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Former Dutch Frigates Sail to Dublin As Units of Belgium Navy

25th June 2016
BNS Leopold I, one of a pair of Belgium Navy frigates that are moored alongside each other during a call to Dublin Port this weekend BNS Leopold I, one of a pair of Belgium Navy frigates that are moored alongside each other during a call to Dublin Port this weekend Photo: Photo Ritchie Sedeyn

#FrigateSisters – A pair of former Dutch Navy frigates now part of the Belgium Navy docked within two hours of each other in Dublin Port yesterday for a weekend visit, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The first frigate to arrive BNS Louise-Marie (F931) docked at lunchtime with the attendance of port tugs when berthing at the North Wall Quay Extension. This quay is located next to the former East-Link Bridge which in May was officially unveiled as the Tom Clarke Bridge after a prominent figure of the 1916 Easter Rising.

The 3,328 tonnes BNS Louise-Marie frigate having sailed from Plymouth was joined by sister BNS Leopold I (F930), which had sailed from Bergen on the west coast of Norway. The latter vessel had moored alongside her counterpart, with both bows of the frigates facing seawards.

BNS Leopold I is a ‘Karel Doorman’-class frigate of the Naval Component of the Belgian Armed Forces, however originally she was the Royal Netherlands Navy’s HNLMS Karel Doorman (F827).

Likewise BNS Louise-Marie, was a former member of the Dutch fleet and as a sister named HNLMS Willem van der Zaan (F829) until they were purchased by the Belgiums in 2005. The leadship entered service for the Belgium Navy in 2007 and her sister was commissioned the following year.

Each of the 123m long frigates has a crew totalling 145 (15 officers, 70 non-commissioned officers and 60 sailors). Among the main weapons are eight Harpoon SSM and 16 x NATO Seasparrows and a single SGE-30 Goalkeeper. Also can be equipped is a Lynx or NH90 Helicopter.

During this month, BNS Leopold I had tested anti-ship missiles as part of a NATO flotilla that involved nations from Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Turkey.

Last month during the May Bank Holiday a trio of Belgium Navy vessels also paid a courtesy call to the capital. On that occasion this involved an auxiliary command and logistical support ship, BNS Godetia.

At the beginning of next month, the annual Belgium Navy Days (1-2 July) will be held in Zeebrugge, where the naval base will be open to the public. Both of the frigates are to attend along with command and oceanographic survey ships.

Published in Naval Visits
Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Naval Visits focuses on forthcoming courtesy visits by foreign navies from our nearest neighbours, to navies from European Union and perhaps even those navies from far-flung distant shores.

In covering these Naval Visits, the range of nationality arising from these vessels can also be broad in terms of the variety of ships docking in our ports.

The list of naval ship types is long and they perform many tasks. These naval ships can include coastal patrol vessels, mine-sweepers, mine-hunters, frigates, destroyers, amphibious dock-landing vessels, helicopter-carriers, submarine support ships and the rarer sighting of submarines.

When Naval Visits are made, it is those that are open to the public to come on board, provide an excellent opportunity to demonstrate up close and personal, what these look like and what they can do and a chance to discuss with the crew.

It can make even more interesting for visitors when a flotilla arrives, particularly comprising an international fleet, adding to the sense of curiosity and adding a greater mix to the type of vessels boarded.

All of this makes Naval Visits a fascinating and intriguing insight into the role of navies from abroad, as they spend time in our ports, mostly for a weekend-long call, having completed exercises at sea.

These naval exercises can involve joint co-operation between other naval fleets off Ireland, in the approaches of the Atlantic, and way offshore of the coasts of western European countries.

In certain circumstances, Naval Visits involve vessels which are making repositioning voyages over long distances between continents, having completed a tour of duty in zones of conflict.

Joint naval fleet exercises bring an increased integration of navies within Europe and beyond. These exercises improve greater co-operation at EU level but also internationally, not just on a political front, but these exercises enable shared training skills in carrying out naval skills and also knowledge.

Naval Visits are also reciprocal, in that the Irish Naval Service, has over the decades, visited major gatherings overseas, while also carrying out specific operations on many fronts.

Ireland can, therefore, be represented through these ships that also act as floating ambassadorial platforms, supporting our national interests.

These interests are not exclusively political in terms of foreign policy, through humanitarian commitments, but are also to assist existing trade and tourism links and also develop further.

Equally important is our relationship with the Irish diaspora, and to share this sense of identity with the rest of the World.

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