can give a high level of capability within the budgeted cost."
To be operational with immediate effect, the vessel will carry out a range of missions including preserving defence, customs and fisheries duties on the nation's 3,500m coastline, in addition to search and rescue, anti-pollution and maritime security duties.
The 90m-long, 2256t diesel electric OPV can cruise at a top speed of 23k, while offering a 6,000nm range at a speed of 15k on a single engine. It can accommodate a crew of 44, in addition to ten trainee berths.
Featuring a flight deck, the vessel is equipped with a comprehensive command, control and communications package, which is coupled to a 76mm gun, two 20mm cannons and four general purpose machine guns.
In addition, it also features configurable, serviced mission modules, with its deck space enabling operating mission specific equipment, while acting as a mother ship for two completely independent fast-pursuit rigid hulled inflatable boats (RIBs).
The second OPV, dubbed James Joyce, is still under construction at Babcock's north Devon-based Appledore Shipbuilders.
Babcock completed the keel for this in November 2013, with float-up scheduled for early November 2014 and sea trials and delivery taking place in early 2015.
Image: Irish Naval Service's LE Samuel Beckett during sea trials. Photo: courtesy of Babcock International Group PLC.