French monitoring frigate visits the Republic of the Congo


The French patrol frigate Germinal has arrived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a five day visit, after patrolling the waters off Benin.

The 94 metre long Floreal class vessel, classified as a light monitoring frigate in French nomenclature, arrived in Pointe-Noire, the second largest city in the Congo, on Tuesday, according to Congo Site.

The crew will carry out military and community engagement exercises in the city. One of their tasks will be to assist with the rehabilitation of the Higher Institute of Technology in Central Africa.

In addition, the sailors will train with elements of the Congolese navy, which is based at Pointe-Noire. According to the 2011 IISS The Military Balance, the Congolese navy has around 800 personnel and several patrol and coastal combat boats. Training will focus on maritime security, diving, weapons and target detection activities.

The Germinal (F735) of the French Marine Nationale is the sixth and last ship of her class, and the first French vessel named after Germinal, the 7th month of the Republican Calendar. With a complement of 99, she has a draft of 4.4 metres and a displacement of 2 600 tonnes.

At a speed of 15 knots (28 km/h), the vessel has a range of 19 000 km, but this increases to 24 000 km at 12 knots (22 km/h). Armament comprises of two Excocet missiles, one 100 mm and two 20 mm guns. The vessel carries a single helicopter.

The Germinal was commissioned on May 17, 1994. Over the last few years she has been involved in anti-piracy operations and in August patrolled the Beninese coast, according to the French Embassy in Benin’s capital Cotonou.

Over the last few months piracy has soared off Benin and in the Gulf of Guinea, with 15 attacks occurring in the first half of this year, according to the International Maritime Bureau. In July, pirates seized an Italian tanker carrying fuel off Benin. The vessel and its 23 crew were later released.

The Royal Moroccan Navy is the only other user of the Floreal class, and operates two frigates and three Eurocopter Panther helicopters. The Moroccan vessels are armed with Oto Melara 76 mm guns rather than the French 100 mm guns.