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First For Finnish Navy As Flagship Makes Historic Visit to Dublin

25th May 2017

#FirstFinnish – For the first time the Finnish Navy made a historic visit to Dublin yesterday when flagship FNS Hämeenmaa arrived on the Liffey quays to begin a four-day call, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The 1,300 displacement minelayer had sailed from Funchal, Madeira following an annual exercise that began in the Baltic and North Seas and the Atlantic Ocean. On arrival to Dublin Bay, L.E. Orla escorted the Finnish flagship upriver in the port though the Naval Service CPV departed this morning.

This year is special for Finns, as the Nordic nation that is bordered by Norway and Russian Federation, celebrations a centenary of Independence. The theme of the Finnish Defence Forces' Finland 100 Jubilee Year is ‘National defence is everybody's business’.

The population of Finland is around 5.5m and the capital Helsinki has some 624,000 inhabitants. Only 6% of Finns however live in the sparcely populated countryside that constitutes 70% of the total land mass.

Afloat took the opportunity to board the FNS Hämeenmaa that berthed at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay from where as previously reported the 77m flagship was made open yesterday to the public. Speaking to crew members and officers, it was also established that sistership, FNS Uusimaa took the honour of been the first ever Finnish Navy ship to visit Ireland. On that occasion the minelayer made a visit to Cork Harbour and is understood to have taken place around 2010.

According to the Irish Navy, the Finnish Navy contributes a ship to the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group (SNMCMG). This is a multi-national counter mine force that exercises around Europe and that takes responsibility for example, for disposal of WWII sea mines that are still frequently encountered in the Baltic and off the French coast.

FNS Hämeenmaa is based in Upinniemi and FNS Uusimaa is in Pansio, outside Turku which is one of three major shipyards controlled by STX Cruise Finland Oy. They construct some of the world’s largest cruiseships and their predecessors have also built numerous Baltic cruise-ferries, notably also the Dublin based Irish Ferries Ulysses and that of the Finnish flagship.

The flagship features a raked bow for Baltic winter conditions and likewise of the sister they are a smaller version of FNS Pohjanmaa. This minelayer has been decommissioned, however newbuilds are in order to replace the existing pair. According to an officer, a quartet of Finnish built corvettes have been ordered and they will also replace another trio of naval units in the fleet. Delivery of the corvettes are due between 2020 and 2025.

Following FNS Hämeenmaa’s call to the capital, the minelayer will head for the English Channel and to the North Sea so to take a transit of the Kiel Canal, Germany. From there the flagship’s return to the Baltic Sea will lead to a call to Stettin, Poland. The Finnish Navy will then participate among other nations for Nato's BALTOPS a major naval exercise.

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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