The Royal Docks in East London does get the occasional military vessel paying a visit – most often associated with the biannual DSEi defence show held at ExCel.
However, during the last week of January 2016 three vessels that are currently assigned to Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) arrived in the Royal Docks.
The first to arrive was the Spanish Fleet Replenishment Ship ESPS Cantabria and she was followed in later the same night by two Frigates, namely the Royal Navy Type 23 Frigate HMS Iron Duke and the Spanish F100 class frigate ESPS Alvaro de Bazan.
Interestingly HMS Iron Duke had been in the Royal Docks as recently as September 2015 attending the last DSEi event and a sister ship of ESPS Alvaro de Bazan had visited West India Dock back in April 2015.
Port calls by the various NATO maritime groups are a regular occurrence (SNMCG1 visited West India Dock back in November 2015) but what was much more unusual was the fact that they came in to the Royal Docks – I suspect that this was in part due to the ongoing construction works around West India Dock that have reduced the space available for accommodating 3 large warships at the same time.
In fact the ESPS Cantabria appears to have been too large to be able to make it through the Docks to moor alongside the ExCel exhibition center and so spent the first night in the King George V Dock and then the rest of the visit moored in the King George V Lock – not such an exciting port visit location as Canary Wharf for the crew unfortunately!!
As the Royal Docks receives limited large ship movements I hope that this visit is the first of many over the coming months and years as it is good to see the Royal Docks with large ships in them again.
Sadly the Royal Docks Management Authority that is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the docks has, as usual, been silent about the fact that there are ships in the docks – their PR company seemingly more interested in 1980’s gel pens and a wedding fair!!
Still, #dlr_blog will keep bringing you the shipping news.
More pictures of the SNMG1 visit can be seen here.
The following video shows ESPS Cantabria leaving the KGV Lock with the assistance of two Svitzer tugs on the Sunday evening.