The Port of Cork has seen all manner of vessels sail into the harbour over the years, but a hi-tech reconnaissance submarine might be a first.
Arriving early yesterday morning, the Dutch submarine, the HNLMS Dolfijn, is one of four ‘Walrus-class’ vessels which are counted as being among the most modern and sophisticated non-nuclear submarines the world.
The submarine is in Cork on a courtesy visit and is expected to remain in Cork Port for a number of days. It is a sister of lead class submarine HNLMS Walrus which visited Dublin some years ago.
Just under 70 metres in length and with a crew of 55, the Walrus class of submarines were built using stealth technology and can remain submerged for long periods at a time. Seen as a very silent vessel, they are extremely difficult for ships, aircraft or other submarines to detect.
In peacetime, Dutch submarines are mainly used for reconnaissance or as targets for helicopters and frigates during exercises.
They can also be used to assist in enforcing international sanctions, should a country fail to comply with its obligations. For example, during the NATO bombing of Kosovo in 1999, the HNLMS Dolfijn played a role in enforcing the embargo off the coast of Yugoslavia.
In the summer of last year, the submarine took part in a three-month deployment to the counter-piracy operation in the waters off the Somali coast.
During the deployment, HNLMS Dolfijn thwarted various actions of Somali pirates and played a key role in preventing hijackings.
During one incident, the Dolfijn discovered a pirate dhow — a traditional fishing boat — at anchor near a pirate camp.
Undetected, the submarine monitored the boat for a prolonged period, during which time the submarine’s crew was able to confirm its suspicions of pirate and hijacking activities. As a result of the information gathered by the submarine, Nato deployed a Danish naval ship, the HDMS Absalon, to intervene.
The Dutch Walrus class are involved in a range of other activities such as collecting intelligence, conducting coast reconnaissance, laying sea mines and putting special forces from Dutch Marine Corps ashore at various locations.