Peruvian Navy’s BAP Unión Training Ship Sets Sail on its First Instructional Cruise

Peruvian Navy’s BAP Unión Training Ship Sets Sail on its First Instructional Cruise

By Geraldine Cook/Diálogo
October 26, 2016

Navigating on the Peruvian Navy's training ship BAP Unión is an exceptional experience. On board the ship, the crew experiences the art of navigation and the secrets of the sea.

"It is a unique experience; there is an incredible adrenaline rush," said Cadet Jair Moisés Chávez Pretell, who has been enrolled at the Peruvian Naval School for the past three years. Twenty-year-old Chávez dreamed of being a Peruvian Navy officer ever since he was a child. His childhood wish will become a reality a year from now when he graduates as a Frigate Ensign. "Being a sailor is something that is hard to express. It is something you feel inside. You feel proud to serve your homeland and safeguard the nation's sovereignty."

Cadet Juan Diego Villalta shares his navigation companion's patriotic sentiment. "Being part of the Peruvian Navy is my life," he said. For Cadet Villalta, a 20-year-old third-year student, being part of the Navy gives him the chance to "protect Peru and defend its maritime territory."

Cadets Chávez and Villalta are taking part in the first instructional cruise of the Naval School's training ship BAP Unión. Their first sea crossing will allow them to take classes in an academic program designed to complete the training of future Navy officers. They study subjects ranging from astronavigation, meteorology, oceanography, and sailing maneuvers. The ship also serves as a sailing ambassador for Peru in ports around the world.

On its maiden voyage, the ship visited the city of Miami from September 18th - 22nd. It was the fifth port visited since departing from the Naval Base in Callao, Peru, on July 27th. Before docking in Miami, the ship visited the ports of Guayaquil, Ecuador; Cartagena, Colombia; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Havana, Cuba. From Miami it departed for Veracruz, Mexico, and passed through Balboa, Panama. It will return to Callao on November 2nd.

Roving ambassador

The BAP Unión is the largest sailing ship of its kind in Latin America and the second largest in the world. There are 243 troops on board, including 24 officers and 89 cadets.

"Peru’s image is disseminated from this roving ambassador," said Ensign Delia Echegaray, press officer for the BAP Unión. "This is a dream brought about by Peruvian handiwork, it is 100 percent Peruvian. All the first crewmembers are proud to be here bringing this little piece of Peru to all the world's ports."

She spoke about the sailing ship's educational and diplomatic mission. "It is designed to instruct the cadets and share its mission with people and the media." Ensign Echegaray is one of 31 women on board. "This ship encourages women to join the Navy. It is a source of pride for a woman to be on board a ship, with every one of them fulfilling a specialized function," she added.

Specifications of the training ship

Launched in December 2014, the ship is a four-mast, steel-hulled, full-rigged barque. It has 34 extended sails and can reach speeds of up to 10 knots. It is 115 meters long (including bowsprit), 13.5 meters wide, and 53.5 meters tall. The BAP Unión also has a displacement of 3,200 metric tons.

It has been a "historical desire for over a century," said Captain Gianfranco Polar Figari, during an on-board press conference in Miami. The training ship was named in honor of the corvette Unión, that participated in the first stage of the 1879-1883 War of the Pacific under the command of Peruvian Navy Admiral Miguel Grau Seminario, a national hero, said Capt. Polar.

Speaking about the vessel's specifications, Capt. Polar said that the vessel uses its sails as its main means of propulsion. Maneuvering with sails encourages teamwork and teaches the cadets to resolve issues, he said. "Peru has never had a sailing ship for training. The way in which cadets are trained on this type of ship is different; it is traditional."

Meanwhile, Cadets Chávez and Villalta welcomed visitors to the training ship and explained its features to them. Cadet Villalta said that being a student on the Unión and bringing Peruvian culture to other countries "is a unique experience."