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The RCC Faire in Dingle Harbour. Alamy Stock Photo
maritime patrol

Customs service to spend €20 million on new boats to help tackle drug trade

One key mission will be the service’s role in the Joint Task Force on Drug Interdiction.

THE REVENUE COMMISSIONERS ARE set to purchase two new patrol boats. The new vessels will be used, in part, to expand the service’s ability to tackle drug smuggling and other seaborne criminal activities. 

The patrol vessels, which sources believe will cost €20m to purchase, will require a tender notice to be issued later this year.

Revenue already has two patrol boats in their Maritime Unit, the Revenue Commissioner Cutter (RCC) Faire and the RCC Suirbheir. 

It is understood the RCC Faire is generally based in Dun Laoghaire in Dublin and the RCC Suirbheir is normally seen operating near Kinsale, Co Cork. 

It is believed the arrival of two new vessels, which it’s understood will each have a crew of six personnel, will see the new boats positioned in various ports around the country.

A Revenue spokesperson said the vessels will replace the current boats with out any overlap of service.

In response to a query from The Journal a Revenue spokesperson said that a Prior Information Notice (PIN) had been published in the Official Journal of the EU in November, 2021. 

“The purpose of the PIN was to inform the market that the Revenue Commissioners may seek tenders in 2022 for the provision of a Customs Cutter (patrol vessel) of marine grade aluminium construction. 

“The Revenue Commissioners intend to replace existing vessel(s) as they approach their end of life service,” she said. 

In 2015, the Customs Act, expanded the seaborne powers of Revenue to conduct sea patrols beyond the 12 nautical mile limit. 

The capabilities of the RCC Faire allow the launching of a boarding Rigid Inflatable Craft (RIB).

A spokesperson said the role of the service was to patrol and monitor Irish waters and to board and search other vessels in order to intercept “illegal importations and exportation of prohibited and restricted goods, identification of non-compliance with the Customs Act 2015, shadow economy activity; tax evasion and tax avoidance”.

20190907 Revenue Cutter Faire The RCC Faire following the seizure of illicit cigarettes from an Italian ship in Dublin 2019. Garda Press Office Garda Press Office

One key mission for Customs is its part in the the Joint Task Force on Drug Interdiction (JTF) in which it works closely with the Naval Service and An Garda Síochána.

Customs along with An Garda Síochána evaluate intelligence gathered through various routes, including via the Maritime Analysis Operations Centre – Narcotics in Portugal.

Revenue said that there will be no designated home port for the new vessels and that they will be based at “secure berths in specific locations as required”.

Revenue would not comment on the projected cost of the two vessels ahead of the tendering process later this year.

Security sources have said they are likely to cost €20m – it is understood funding has already been secured for the project. 

Much of the work of Revenue is shrouded in secrecy but sources have said that the scope for closer-to-shore patrols is something that security services in Ireland are looking to expand. 

Those sources have said the recent problems of crewing in the Naval Service had reduced some of the effectiveness of their work targeting the smuggling of large quantities of illegal drug shipments.

The Irish Navy has suffered a significant problem with retaining crews on ships with many trained sailors leaving the service with representative bodies citing Government cuts to wages and poor working conditions as their reason.  

However Revenue has seen some success in the area in recent years. One of the most recent high-profile seizure took place in 2019 seizure and saw the RCC Faire involved in the seizure of a shipment of illegal cigarettes off Dublin.

The most recent annual figures for Revenue were in the annual report publish in April of last year covering the year 2020. 

The statistics showed drug seizures totalling €44.8m while there 48.2m illegal cigarettes seized.

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