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France

Hong Kong public will get chance to board French navy frigate Vendémiaire during coming port call

Military vessel will berth at China Merchants Wharf in Kennedy Town

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 February, 2018, 1:48pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 February, 2018, 10:59pm

A French navy frigate will be open to the public when it makes a five-day port call to Hong Kong next week, its third visit to the city.

Hongkongers and tourists alike will have a chance to board the Vendémiaire, which will arrive on February 26 and stay until March 2.

The ship will berth at the China Merchants Wharf in Kennedy Town, with an open day held on February 27.

According to the French consulate in Hong Kong, visitors must bring along their passports or Hong Kong identity cards, and “bulky items” will not be allowed on board.

A spokesman said the consulate was still working with the French navy on finalising the regulations, such as whether certain types of photographic equipment will be banned.

Based in Nouméa in New Caledonia, a French territory in the South Pacific, the Vendémiaire is currently on a three-month Asian mission, which includes sailings to Indonesia, South Korea, mainland China and Guam.

A French navy statement said the deployment was to “strengthen knowledge of the sensitive areas of the Western Pacific such as the South China Sea”.

Hong Kong public – and some mainland people – flock to view the pride of China’s navy

The frigate has taken part in joint exercises with Canada and the US, and most recently trained with the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force when it made a port call to Tokyo between February 8 and 12.

The fifth in a series of six patrol frigates built in the early 1990s, the Vendémiaire measures 94 metres in length and operates with 79 crew members. It is equipped with a 100mm anti-surface and air gun, two 20mm cannons and a search and rescue helicopter.

The vessel has a 30-year life cycle and can last 50 days at sea after a refuel.

French overseas frigates mainly carry out surveillance missions around the world and defend areas under French sovereignty, conducting operations such as fisheries protection and anti-smuggling exercises. They are sometimes deployed in humanitarian efforts and “enforce faraway French interests”.

The Vendémiaire previously visited Hong Kong twice, in 2011 and 2013.

During its 2013 visit, then-commander of the frigate Joffrey Guerry met Song Zhe, former commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong. Song is now deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.