March 28, 2020 (Google Translation) – The patrol ship Zeeland will be the new station ship in the Caribbean. Friday the ship leaves for Curaçao to relieve Groningen who is temporarily returning to the Netherlands. The switch is a result of the corona pandemic. Zeeland, with an NH90 attack helicopter on board, will remain in ‘the West’ for three months.
Groningen is coming to the Netherlands for a short period of maintenance. This return was not planned. The switch between the Groningen and the Zeeland is a direct result of the closure of the airspace of Curaçao for incoming flights, due to the corona virus. These flight restrictions mean that the crew of the Zeeland, who would fly to Curaçao to take over the Groningen crew, is now sailing to the Caribbean. The travel restrictions also have consequences for maintenance personnel of the Royal Netherlands Navy, who would carry out maintenance on the spot in Groningen. They now do this in the Netherlands, as soon as Groningen is back.
The government of Curaçao has imposed entry restrictions to protect the people of Curaçao against the expanding corona virus. The crew of the Zeeland will also have to deal with this. They are currently in quarantine in the Netherlands, to prevent the sick and to comply with the entry rules of Curaçao.
“Obviously the crew and their home front are concerned about the possible impact of the coronavirus on our situation, but at the same time I notice an enormous willingness to carry out the tasks we face as a station ship,” said the commander captain-at-sea Paul Bijleveld. “We try to resolve the concerns in the best possible way by acting as carefully as possible, in accordance with the Defense guidelines. The medical expertise on board plays an important role in this. ” The NH90 on board can be used for medical evacuation if necessary.
With the switch between Zeeland and Groningen, there will also be a temporary suspension of the ‘switch crew’ pilot. This pilot means that not every 4.5 months a different ship sails to the Caribbean, but that only the crew flies in and changes. The adaptation of the pilot is unavoidable due to the impact of the coronavirus on travel options.
The Oceangoing Patrol Vessel is, among other things, responsible for coastguard duties in the Caribbean. The ship can be used for drug control and rescue operations. In addition, the navy is ready to provide emergency aid. In 2017, Zeeland emergency aid after hurricane Irma on Sint Maarten. The Royal Netherlands Navy has a so-called ‘station ship’ permanently in the Caribbean.