A Belgian Navy frigate conducting exercises in the Irish Sea was tracked by Afloat days in advance of a visit to Dublin Port and in the run up to this week's Brexit Deal finally struck in Brussels, writes Jehan Ashmore.
The frigate BNS Louise-Marie (F931) under Commander Coppieters de Gibson had carried out crew training exercises off Lambay Island in the Irish Sea in addition to waters between Wicklow Head and the Llŷn Peninsula, north Wales.
Also engaged was the Irish Naval Service UK built LÉ George Bernard Shaw (P64) which took part in the PASSEX training exercises with BNS Louise-Marie as the frigate transited the Irish Sea en route to Dublin Port for the five day visit. These exercises allowed the INS to practice core naval skills and ensure interoperability.
Following completion of training, BNS Louise-Marie, a former Dutch Navy Karel Doorman-class frigate berthed in Dublin on Sunday. The visit was to enable crew rest and recreation and an opportunity for Pierre-Emmanuel De Bauw, Ambassador of Belgium to Ireland to pay a visit on board and meet the crew.
On the frigate's final day in the Irish capital on Thursday (the Brexit Deal was announced), this aptly coincided with an event organised by the Belgian Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Ireland. The BLCCIE's guest speaker, John J McGrane, director-general of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce, spoke about Brexit and the need for vigilance over future EU-UK relationships.
In a week of intense political negotiations in mainland Europe, commuters here at home using the Tom Clarke (East-Link) bridge would of observed the naval visitor berthed at the port's North Quay Wall Extension. At the stern on the aft deck was a NATO frigate helicopter.
Commissioned into service in 1991 as HNLMS Willem van der Zaan, the frigate had a career with the Royal Dutch Netherlands Navy until decomissioned in 2006. Three years later the frigate was renamed BNS Marie Louise by Queen Paola of Belgium. The frigate's homeport is at the Zeebrugge Naval Base.
Today, Afloat.ie tracked the naval vessel in Fishguard Bay, south Wales. Arriving this morning to Fishguard was the ferry Stena Europe, recently returned fresh from refit in Turkey. The country (a member state of NATO) is spread across two continents, Europe and Asia.
By early this afternoon the BNS Marie-Louise had departed Welsh waters and likewise the Stena Europe had headed west-bound into the St. Georges Channel. The frigate was astern of the Rosslare 'Europort' bound ferry albeit at some distance away.
As Afloat previously reported there have been discussions to develope a service linking the Irish Europort with mainland Europe through the French port of Le Havre.