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A Bird’s View of a Dutch Navy Frigate

On the eighth of February, the Dutch Royal Navy ship HNLMS Van Galen ceremonially entered the harbour of Curaçao for a five month stay in the Caribbean, based in Curaçao.

The 1994-commissioned M (Multi purpose) frigate is the seventh in the Karel Doorman Class. M frigates are built and equipped for anti-submarine, anti-air and surface warfare roles, but in the Caribbean, the ship’s tasks mainly imply anti-drug operations in cooperation with the Coast Guard of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, and search and rescue tasks at sea. The frigate also provides humanitarian assistance in case of emergency like hurricanes and other catastrophes and disasters.

For anti-drug action outside the territorial waters Van Galen deploys a US Coast Guard’s Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) on board. Before leaving the Dutch homeport Den Helder, the 136 crew exercised an extensive work up program for the anti-drug operations and also for nuclear, biological and chemical protection and damage control (NBCD).  In the UK, Van Galen participated in an intensive disaster exercise.

The ship carries one AgustaWestland Lynx SH-14D helicopter, which is able to land on the ship’s heli platform on the aft deck at rough seas. The Lynx is a multi-role helicopter. It can operate from both shore and ship. The Lynx can also carry out so-called “boardings” whereby it swiftly lowers a team of specialists onto a suspect ship in order to search it. In this manner, it can play an important role in rescuing people from the sea and in medical evacuations. It can be brought into action for reconnaissance purposes far ahead of the ship, thus broadening the ship’s horizon.

I was granted the unique opportunity to join the crew in the “Pink Panther” Lynx helicopter when the Van Galen passed the harbour breakwaters and ceremonially entered the St Anna Bay. The presence of the beautiful cruise ship the Queen Mary 2 at Curaçao’s megapier was a lucky coincidence.

HNLMS Van Galen started her last term in the West this February. As per November 2009 she’ll enter service in new owners, the Belgian Navy.

HNLMS Van Galen Facts:
Length: 122,3 meter / 401 ft
With: 14,4 meter / 47 ft
Draught: 6,2 meter / 20 ft
Crewmembers: 136

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