It has been 22 years since France did a circumnavigation training around the world, and yesterday a vessel undertaking this exercise docked at the Suva harbour with the aim of strengthening regional partnerships and contributing to maritime safety.
Commanding officer of the Dixmude, Captain Emmanuel Mocard noted: “We were part of an exercise with the Fiji military in New Caledonia, and this exercise was a great opportunity for us to train together with the Fijian patrol boat for humanitarian assistance and disaster responses or emergency evacuation of citizens.”
The exercise involved 19 different countries and 3000 particpants, and focused on responding to environmental risk, natural disasters, and climate change impacts.
The L9015 Dixmude has a versatile operational unit and is 199 metres in length, accommodates 700 crew members and passengers, and includes state-of-the art medical facilities with 69 beds and a surgical unit.
The ship’s chief doctor, commander Sophie Vellieux, says the hospital is large enough to service a small town, and includes CT scanning facilities, a lab, dentist office, and 34. If other rooms aboard are used, 269 hospital beds in total can be accommodated.
Vellieux added that the facilities are used for amphibious operations or humanitarian assistance, “where we can use our hospital capabilities to welcome patients coming from shore and support the local health structures.”
The ship also features amphibious assault vessels and a 5200m2 flight deck.
28-year-old second lieutenant French Army pilot, Baptiste, flies a lighter helicopter called the ‘Gazelle’ from the ship. “As you can see, we have an optical and eye error camera that enables us to infiltrate at low level by day and night, and when we fight by night, usually this camera enables us to detect the enemy and destroy it with four anti-tank missiles from 3000 to 8000 metre range.
“But by working on this boat with the French Navy, our mission is to provide photographic assistance to the population after natural disasters and fight against drug trafficking,” he said.
One-fifth of the personnel aboard are women and are part of the Jeanne d’Arc 2023 Task Group.
The Dixmude, will spend 48 hours in port before departing for French Polynesia.