Traditionally Bound

The Navy as they say is a world of its own. And this doesn’t just refer to a ship at sea which is virtually a floating city; everything that one does or utters, though second nature to a man in whites, is a source of great perplexity and amazement for others. Every questioning glance is parried by the stock reply ‘Tradition’, wherein lies the key to unraveling the great mysteries of the sea. Despite what Hartley said about the past being another country, the Navy forms a bridge where the past and the present intermingle seamlessly and everything done in the idiosyncratic present reflects the glory of a bygone era.

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Naval Anecdotes from Another Era

While under basic training at the Pakistan Naval Academy, our class of cadets was taken to a coastal battery for a week-long attachment. The powerful 6 inch guns of that time used silken bags as cartridges and needed a large number of personnel for tracking, loading and firing. All positions in the bridge, Transmitting Station and turret were manned by the cadets for training purposes. The first thing the communication numbers at the three positions were supposed to do on closing up was to carry out a communication check, commencing with the ubiquitous query, “How do you hear me?”  The knee-jerk response to that used to be”Loud and Clear”, regardless of how the voice quality was. One innovative response,however, became the cause of great merriment: “Shrill and Sweet”.
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Indigenous Destroyer Construction – A Giant Technological Leap

PNS ASLAT, a F22P class destroyer, is expected to be commissioned this month (April 2013).  What makes this event significant is that it would be the first destroyer to have been constructed in Pakistani yards, no mean achievement in itself. The first three vessels of the same class, namely  PNS ZULFIQUAR, SHAMSHEER and SAIF, had been constructed in China by the Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard.
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Dominant Naval Presence in the Indian Ocean

Introduction

The Indian Ocean region had been renowned since antiquity for its free trade and fair practices.  This is where all the great civilizations of India, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Persia, Melaka, Bengal and China met, as partners rather than as adversaries.  Contrary to the general belief, the history of the Indian Ocean region certainly did not begin in 1498 when the Portuguese adventurer Vasco de Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope and made his way towards Calicut.  All this did was bring about a dehumanizing influence in a region remembered for its warmth and openness.
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Terrorism and other Maritime Threats in the Indian Ocean Region

Introduction.

Terrorism poses the gravest of threats to the global community, let alone the Indian Ocean region.  Its poster child for a long time in the nineteen sixties and seventies was the Palestine Liberation Organization, which had been forced to resort to such measures to highlight a cause that the world was turning its back on.  The first well-publicized case of maritime terrorism was possibly that of the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean, in which an infirm passenger was also shot dead.  This incident led to the development of a maritime criminal law treaty to enable the signatories to prosecute vessel hijackings of this nature in the absence of adequate criminal laws in the statutes of most states.  The legal situation hadn’t changed much when rampant incidents of piracy off Somalia forced the United Nations to take notice.  A UNSC resolution of Dec 2008 went so far as to suggest that states should consider applying this 1988 Convention on the ‘Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation’ to plug the legal loopholes that they were confronted with.
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Seafearing Vibes 6

My stay on board PNS TIPPU SULTAN as it’s Executive Officer was a fairly tumultuous one, due, in no small part, to the fact that the ship was serving at the time as the flagship of the Commander 25th Destroyer Squadron (COMDESRON-25).  Anyway, COMDESRON-25, who was also the Commanding Officer at the time, once decided to invite all the specialists at PNS SHIFA to lunch on board to familiarise them with a warship’s environment.  My wife, though serving at PNS SHIFA, was not a specialist at the time, but was invited all the same by virtue of being a unit officer’s wife I suppose.
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Seafearing Vibes 5 (Mean Times In Greenwich)

A military staff course is quite an experience in itself.  Undergoing it at the Royal Naval Staff College at Greenwich is transcendental: the place is steeped in history.  The world remembers Greenwich for its mean time, it’s prime meridian and it’s royal observatory.  It’s maritime credentials are bolstered by the presence of the Cutty Sark (and now the Gypsy Moth IV also) next to the river front and the nearby National Maritime Museum (arguably the largest such museum in the world), housed in the former buildings of the Royal Hospital School since 1934.
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Seafearing Vibes 4

While borne on board PNS DACCA as a watch-keeper, I couldn’t help but notice that the Commanding Officer in particular took great pride in the bakery items, cakes, biscuits et al, churned out by the ship’s galley.  On one occasion during Exercise Midlink ’75, while the ship was engaged in replenishment-at-sea, a box of cookies was received from the ship at the other end, which happened to be a US Navy Warship.  The CO immediately directed that the gesture be reciprocated, with one of the ship’s own oven-fresh cakes being sent across.  Soon after the parcel was received at the other end, pat came the instant ego-deflating signalled response: “Thank you for the sweet bread”.
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Seafearing Vibes 3

As far as anecdotes go, the valiant ship TIPPU SULTAN the First, she of the Battle of River Plate fame, really stood out.  Another claim to fame could possibly be the recovery of four to five sonobuoys dropped by a US Maritime Patrol Aircraft during the Midlink Exercise of 1974, before they could sink as they were programmed to.  This was arguably the first close encounter of the third kind the Pakistan Navy had with modern day technology.
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Seafearing Vibes 2

Midshipmen of our day, and for quite some time thereafter, used to spend two terms, about a year in all, on board the training ship PNS BABUR, on conclusion of which they were subjected to the gruelling Midshipmen Fleetboard exams.  With BABUR scheduled to go into long refit, our midshipman class got dispersed, some getting transferred to destroyers and some to smaller vessels like minesweepers and Fast Patrol Boats.  Two of us found themselves on board US-origin minesweepers.  My colleague, being borne on a non-operational vessel, accompanied us on a couple of trips to sea, and was accorded the privilege of being fondly referred to by the CO as the ‘guest midshipman’.
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