A pair of former Dutch Navy frigates now part of the Belgium Navy docked within two hours of each other in Dublin Port yesterday for a weekend visit, writes Jehan Ashmore.
The first frigate to arrive BNS Louise-Marie (F931) docked at lunchtime with the attendance of port tugs when berthing at the North Wall Quay Extension. This quay is located next to the former East-Link Bridge which in May was officially unveiled as the Tom Clarke Bridge after a prominent figure of the 1916 Easter Rising.
The 3,328 tonnes BNS Louise-Marie frigate having sailed from Plymouth was joined by sister BNS Leopold I (F930), which had sailed from Bergen on the west coast of Norway. The latter vessel had moored alongside her counterpart, with both bows of the frigates facing seawards.
BNS Leopold I is a ‘Karel Doorman’-class frigate of the Naval Component of the Belgian Armed Forces, however originally she was the Royal Netherlands Navy’s HNLMS Karel Doorman (F827).
Likewise BNS Louise-Marie, was a former member of the Dutch fleet and as a sister named HNLMS Willem van der Zaan (F829) until they were purchased by the Belgiums in 2005. The leadship entered service for the Belgium Navy in 2007 and her sister was commissioned the following year.
Each of the 123m long frigates has a crew totalling 145 (15 officers, 70 non-commissioned officers and 60 sailors). Among the main weapons are eight Harpoon SSM and 16 x NATO Seasparrows and a single SGE-30 Goalkeeper. Also can be equipped is a Lynx or NH90 Helicopter.
During this month, BNS Leopold I had tested anti-ship missiles as part of a NATO flotilla that involved nations from Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Turkey.
Last month during the May Bank Holiday a trio of Belgium Navy vessels also paid a courtesy call to the capital. On that occasion this involved an auxiliary command and logistical support ship, BNS Godetia.
At the beginning of next month, the annual Belgium Navy Days (1-2 July) will be held in Zeebrugge, where the naval base will be open to the public. Both of the frigates are to attend along with command and oceanographic survey ships.