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Belgium Navy 'Ready Duty Ship' On Extended Shore Leave Visit

10th March 2017
Belgium Navy's BNS Castor, a Ready Duty Ship (RDS). Note at the stern of the 53m vessel is a RHIB craft positioned in its cradle-dock which when not in use has a raised sliding door in place. Belgium Navy's BNS Castor, a Ready Duty Ship (RDS). Note at the stern of the 53m vessel is a RHIB craft positioned in its cradle-dock which when not in use has a raised sliding door in place. Photo: JEHAN ASHMORE

#ReadyDutyShip – Afloat has an update to the Belgium Navy ship which docked in Dublin Port earlier this week having carried out a commemorative service on Monday. This was to mark the 30th anniversary of a UK-Zeebrugge serving ferry that capsized off the Belgium port.

The naval vessel BNS Castor, designated as a Ready Duty Ship (RDS) is one of the most modern of the Belgium Navy is based in Zeebrugge. It was from the country's main naval base that BNS Castor had departed to make an arrival in Dublin Port on Wednesday morning. The sleek 53m long BNS Castor built in 2014 has a maximum speed of 22 knots which is generated from diesel engines.

BNS Castor berthed on the Liffey along Sir John Rogersons Quay where one of the 15 crew members spoke to Afloat to emphasise the visit to Dublin was for an extended shore leave. The length of the crew and recreation leave away from routine North Sea patrols is for four days. Accompanying the naval visitor to the capital's port was L.E. Ciara which had berthed astern.

Among the duties of BNS Castor are search and rescue duties, surveillance of EEZ waters, illegal fishing control and fight against trafficking and pollution.

To assist these tasks, BNS Castor has a pair of RHIB craft, one 9m in length and the other measures 7.5 m. They are positioned towards the stern of the RDS where a cradle docking area has fast release equipped to enable rapid response during deployment missions. The vessel also features a panoramic (360°) bridge and an FN Herstal SeaDeFNder 12.7 mm remotely operated machine gun.

BNS Castor was commissioned by the Belgiam Navy to a French shipyard SOCARENAM for the RDS program for two vessels. BNS Castor was delivered in July 2014 and was followed by sister BNS Pollux in the first half of 2015.

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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