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University Challenge As UK’s Royal Navy Boat Squadron On Tour

28th March 2018
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HMS Charger the last of a trio of Archer P2000 class patrol craft to arrive into the Irish Naval Service dock basin of the base located on Haulbowline Island, Cork Harbour HMS Charger the last of a trio of Archer P2000 class patrol craft to arrive into the Irish Naval Service dock basin of the base located on Haulbowline Island, Cork Harbour Photo: INS - facebook

#NavalVisits - At this stage of the UK’s Royal Navy University Boat Squadron tour the last visit was to Kinsale Harbour and followed calls to Cork, Waterford and Dublin, where the flotilla is to return for the Easter Weekend, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Afloat has been monitoring movements of the naval flotilla of Archer P2000 class inshore patrol boats that visited Dublin Port last week at the Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club Marina. The patrol trio comprise of HMS Biter, Charger and Persuer which are part of the First Patrol Boat Squadron, whose primary role is to support the University Royal Naval Units (URNU).

The White Ensign flagged visitors had berthed in Kinsale Yacht Club Marina where they arrived this week until departing last night. Also in port was and remains today the Musketier, a Manx flagged Peel registered cargoship that is operated from an East Cowes, Isle of Wight based company, Faversham Ships.

Prior to the call to Kinsale Harbour, a courtesy call was paid to the Irish Naval Service base in Cork Harbour where the P2000's berthed within the naval dock basin. Upon arrival, four Naval Service patrol vessels were berthed. A pair of Babcock built OPV’s from their shipyard in Appledore, Devon, flagship HPV LÉ Eithne built locally in Rushbrooke and CPV LÉ Orla, the former RN HMS Swift launched in Aberdeen and which formed part of the Hong Kong Patrol Squadron.

Since Sunday, members of the URNU travelled from Dublin to Waterford and this was followed in Cork Harbour where they met with Commodore Michael Malone Flag Officer Commanding Naval Service. Another recent naval visitor albeit to Cork City quays was the Belgium Navy’s BNS Castor, a patrol vessel where relationships with the city and nation were strengthened.

In total 14 craft from the RN’s Archer P2000 class are assigned to the UNRUs though they also contribute to a wide range of fleet tasking. A RN Lieutenant commands each of the URNUs and is responsible for 51 undergraduates during their time in the Unit. The university squadron is not a recruiting organisation and membership of the URNU carries no obligation to join the Royal Navy on graduation.

Equally to the same number of P2000 craft, 14 units of the URNU are located around the UK offering opportunities to 700 undergraduates from the country’s leading universities in England, Scotland and Wales. An example been HMS Charger which has been the URNU for Liverpool University since 1990. The 54 tonnes craft is based at Brunswick Dock on the site of the new Royal Naval Headquarters on Merseyside.

The URNU aims to broaden a naval understanding and develop undergraduates who show potential through maritime experience and exposure to the values and ethos of the RN.

In addition they have opportunities to take part in sporting events, adventurous training activities and gain a CMI qualification all within a vibrant and friendly social scene.

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. 

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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