The Belgian Federal Government has made concrete plans for the purchase of up to two additional patrol vessels for the Belgian coast, Open VLD MP Jasper Pillen announced on Tuesday. The new vessels will join two existing ships, the Castor and Pollux.
The planned purchase comes against the backdrop of Russian provocations along the Belgian and Dutch coasts. 30 Russian military ships passed by the Belgian coast last year, against 76 in 2021 and 88 in 2020, according to figures cited by Minister of Defence Ludivine Dedonder. Despite this, Belgium remains vigilant to naval threats, the minister assured.
The marked increase in Russian activity off the Belgian coast in recent years, including by amphibious landing craft, “was certainly linked to preparations for Russia’s war” in Ukraine, while a drop in ship sightings in 2022 was likely linked to Russia’s ongoing invasion, Pillen believes.
Russian warships have the right to travel in international waters in the North Sea and in the English Channel, “but it is essential that we monitor and sector these movements well,” the Open VLD politician said.
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The escorting of Russian ships is typically carried out by patrol boats belonging to the marine component of the Belgian army, which comprises two patrol boats.
The small marine component comprises, in total, two Frigates ( Leopold I, Louise-Marie), five mine-sweepers, two patrol boats, and four helicopters. Compared to its neighbours, Belgian commands only a very small number of vessels.
“The missions of these multi-purpose vessels are becoming increasingly extensive, which is why I continue to advocate for an extension of this type of capability. I have heard that there are concrete plans for one or two additional patrol vessels and I will continue to plead in parliament for their quick purchase,” the MP concluded.