Belfast hosting fleet of Nato warships for the weekend
Four state-of-the-art Nato warships docked in Belfast for the weekend yesterday.
The vessels, from the Standing Nato Maritime Group One, include the Belfast-affiliated HMS Duncan as well as others from Spain, Portugal and Germany. They are manned by more than 700 sailors.
It is expected that they will be at Gotto Wharf in the city until Monday, but they will not be open to the public because of safety issues associated with being docked in a commercial port.
However, a number of private groups, including the Sea Cadets and veterans, will be invited on board HMS Duncan.
The ship's commanding officer, Charles Guy, said that crew members would use their time in the city to catch up with affiliations, including at City Hall, the Northern Ireland Children's Hospice, the Sea Cadets and the Royal Naval Reserve unit HMS Hibernia. "We have also got some charity money which the ship's company collected last year when it was on a deployment to the Arabian Gulf to present to the Northern Ireland Children's Hospice as well," Mr Guy added.
The fleet of ships had been due to visit the city last month, but they were diverted to track a Russian aircraft carrier through the North Sea and then on to the Mediterranean.
Rear Admiral Jose Enrique Delgado, the commander of the Nato group in Belfast, said the vessels were never in danger.
"We were tasked to monitor the Russian task group movements from the northern seas into the Mediterranean," he added.
"There was no threat at all. We were just conducting normal maritime surveillance, which is a routine activity."
The fleet is expected to sail out of Belfast on Monday.