Royal Navy tour will include a stop in Mid & East Antrim

The patrol boats. Picture: Royal Navy.

THE Royal Navy will be visiting Mid & East Antrim as part of a tour around harbours in the UK. 

Council Chief Executive Anne Donaghy told councillors: “As part of their summer deployment the Royal Navy is taking seven of their patrol boats around different parts of the UK.

“We have been very fortunate to secure a visit to Carrickfergus Harbour and because of the style and size of these boats they are able to come into the harbour, so it will be quite a spectacular view to see.”

She said the visit will take place at 6.30pm on July 22. Three P2000 boats will visit Carrick.

Mayor, Councillor Peter Johnston, has been invited to an onboard reception “within the public health guidelines,” the Chief Executive said.

Ms Donaghy added: “We would be encouraging public to take a view from the roadside within the social distancing,”

She said the visit was expected to last for between 90 minutes and two hours.

Ms Donaghy added: “It will be something very different.”

Mayor Johnston summed up the visit with the word “Brilliant”.

Alderman Billy Ashe (DUP, Carrick), proposed the Mayor taking part and it was seconded by Alderman Audrey Wales (DUP, Ballymena).

In a later press release, the Mayor said: “The planned arrival of the Royal Navy to Carrickfergus Harbour on Wednesday 22 July is a prestigious honour for the Borough of Mid and East Antrim.

“I have no doubt people will be very excited to come and see the P2000 Patrol Boats from the shoreline, in the breath-taking setting of the town’s famous Norman Castle, and I would remind everyone to adhere to the social distancing and public health guidelines when doing so.

“Our borough has a long and proud connection with our Armed Forces, and just last month I was delighted to welcome the First Minister and her Junior Minister, along with other distinguished guests, as we marked the start of the 2020 Armed Forces Day celebrations.”

A recent Royal Navy press release said seven Archer Class P2000 Patrol Boats will spend a fortnight sailing around areas including Scotland, providing an opportunity for important Operational Training for their crews.

The seven ships – HMS Biter, HMS Charger, HMS Express, HMS Trumpeter, HMS Archer, HMS Explorer and HMS Example – all support University Royal Naval Units (URNU) and can reach the parts that other navy ships can’t reach.

At just over 20 metres long they are some of the smallest vessels in the Fleet, giving them the ability to sail to some of the smaller harbours.

Captain Chris Smith, Naval Regional Commander for Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: “It is great to be able to bring the Royal Navy near to some of our smaller communities which, because of harbour size, don’t usually get a visit from our ships.

“The P2000s may be small, but they pack a punch, and regularly exercise around the UK and Europe as well as supporting the Fleet.”

He continued: “Usually we would be hosting visits from local groups and organisations while alongside but, with the current situation, this is unfortunately not possible.

“We hope to engage with local organisations across social media and using new technologies, and if people spot them in their area do give them a wave!”

The summer deployment will provide the crews of the seven vessels with a unique opportunity to practice seamanship and navigation skills.

Each ship has a core crew of full-time Royal Navy sailors which in normal times would be augmented by members of the University Royal Naval Units.

While this is not possible this time due to the current restrictions, each vessel will use new technologies to have a weekly virtual drill night with their associated URNU.

The Royal Navy has 14 Fast Inshore Patrol Craft which together form the First Patrol Boat Squadron.

Although their primary role is to support the URNUs, they also contribute to a wide range of Fleet Tasking. Two of them, HMS Tracker and HMS Raider, are permanently based at HMNB Clyde where they are part of the team safeguarding the nuclear fleet.

Beginning July 4th, four of the ships – Trumpeter, Archer, Explorer and Example – will sail up the East Coast of Scotland, while Biter, Charger and Express will follow the West Coast route.

The press release said harbour stops along the way include: Leith, Peterhead, Wick, Westray, Stromness, Inverness, Fraserburgh, Port Ellen, Oban, Fort William, Kyle of Lochalsh, Ullapoool, Stornoway, Loch Boisdale and Tobermory.

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