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Whilst much of the recent ship attention has been on the tall ships, three NATO ships have arrived at West India Dock.
The arrival of the Estonian Navy Ship EML Wambola (A433) ,Norwegian Navy ship Hinnøy (M343) and the Dutch Navy Ship Schiedam (M860) came as a bit of a surprise, but for security reasons, the visits tend to be low key. The ships are part of the Standing NATO Mine Counter-Measures Group ONE (SNMCMG1).
The Standing NATO Maritime Groups, are a multinational, integrated maritime force made up of vessels from various allied countries. These vessels are permanently available to NATO to perform a variety of tasks ranging from participating in exercises to intervening in operational missions.
These particular ships regularly take part in NATO exercises and the SNMCMG1 ships and crew have been engaged in port visits and mine clearance operations in order to contribute to NATO collective defence and regional security.
The Norwegian Navy ship Hinnøy (M343) and the Dutch Navy Ship Schiedam (M860), last visited West India Dock in November 2015.
With all excitement with the St Albans visit, many people (including me) overlooked the arrival of the Justa Delia Super Yacht.
The 143.04ft /43.6m Justa Delia was built in 2008 by Benetti. the yacht was previously named Libra Star and was sold in 2016.
Built by the prestigious Benetti company, her luxurious interior is designed by Zuretti and her exterior design is by Stefano Righini.
The Justa Delia’s can accommodate up to 10 guests in 5 rooms, including a master suite, 3 double cabins, 1 twin cabin and 2 pullman beds. She can carry up to 9 or 10 crew onboard.
The Justa Delia’s leisure and entertainment facilities include Air Conditioning, WiFi connection on board, Deck Jacuzzi, Gym/exercise equipment and Stabilisers.
As usual in the secretive world of Super Yachts, it is not known who is the new owner or how long the yacht will be in dock
After the arrival of the HMS St Albans in West India Dock yesterday, she has been quickly joined by three patrol boats, the HMS Exploit, HMS Explorer and HMS Smiter today.
The three boats are Archer-class patrol and training vessels of the British Royal Navy and are used to train students in a range of naval skills.
HMS Explorer (P164) was built by Vosper Thornycroft in 1986 and was reclassified in 1994. Its homeport is Kingston-upon-Hull and mainly operates on the East coast of the UK, particularly in and around the river Humber.
The ship is primarily assigned to the Yorkshire Universities Royal Naval Unit (URNU), serving the universities of York, Hull, Sheffield and Leeds.
HMS Smiter ( P272) was built by Watercraft Ltd in Shoreham and commissioned in 1986. Her primary mission is to support the Oxford URNU’s activities but the vessel also conducts other RN tasks.
Oxford University Royal Naval Unit (URNU) was formed in October 1994 to provide training to undergraduates from Oxford, Oxford Brookes and Reading Universities.
HMS Exploit (P167) was built by Vosper Thornycroft and commissioned in 1988, the ship is berthed in Penarth, near Cardiff.
HMS Exploit is the Birmingham University Royal Naval Unit’s Training Patrol vessel, although the unit covers a wide area, taking undergraduates from eight Universities in the region including Loughborough and Warwick.
Archer-class patrol vessels have a Length of 20.8 m and beam of 5.8 m and often carry a crew of 20 (training) and 12 (operational).
It is not known how long the patrol boats will be in the dock but the St Albans is on a four-day stay.
After a relatively quiet period in West India Dock, we welcome the return of the HMS St Albans who last visited in July 2015.
HMS St Albans is the 16th and last of the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates to be built and was launched on 6 May 2000. Constructed by BAE Systems at Scotstoun, she was delivered to the Royal Navy in November 2001. She is based in Portsmouth. The St Albans has a length of 133 m (436 ft 4 in) , Beam: 16.1 m (52 ft 10 in) , Draught: 7.3 m (23 ft 9 in) with a crew of around 185 .
The ship has had an interesting history, in 2006, she picked up 243 evacuees from the dock in Beirut and safely transported them to Cyprus.
Like many Royal Navy ships she has been deployed around the world included supporting international efforts in tackling piracy, illegal trafficking, and smuggling.
In May 2013 she was handed over to BAe Systems for her refit in Portsmouth Harbour, where she remained until 2014. After intense trials she rejoined the fleet.
More recently, in January 2017 she escorted the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov carrier task group through the Channel.
The St Albans is on a four day visit to West India Dock, last time the ship was open for the public to visit, however the ships plans are not known at this stage.
Around three years ago, I posted the remarkable story of the SS Robin which has been located in the Royal Docks. I am delighted to report that plans have been announced to move the ship to Trinity Buoy Wharf, close to where she was built in 1890. Urban Space Management, leaseholders of Trinity Buoy Wharf, have agreed to maintain the SS Robin and to make her story more accessible to the public alongside other important ships.
It is planned that the collection of the SS Robin, and the tugs Knocker White and Varlet and lighter Diana will form the basis of an open air museum to help bring to life the rich heritage of the area from East India Dock Basin to Trinity Buoy Wharf. For the past few years the tugs Knocker White and Varlet have been berthed near the Museum of Docklands in West India Quay.
The SS Robin is the world’s oldest complete steam coaster and the last of her type in the world. The Dirty British Coaster was immortalised in John Masefield’s poem ” Cargoes .”
Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.
Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.
Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.
The British coastal cargo steamships were the workhorses of the Merchant fleet in the late 19th, early 20th Century around the ports of Britain and Northern Europe. However by the 1960s they had virtually disappeared.
SS Robin is a traditional raised quarterdeck coastal cargo steamer built in Orchard House Yard near the famous Thames Ironworks on the eastern tip of Isle of Dogs and launched in 1890.
She was built to high standards regarding materials and workmanship with her hull fitted out in East India Dock. From there she was taken to Dundee to have her boiler and engines fitted. After trials she was taken to Liverpool to begin her career as a coastal steamer in 1890.
For the next ten years she plied her trade around the ports of Britain and occasionally some of the continental ports carrying the heavy cargoes such as coal, steel and china clay for which the steamers became famous for.
However in 1900, she was sold to a Spanish owner who renamed her Maria and spent the next 70 odd years going up and down the North Atlantic coast, she survived Two World Wars, once getting an escort from the French Navy to protect her from U Boat attacks.
But then at the end of a hard working life and due to be scrapped, there was another twist of fate she was recognised by the Maritime Trust as a one of a kind and in 1974 was purchased and travelled back to Britain under her own steam.
From 1974 she was given her original name back and moored in St Katherine’s Dock and her restoration began. In 1991 she moved to West India Quay where between 2003-2007 she was used as an Education Centre and Gallery.
However more structural restoration was needed, so in 2008 she went back to the coast this time to Lowestoft to prepare for her latest reincarnation in the Royal Docks where she returned in 2011.
She may still be a Dirty British Coaster of John Masefield’s poem but now she is in elite company. She’s part of the National Historic Fleet and one of only three ‘Core Collection’ (Grade 1) vessels in the capital. The other two ships are the Cutty Sark and HMS Belfast.
Although the SS Robin is considered too fragile to be able to float again, she and the other boats will be a wonderful reminder to visitors to the Trinity Buoy Wharf area of the long and glorious history of shipbuilding in the area.
It is that time of the year when people begin to review the past 12 months, carrying on the tradition from previous years, we are listing the ships that have visited West India Docks in the last year.
With all the development surrounding West India Dock and Canary Wharf, there was some concern that the number visiting the dock would be severely curtailed but although numbers were down a little, we still had an interesting mix of ships and boats.
Some old Tall Ships favourites returned, the Stad Amsterdam, Stavros S Niarchos, STS Lord Nelson, STS Tenacious, Alexander von Humboldt II and Eendracht.
However there were visits from other Tall Ships including the impressive American USCGC Eagle and the Mexican Cuauhtémoc.
Super Yachts seem to be getting bigger and more lavish and we had a number of Super Yacht’s returning to the dock including the very expensive Ilona and Kismet.
There were visits from a number of Navy Ships especially from France and Germany . HMS Duncan, HMS Severn and HMS Kent visited on behalf of the Royal Navy.
There was a degree of nostalgia when the Thames Sailing Barges had an open day and parade, once made in their thousands, they were the workhorses of the Thames trade and watching them going down the river was one of the treats of the year.
The Massey Shaw, The Portwey and the Lord Amory which are permanently moored in the dock provide year round interest.
Super Yacht Force India
Super Yacht Lady S
Super Yacht Kismet
Super Yacht Ilona
Super Yacht Jamaica Bay
Super Yacht Grace E
STS Lord Nelson
Stavros S Niarchos
Alexander von Humboldt II
Dutch Tall Ship Stad Amsterdam
Polish Navy Sailing Ship ORP Iskra
Dutch Tall Ship Eendracht
American Tall Ship USCGC Eagle
Mexican Tall Ship Cuauhtémoc
German Navy Ships
Royal Navy Ships
French Navy Ships
Swedish Navy training ship HMS Falken
Sailing Yacht Anakena
Association of Thames Yachts
Thames Sailing Barge Parade and Open Day
May we wish all our readers a Happy New Year and we look forward to the new visitors to the dock in the New Year.
Rather belatedly ( the yacht arrived at the weekend ), I managed to take a closer look at the latest Super yacht in West India Dock. The Force India Super yacht was built by Overmarine in Italy in 2007.
The 49.9 metre ( 163 feet ) yacht can accommodate 10 guests in a one master suite, one VIP, two doubles and one twin, all located on the lower deck.
The yacht has the latest technological equipment and the usual array of water toys including jetskis, seabobs and snorkelling gear too.
There are reports that the yacht is available for charter or for sale for around 13 million pounds.
But as usual in the secretive world of super yachts it is difficult to find out a lot of information. The Force India joins the Ilona in the West India Dock which has been berthed there since August.