French frigate Floreal damaged by Durban storm


The French Navy’s surveillance frigate FS Floreal, docked in the port of Durban, was damaged by the recent storm in KwaZulu-Natal, which resulted in a cargo ship colliding with the vessel.

The frigate was damaged on 10 October when Durban was hit by a massive storm, with winds of more than 160 km/h and rain of 10-20 cm in two hours. These high winds caused a 330 metre long, 100 000 ton container ship to be set adrift and crash into the Floreal, reports Mer et Marine. The Floreal was crushed between the container ship and the wharf, causing damage to the rear third of the starboard hull and superstructure, but above the waterline.

Other vessels were also damaged in the storm, including the Maersk Vallvik and MSC Suzanna, while the MSC Ines temporarily ran aground at the entrance to the port and had to be manoeuvred out with the assistance of five tugs. Cargo handling equipment and buildings were also damaged and containers washed away.

Floreal was scheduled to be in Durban between 7 and 12 October to stock up on supplies ahead of a month-long patrol in the Southern Ocean, but has now had to delay her departure while the damage is assessed.

The surveillance frigate was due to meet up again with the South African Navy in La Reunion between 11 and 15 December when the bilateral Exercise Oxide takes place. The exercise involves the joint forces of both countries every two years. The last one was held in Richards Bay in 2015.

The damage to Floreal comes several years after her sister ship, Nivose, was badly damaged in September 2014 by a fire, which put her out of action for more than 13 months. However, the French Navy’s B2M (multi-mission vessel) Champlain arrived in Reunion earlier this year, reinforcing France’s naval strength in the region.

The Batiment Multi-mission (B2M) class has a top speed of around 15 knots and endurance of 30 days. Several small boats can be carried on board, including an 8 metre workboat, as well as two vehicles. The 2 300 tonne vessels have a crew of 20 and can be armed with two 12.7 mm machineguns. They are designed to be able to conduct maritime surveillance, force projection, logistics, counter-trafficking and humanitarian assistance missions.

Built by the Saint-Nazaire shipyards and armed in Lorient by DCNS, the Floreal and Nivose frigates entered service in 1992. These vessels are 93.5 meters long and have a beam of 14 meters, with a displacement of 2,950 tons. Armament includes a 100 mm CADAM gun and two F2 20mm guns. A Panther anti-submarine helicopter is aboard Floreal for her current patrol.