29/06/2007

Maritime Festival celebrates nautical links

Belfast’s close links with the sea are marked on Saturday, when the city hosts the second annual Belfast Maritime Festival.

The cutting edge of the modern age will be highlighted by the arrival of HMS Albion one of the most up-to-date vessels in the Royal Navy fleet.

The 176 metre long 18,500 tonne vessel is the latest in a tradition of logistics support ships. Officially known as a Landing Platform Dock, HMS Albion can carry some 700 troops. Her vehicle deck has the capacity to carry up to six tanks or around 30 armoured all-terrain tracked carriers.

The floodable stern well dock can hold either four utility landing craft, each capable of carrying a Challenger 2 tank, or a hovercraft landing craft. Her four smaller landing craft carried on davits are each capable of carrying 35 troops.

The 64-metre flight deck is long enough to handle a Chinook and support helicopter transport operations.

Marking the Titanic era, the SS Nomadic, will also be open to the public over the weekend.

As part of the build up to the visit of the Tall Ships Trans-Atlantic Challenge in 2009, seven of Europe’s most spectacular ships will be sailing into the heart of Belfast over the weekend of Saturday 30 June and Sunday 1 July.

The flagship of the mini-fleet will be the majestic ‘Grand Turk’. The ship, a full-size replica of HMS Blandford, an 18th Century Royal Navy frigate, will be familiar to many television viewers as she appeared in ‘Hornblower’, ‘Longitude’ and ‘Coast’.

The Tall Ships will be berthed on both sides of the River Lagan, at the Clarendon Dock and Queen’s Quay (beside the Odyssey Pavilion) and at Donegall Quay, with the HMS Albion and SS Nomadic berthed at nearby Pollock Dock. A free shuttle bus service will operate between the two sides of the river.

All the ships will be open to the public between 11am and 5pm each day. However, for operational reasons, access to all of the ships will be subject to certain restrictions.

The weekend will include a Continental Market at Clarendon Dock, open from 10am to 9pm on Saturday and 10am to 6pm on Sunday.

An RNLI Roadshow, including a simulated rescue by the Donaghadee lifeboat on Sunday afternoon, and various demonstrations will include a simulated traffic accident by the NI Fire and Rescue Service.

The Northern Ireland Seafood Festival, on the lawn outside the Odyssey Pavilion will include a cookery masterclass by Jenny Bristow and a demonstration of traditional breadmaking; ‘Pirates of the River Lagan’ for junior Jack Sparrows, in W5, and ‘The Railings’ art exhibition in the Odyssey Pavilion.

Lagan Boat Tours from Donegall Quay, offers tours of the magnificent Harbour Office in Corporation Square, and another chance to visit the maritime exhibitions on board the MV Confiance at Lanyon Quay; lots of children’s activities, including the Exploris ‘touch tank’, a climbing wall, a ‘try a dive’ tank and plenty of interactive games and fairground stalls.

There will be no parking facilities in and around Clarendon Dock. The main car park for the event will be at the Odyssey, from where Belfast City Council, in association with Translink, will be operating a Park'n'Ride shuttle service, leaving approximately every 10 minutes between 10am and 6pm and serving Donegall Quay, Clarendon Dock and Pollock Dock.

Access to the site also will be available on foot, via Corporation Square.

(SP/KMcA)

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