Goodwill abounds as Exeter sails in

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 September, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 September, 1996, 12:00am

ITS White Ensign fluttering in the wind and 300 crew standing smartly to attention in their whites, HMS Exeter sailed into Victoria Harbour yesterday.

The first Royal Navy warship to enter Hong Kong in 14 years, and one of the last to arrive under British sovereignty, the Exeter is on its way to make a goodwill visit to China, to cement ties before the handover.

The Type 42 Guided Missile Destroyer will leave for Qingdao on Thursday as the first Royal Navy warship to visit China in 11 years.

Operations officer Lieutenant-Commander Paul Porter said officers would show Chinese naval officers around the 125-metre vessel and hoped to be invited aboard a Chinese warship. 'It's a goodwill visit, so hopefully that opportunity will arise. I'm sure they would be very interested to look at our ship,' he said.

'We're also hoping to make a trip to the Great Wall. Everybody is thrilled by the visit.' A British Garrison spokesman said US and Australian warships had recently visited China.

'It's also the the first visit by a Royal Navy surface warship to Hong Kong since 1982,' he said.

After a four-day visit to Qingdao, the Exeter will head west to the Gulf.