Visiting Canadian frigate steers clear of freedom-of-navigation
HMCS Vancouver will hold training sessions with the Chinese navy in Hong Kong and visit Singapore before joining the massive RIMPAC 2018 next month
The Royal Canadian Navy’s Halifax-class frigate HMCS Vancouver sailed into Hong Kong waters on Thursday morning, on its first leg of a trip to the Asia-Pacific region for its Operation Projection deployment.
The ship was carrying a crew of 220 sailors for R&R as well as a host of community outreach programs before heading for Southeast Asia and then to Hawaii to join the massive Rim of the Pacific exercise alongside the US and Chinese navies in July.
Joining Vancouver for this port visit was the deputy commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, Rear-Admiral Gilles Couturier.
“We are a Pacific navy, and we are proud to come into this region at least once a year,” Couturier told reporters on the flight deck of the frigate.
Featuring extensive anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare weapons and state-of-the-art sensors to complement the frigate’s substantial anti-air warfare defense, Vancouver’s Commander Christopher Nucci said his ship was among the most advanced of its kind worldwide. The class to which Vancouver belongs comprises general-purpose warships with particular focus on anti-submarine capabilities. This ship was launched in 1989.
The command and control system on board Vancouver is also “amongst the best of the world,” according to Couturier.
“You can sit at a console to fire the weapons and analyze elements of information coming from multiple sensors, and if that console breaks down, you can just go to the next one and reconfigure it based on your role and responsibility…. [The navies of] Chile and New Zealand just bought the system recently.”
The 4,795-ton frigate is propelled by a pair of gas turbines, of 47,500 shaft horsepower (35,400 kilowatts), and one auxiliary diesel engine, at a maximum speed of 29 knots for a range of 7,000 nautical miles. Vancouver is based out of Esquimalt, British Columbia, on the west coast of Canada.
Asked if Vancouver or any other Canadian warships would sail into the vast portion of the South China Sea covered by Beijing’s territorial claims for freedom-of-navigation patrols, Couturier said the Canadian Navy “doesn’t do freedom-of-navigation, that’s not something we do on purpose.” He added that the vessel would “sail in international waters” while en route to its next courtesy call on Singapore.
Canadian Consul General to Hong Kong Jeff Nankivell also stressed that his country didn’t take a position on the merits of individual territorial claims and that Canada endorsed an international process for settling disputes under established legal mechanisms.
Vancouver is deployed to the Asia-Pacific region on Operation Projection to conduct forward naval presence operations and support international naval exercises with allies and partner nations, the Canadian Consulate General in Hong Kong said in a press release.
During the visit to Hong Kong, Canadian sailors will be interacting with civilians and local counterparts to promote cooperation and friendship. They will participate in liaison activities including school visits to the ship, sports competitions, and a wreath-laying ceremony at the Sai Wan War Memorial to commemorate the fallen Canadian soldiers who fought alongside local and Allied forces to defend the territory in the Battle of Hong Kong during World War II.
Vancouver is also scheduled to join vessels from the People’s Liberation Army’s Hong Kong Garrison in a coordination, training and passing exercise before leaving Hong Kong.