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Belgian Navy Caller to Dublin Follows Multi-Purpose Mission to West Africa

15th May 2018
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Auxiliary veteran of the Belgian Navy, command and support ship BNS Godetia (A960) built in 1965 at the Boelwerf in Temse. The ship is seen in Osstende in early April loading humanitarian supplies for West Africa from where the vessel had been deployed on anti-drugs and humanitarian mission. The naval visitor called to Dublin Port over last weekend along with BNS Bellis a minecounter measures vessel which remains in port. Auxiliary veteran of the Belgian Navy, command and support ship BNS Godetia (A960) built in 1965 at the Boelwerf in Temse. The ship is seen in Osstende in early April loading humanitarian supplies for West Africa from where the vessel had been deployed on anti-drugs and humanitarian mission. The naval visitor called to Dublin Port over last weekend along with BNS Bellis a minecounter measures vessel which remains in port. Photo: Belgian Navy - facebook

#NavalVisits - A Belgian Navy 'Tripartite' class minecounter measures vessel remains in Dublin Port whereas an accompanying command logistics supportship which had been on a mission to west Africa, departed the capital yesterday, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Also taking place yesterday, the 51m (MCM) minecounter measures BNS Bellis shifted berths following a weekend stay upriver and closer to the city-centre at Sir John Rogersons Quay. It was also from here that the 91m command supportship, BNS Godetia had spent time too in the capital for crew rest and recreation after arriving from Tenerife. This marked the latest leg of a return voyage from west Africa to Belgium.

The deployment of BNS Godetia to west Africa was for a third time. On this latest mission it involved co-operating with the 'Maritime Operation and Analysis Centre' based in Lisbon, Portugal from where anti-drug /piracy operations are co-ordinated. This saw the Belgian Navy carry out patrols in an effort to combate illegal drugs trafficked from South America bound for Europe via west Africa.

Prior to departing Osstende last month, among humanitarian cargoes loaded on the ship equipped with a stern heli-deck, were medical supplies. The mission involved calling to ports among them Banjul, capital of The Gambia. The west African state is surrounded by Senegal, except for the small stretch of the Gambia coastline along the Atlantic Ocean.

According to Ships Monthly, the Belgium Government are to replace the BNS Godetia and BNS Bellis (commissioned in 1986) with newbuilds. The 'Tripartite' MCM's were a collaboration of the Belgium, Dutch and French navies however the class are ageing. The replacement project costing €1.1 billion for the Belgian Navy is for six new 'mother ships' and the same number is to apply to the Royal Netherlands Navy, with deliveries scheduled between 2021-2030.

Prior to the pair of Belgian Navy's arrivals last Friday to Dublin Port, BNS Bellis was monitored by Afloat carrying out coastal manouveres between Wicklow coast and Arklow Bank. The MCM ship had sailed from the naval base in Zeebrugge, Belgium.

On departure from Dublin Port yesterday, BNS Godetia headed out via the North Burford Bouy and beyond the Kish Bank Lighthouse and proceeded southwards bound for Zeebrugge. The ship with its 80 crew is understood to be calling to a UK east coast port prior to a scheduled return home to Belgium on Friday.

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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