Navy

Ship Shape: Thousands Go Behind The Scenes At Belfast Maritime Festival

The Royal Navy, as well as fleets from Ireland, France and Mexico, welcomed visitors on board.

Thousands of visitors have been given a behind-the-scenes look at some of the world's most iconic naval ships in Northern Ireland.

Vessels from the Royal Navy, Irish Defence Force, Mexican Navy and France all dropped anchor for the annual Belfast Maritime Festival.

It is the widest range of ships the festival has had.

They included the eye-catching Mexican ARM Cuauhtémoc. The steel-hulled sail training vessel, named after the last Aztec emperor, allows the cadets on board to hone their skills.

Crowds behind the scenes at Belfast Maritime Festival.
It is the widest range of ships the festival has had.

The Royal Navy’s Sandown Class minehunter HMS Penzance put in an appearance. She primarily neutralises underwater threats, but also has a secondary role as an offshore patrol vessel, helping to secure the UK’s waters.

From HMS Penzance, Sub Lieutenant Matthew Grayson says it is important to engage with the public and explain what the Navy is doing:

"I think a lot of the time they don't have as good an awareness as they should have, of the roles that we play, because we're overseas doing our job".

HMS Penzance at Belfast Maritime Festival.
The Royal Navy’s Sandown Class mine hunter HMS Penzance put in an appearance. 

Commander Rob Milligan, Senior Naval Officer Northern Ireland, said it is a great chance for visitors to get an insight into life on the ships: "In Northern Ireland, the Royal Navy's got quite a small footprint.

"We've got a small naval reserve unit here, but otherwise the Navy is really out of sight and out of mind.

"To put a vessel alongside in a place like Queen's Quay here, right in the city centre and open to the public is a great opportunity".

The Irish Defence Force was represented by LÉ Samuel Beckett.

The offshore patrol vessel is designed to cope with the rough waters of the North Atlantic off the west coast of Ireland.

LÉ Samuel Beckett has been involved in the rescue of more than 2,300 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.