President Hu Jintao and dignitaries from home and abroad will be on board an air-defence missile destroyer today to conduct the much-anticipated fleet parade marking the PLA Navy's 60th birthday. The leaders, including the defence minister, General Liang Guanglie , will cruise on the missile destroyer Shijiazhuang and inspect a fleet of vessels 20 nautical miles east of Qingdao , according to Lieutenant Manuel Renaux, operations officer for the French frigate Vendemiaire. Built in 2005 and commissioned in 2007, the Shijiazhuang is one of China's most advanced destroyers and is designed mainly to provide air defence. It also has anti-surface vessel and anti-submarine capabilities. Lieutenant Renaux said the fleet to be reviewed would involve 47 PLA Navy ships and 31 aircraft. Twenty-one foreign vessels from 14 countries would leave the port of Qingdao early in the morning and sail to the parade area to join the Chinese vessels. 'The [Shijiazhuang] will sail through and review the Chinese ships first, then the foreign ones,' Lieutenant Renaux said. The one-hour event, which starts around 2.45pm, will be broadcast by China Central Television. The parade, the fourth since the People's Republic was founded in 1949, is billed as the biggest and the most significant. Many consider it a gesture of China's growing confidence of its overall naval power. The PLA is expected to showcase its most sophisticated weaponry, including four nuclear-powered submarines. This will be the first time it has ever displayed its submarines. Most of the vessels taking part in the parade, including the submarines, are from the North Sea Fleet, according to Xinhua. But the East Sea and South Sea fleets have also sent vessels. The parade is part of a celebration to mark the navy's founding. Navy personnel from around the world have been taking part in symposiums and exercises since Monday. Despite the overwhelming coverage by mainland media, the parade and the port are mostly off limits to the public. While the port, where the foreign navy ships were docked, was open to the public yesterday morning, many ticket-holders were barred from entering in the afternoon because of an unexpected inspection by General Liang. Many without tickets were eager to see the ships and waited outside the port. 'But I don't know how to get a ticket; they never told us about this,' said a woman named Ji. Mark Downing, a navy enthusiast from Canada, took time off from his work in Dalian , Liaoning , to participate. But he said he was disappointed that he could not find out any details about the parade. 'China is throwing the celebration to mark its navy's birthday and to show that it is becoming a major power,' he said. 'So I thought it would be much more open, and that it would be much easier for me to get in.'