FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Var in Valletta

Posted in Malta, Valletta by folkestonejack on March 24, 2014

One of the unexpected pleasures of my short break in Malta has been the opportunity to catch the striking sight of two warships berthed in the Grand Harbour – the French Navy’s Durance class replenishment tanker Var (A608) and the Italian Navy’s Minerva class corvette Sfinge (F554).

The Var arrived on Thursday 20th March, having set sail from her home port of Toulon on Monday 17th March to participate in Mission MEDORO. The mission will see her provide logistical support for French units deployed in the Eastern Mediterranean – refuelling and re-supplying other ships far from their bases.

French Navy replenishment tanker VAR (A608) makes her way out of the Grand Harbour

French Navy replenishment tanker VAR (A608) makes her way out of the Grand Harbour

The current ship is the tenth to hold the name of Var, following a line of naval transport ships that started with a 22 gun gabare in 1805. She was launched at Brest on 1st June 1981 and underwent her last overhaul in 2013. The characteristics of the class are helpfully set out in an illustration on the Net-Marine website.

The design of the Var incorporates a platform which can receive helicopters of various types (Lynx , Alouette III, Panther, Dauphin, Gazelle, Puma, Cougar etc.). On this occasion, she has been joined by a SA316B Alouette III Helicopter from the naval base at Lanvéoc in order to enhance the operational capability of the ship.

I managed to get a good look at the ships as I crossed the Grand Harbour on the morning of Sunday 23rd March and was lucky enough to see the Var leave port on the morning of Monday 24th March. The Gardjola Gardens, Senglea, provided a superb vantage point to watch proceedings. Although this tanker can hardly be considered graceful, she still cut a beautiful sight as she sailed past the rich backdrop of Valletta’s sandstone fortifications.

Italian Navy corvette Sfinge (F554) berthed at Pinto 4 Wharf, Valletta

Italian Navy corvette Sfinge (F554) berthed at Pinto 4 Wharf, Valletta

The Var left Valletta on Monday 24th March around 9am, assisted by the tugs Wenzina and Lieni from the Tug Malta fleet. The process was completed surprisingly quickly, but then again my only point of comparison is the more awkward and longwinded process involved with naval visits to London!

Thanks must go to the Malta Ship Photos & Action Photos website for their helpful naval movements log which made it possible for me to be in the right place at the right time.

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