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Home Nieuws Interview at the occasion of the port visit of BNS Louise-Marie and BNS Lobelia in London during the summer campaign of the Naval Academy

Interview at the occasion of the port visit of BNS Louise-Marie and BNS Lobelia in London during the summer campaign of the Naval Academy

Datum: 
23 juli 2019

 

Shortly before the 85th annual Belgian military parade on 13th July, two Belgian warships arrived via the river Thames in London. The Belgian frigate BNS Louise-Marie and the Belgian minehunter BNS Lobelia moored alongside HMS Belfast, the former British Royal Navy Town-class light cruiser, on the Thames to celebrate the Britain-Belgium defense relationship.

We had the opportunity to ask the commanders of the vessels a few questions.

 
What brought about your choice as a youngster to join the Navy?

There are a whole variety of reasons why young men and women opt for a naval career. Youngsters are often attracted to our beautiful job because of their longing for adventure, a chance to see the world, job stability, discipline, solid education, love for the sea (and ports), attractive salary, ... . In the Navy, young people become full members of a team, working together to reach a common goal. Careers in the Navy are often diverse and allow for specialisation in many areas. At later stages in the career, as people develop, our career changes simultaneously, resulting in more shore-based functions.

Crew members preparing decks for mooring
Crew members preparing decks for mooring

 
How would you define the Belgian Navy’s main missions?

The main mission of the Navy is to offer Belgium - and our government in particular - the ability to meet the commitments made within the international framework of NATO or the EU. Also on a national level, our Navy will conduct tasks to ensure maritime safety and security in our territorial waters, working closely together with various Belgian departments such as the maritime police and customs.

We mustn’t forget that Belgium is heavily dependent on the sea, especially economically. 80% of all the goods in our homes are transported via the seas…

The current deployment of the two ships visiting London is mainly oriented towards training students in the various specialties on board. The idea is to give them the necessary preparation for their future duties on board deployed units in operations such as anti-piracy missions around the Horn of Africa, anti-drugs operations in the Caribbean, escort missions of high valuable assets as aircraft carriers, mine hunting operations in the North, Mediterranean and Baltic Sea, operations against human trafficking in the Med, etc.

Boarding teams exercising with “Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats” for interception of pirates.
Boarding teams exercising with “Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats” for interception of pirates.

 
At what occasions could the Louise Marie / Lobelia make a significant contribution to these missions?

The Frigate Louise-Marie is capable of conductions a variety of missions within the entire spectrum of force. Diplomatic (fly the flag), constabulary (rendering assistance to those in need, fight against piracy or drug trafficking, etc ) and combat tasks (asymmetric or conventional above and below the surface) are amongst the possibilities.

Frigate during anti-air warfare exercises
Frigate during anti-air warfare exercises
NH90 helicopter landing on the frigate
NH90 helicopter landing on the frigate

As a Mine Hunter, the Lobelia executes missions mainly oriented towards the fight against mines and marine explosives. A mine hunter will typically search, identify and destroy sea mines, either by divers or by drones.

Replenishment at sea from the Godetia during MCM exercise
Replenishment at sea from the Godetia during MCM exercise
Explosion of a mine coordinated from a minehunter
Explosion of a mine coordinated from a minehunter

Most of the time, units of the Belgian Navy will work together with other nations within a UN, NATO or EU framework, resulting in higher efficiency and effectiveness.

At all times we, the crews, are ambassadors of the Belgian people and are proud to fly our Flag.

 
Which are your most striking or fond memories of naval service so far?

The initial experiences on board, mostly linked to the awareness of the responsibilities associated with the duties performed, often form the strongest memories. Especially during tough situations such as multiple and simultaneous exercises and operations, difficult weather conditions, etc stick in one’s mind. In these situations, the entire crew forms a close team that optimises its operation by pooling the skills of each of its members. The cohesion of the group is essential for the success of a given mission.

Navigation team on the bridge during a warfare station exercise
Navigation team on the bridge during a warfare station exercise
Crew member working in the kitchen
Crew member working in the kitchen

Off course, certain specific experiences stand out: the first neutralisation of a sea mine, rescuing people from drowning, a first arrest of a suspected pirate, the first shot from a main gun, etc.

 
Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

The jobs offered within the Navy are varied and will continue to fascinate younger generations. Living and working on board in a specific social and professional context enables everyone to surpass himself or herself and discover the need for cohesion and team work.

However, naval life can be tough for yourself and your loved ones because you are separated for prolonged periods of time. However, in my opinion, the advantages mentioned earlier outweigh this separation: meeting people all over the world, enjoying beautiful sights, earning an income and –last but not least – carrying out meaningful tasks for our country.

The students present on board for the summer campaign
The students present on board for the summer campaign
Visit of Minister of Defense and CHOD in company of students during the visit in London
Visit of Minister of Defense and CHOD in company of students during the visit in London

 

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