After more than 20 years, the former Soviet submarine B-143 Foxtrot has left its berth in the port of Zeebrugge, heading for the breaker’s yard in Ghent.
Foxtrot was constructed in 1967, during the presidency of Leonid Brezhnev, and spent its active career carrying out surveillance on Nato naval exercises for the Soviet navy. After the break-up of the Soviet Union, the sub travelled from St, Petersburg to Zeebrugge, where it has been moored at the Prince Albert dock ever since.
The submarine has been a major attraction at the Seafront maritime museum and theme park. At one point the museum wanted to build a dry dock for Foxtrot, to allow essential maintenance to be carried out which is otherwise impossible while the ship is in the water.
But the city of Bruges found the construction of a dry dock – as well as the alternative solution of lifting the ship out of the water onto the dock – to be too expensive, and from then Foxtrot’s days were numbered.
In the year since then, Seafront has undergone a thorough makeover, with the loss of Foxtrot in view. This week the sub was towed out of Zeebrugge on its way to the yard of Galloo, a company the recycles material including metals, in the port of Ghent. Foxtrot will first have to navigate the open sea to Vlissingen, then take the Scheldt to the Terneuzen-Ghent canal before turning towards Ghent.
“It was a major operation,” explained Sofie Pieters of Seafront to VRT News. “A lot of parties were involved. We had to wait for high water for the necessary depth we needed, but in the end it all went very smoothly.” The theme park has still to decide what new major attraction if any will take Foxtrot’s place.