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Sunday, 16 November 2014

After Three Days on the Town in New York, European Sailors Head Home......

More than 450 visitors from Holland, Spain and England were set to depart on Saturday from the passenger ship terminal on the West Side of Manhattan. But they are not typical tourists leaving on a cruise ship.
They are marines and sailors at the end of a three-day shore leave in New York City after participating in offshore warfare exercises with the United States Navy. And although they represent three nations, they are all returning to Europe on the same big ship, a boxy vessel known as a landing platform dock.
The ship, the H.N.L.M.S. Johan de Witt, is the second-largest vessel in the Royal Netherlands Navy. It was designed to transport a battalion of marines, helicopters and landing craft to hot spots and disaster sites around the world. It defends itself against missiles and aircraft with an automated weapon system that was developed by the Dutch and is known as Goalkeeper.
But this week it peacefully delivered a full ship of sailors and marines to the heart of the city, where they were turned loose before crossing back over the Atlantic Ocean.
Photo
The Dutch warship H.N.L.M.S. Johan de Witt, the the second-largest vessel in the Royal Netherlands Navy, was docked at the passenger ship terminal on the West Side of Manhattan on Friday evening. Credit
“We try to keep them on board as a job,” Col. Sebastian Brust, 51, the deputy commander of the Netherlands Maritime Forces, said of the young sailors and marines. “It’s always good to give them some quality time in a great city like New York.”
In smaller cities tours are organized for the service members, he added, but in New York, where so many attractions are within walking distance, they were left to explore on their own.
The ship docked at Pier 88 as a guest of the city in a spot usually reserved for cruise ships and huge yachts. The last time a foreign naval ship docked there was just before Fleet Week in May, when an 87-year-old Spanish schooner, the Juan Sebastian de Elcano, spent several days in New York, said Christopher Carroll, a spokesman for the city’s Economic Development Corporation.
Some of the sailors and marines who arrived on the Johan de Witt attended Broadway shows, some went to jazz clubs and some went running in Central Park, Colonel Brust said.
As of Friday afternoon, he said, he had received no reports of any of them getting into trouble in the city. They did have some steam to blow off, though, after spending two weeks participating in an annual event that the United States Navy calls Bold Alligator, a series of multinational amphibious training exercises off the coasts of Virginia and North Carolina.
During Bold Alligator, the 120-member crew of the Johan de Witt, joined by 122 Dutch marines and about 200 marines from Spain and England, led a coalition force that included two American ships, Colonel Brust said. He said that this year the drills focused on responding to a crisis, such as an earthquake or typhoon.
The trip home for the Johan de Witt, which was named after a 17th-century Dutch statesman, will last until Nov. 28, Colonel Brust said. Along the way, it will make stops to drop off marines at the El Ferrol naval base in Spain and at Plymouth in England.