A Canadian first: Navy ship stops in Togo

HMCS Kingston Navigating Officer Lt(N) Graham Austin discusses search-and-rescue strategies with Togolese military and government personnel on March 7. Photo by Cpl David Veldman

HMCS Kingston Navigating Officer Lt(N) Graham Austin discusses search-and-rescue strategies with Togolese military and government personnel on March 7. Photo by Cpl David Veldman

Lt (N) Jeff Lura, PAO Operation Projection West Africa ~

On a beautiful Tuesday morning, HMC Ships Kingston and Shawinigan came alongside in Lomé, the capital city of Togo.

Deployed on Operation Projection West Africa, the ships had already visited several other African countries, but the reception this time was different.

Uniformed Togolese military personnel – including the commander of Togo’s largest naval base – lined the jetty. A camera crew filmed the ships as they arrived, preserving the event for posterity.

The reason? No Royal Canadian Navy ship had ever visited the country.

“We’re honoured to be the first Canadian warships to visit your country,” told LCdr Jeremy Samson, Kingston’s Commanding Officer, to journalists shortly after arriving. “Building and reinforcing relationships is a large part of our mission here in Africa, and we look very much forward to spending time with you.”

The visit was a busy one for the ships’ crews. Hours after entering the harbour, sailors exchanged their working uniforms for gleaming whites, and welcomed members of Togo’s military, government, and community organizations on board. Representing Canada, Ambassador Heather Cameron spoke to guests of the importance of cooperation between Canada and African partners, and the strength of the Canada-Togo relationship.

“Relations between Canada and Togo are founded on almost 60 years of history,” she told attendees. “Cooperation is essential in order to ensure regional maritime security, maintain international trade, and develop coastal communities.”

Following the official presentations, military personnel from both nations made fast friends, posing for photos and discussing the similarities between the Canadian navy and the Marine Nationale de Togo.

The next day, sailors visited L’Espace de Fraternité, a centre that welcomes mistreated youth in search of a better life from all over the region. There, sailors provided a fresh coat of paint to the facility’s 40-bed dormitory and played a game of soccer with newly-donated soccer balls and nets from Canada.

“You cannot imagine how much these past few hours have restored hope and a taste for life to our children, and given needed encouragement to we who guide them,” the centre’s Director Mack Adodo gratefully explained after the visit.

In the final hours of the visit, Kingston crewmembers were joined by Togolese search and rescue professionals to discuss the respective nations’ procedures and strategies for responding to vessels or people in distress.

“My favourite part of international deployments is meeting new people,” said Lt(N) Steve Bartholomew, who organized the visit on behalf of the ship. “Today, we had a great opportunity to share some of our practices with the Togolese SAR [search and rescue] community, and to learn how they do things in return. Overall, it was a great event.”

Spirits were high as the crews prepared to leave after a hectic and rewarding few days in Lomé. Their collective focus already shifting to their next set of regional engagements, each sailor was now part of the history of Canada’s warm and ever-strengthening relationship with Togo.

Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author: The Lookout Newspaper can trace its history back to April 1943 when CFB Esquimalt’s first newspaper was published. Since then, Lookout has grown into the award winning source for Pacific Navy News. Leading the way towards interactive social media reach, we are a community resource newspaper growing a world wide audience.

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