Muscat: Under the directives of his Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, the sailing ship Shabab Oman has sailed for her 12th and last major voyage.
The voyage began on April 9 from the Said Bin Sultan Naval Base (SBSNB) as she moved through the waters to the strains of We are Sailing played by the RNO band and was seen off by a large crowd. Sayyid Badr bin Hamad Al Busaidi, secretary general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was the guest of honour on this occasion.
The ship stopped first at Salalah and then transited the Red Sea through the Strait of Bab Al Mandeb where she experienced very strong NW winds (up to 40 kts) from the nose. The ship stopped overnight in Jeddah (after nine days of sailing in the rough sea) and then passed through the Suez Canal on April 30.
The first port of call in Europe was the beautiful town of Nafplion, Greece where the ship was once again warmly welcomed to the town that she had visited on four previous occasions.
During the visit, the ship's trainees who represent all branches of the Sultan's Armed Forces, Royal Guard, had a guided tour of Athens and Mycenae and the ship opened its vistas to visitors throughout her stay.
From Nafplion, the ship sailed through the Messina Strait enroute to the capital of Sardinia, Cagliari (Italy) for a routine visit. During the four days of stay, the ship remained open to visitors and a reception was held for Italian Navy's high ranking officers.
Continuing its journey through the Mediterranean, the ship called next at Malaga in Spain but not before experiencing gale which lasted for three days in the north of Algerian coast.
Sailing into the Atlantic and heading towards Lacoruna (North West Spain) for a routine visit and then crossing the Bay of Biscay with a high Atlantic swell for the company to arrive at the French port of Le Hvre on June 5.
The sailing festival in Rouen is hosted every five years and is a huge attraction in France. During this event, 48 major sailing vessels from 16 countries attended and all through the 10-day long visit of the vessel, the port of Rouen remained full. More than half a million people visited the port area every day to view the spectacle, with the ship receiving 51,000 visitors on board.
The ship hosted an official reception which was attended by the Omani ambassador in Paris, the president of the event, and senior officers of the French Navy. Tours were arranged for all the crews to visit Paris. The ship's visit was well covered by the local and national media. At the conclusion of the event, the president of the festival delivered the final words from the weather deck of Shabab Oman and his speech was broadcast live on the French National TV channel 3.
The ships departed in the form of a parade, sailing down the Seine to Le Havre on June 16, Bastille Day in a spectacle watched by an estimated three million people who manned every vantage point along the river bank in the glorious summer weather.
The ship then proceeded to take part in another sailing festival 'Sail Den Helder 2013'. On the day of arrival, she was welcomed by the ambassador of Oman in The Netherlands. While the event was well publicised, an unseasonably cold, wet and windy weather kept visitor numbers rather low. On the 20th, the ships were tasked to anchor outside the port and the King of Holland passed on board the clipper Stad Amsterdam to salute the ships.
From Den Helder, the ship sailed across the Elbe River and entered the largest port in Germany — the port of Hamburg. The Omani ambassador in Berlin was the first to welcome the ship and the German navy were a generous host, arranging tours to the city and to the Hamburg International Maritime Museum.
The visit lasted for two days and a guided tour to the city was arranged. Sailing Tallinn on Oman's Renaissance Day, Shabab rejoined the fleet of sailing ships in the phase called the cruise-in-company.
Shabab Oman arrived at Riga, the main port of the event on July 25. These proved to be enormously popular and were supplemented by more formal curry luncheons served on the quarterdeck. In all of the events, a crew parade took place with each ship landing a marching detail.
The ship returned home to a rapturous welcome on October 10 under the auspices of Ahmed bin Nasser Al Mehrzi, the Minister of Tourism, as the guest of honour. It has been a remarkably successful year for RNOV Shabab Oman as she participated in three major maritime events on her Europe visit, en route 19 ports in 15 countries in 27 weeks of deployment spanning 15,077 miles. The ship and her intrepid crew has again prominently hoisted the flag, proudly rekindling the ancient seafaring traditions and returned home to their well deserved rest.