Colombia Welcomes Chilean Training Ship Esmeralda

After docking at eight ports, the T.S. Esmeralda arrived in Colombia to strengthen the bonds of friendship between the two countries' navies.
Marian Romero/Diálogo | 12 October 2017

Capacity Building

T.S. Esmeralda's visit became a tourist attraction. It opened its doors to the public while it was in Colombia August 25th-28th. (Photo: Colombian Navy)

The Chilean Navy’s Training Ship Esmeralda was in Cartagena, Colombia August 25th-28th for its 62nd instructional voyage. While on port, Chilean military members received navy-officer training, which included practical classes on navigation of sailing ships, seamanship, celestial navigation, leadership, ethics and principles, engineering, and management of malfunctions, among others.

“Since the beginning of the last century, when a Chilean mission participated in the creation of a Colombian naval school, we have been connected,” said Colombian Navy Rear Admiral Gabriel Pérez Garcés, the commander of Colombia's Caribbean Naval Force. “Today we have exchange professors visiting, and we also send professors to Chile.”

The T.S. Esmeralda is commanded by Chilean Navy Captain Patricio Espinoza Sapunar. It has a crew of 291 troops, including 74 officer cadets, the first officer rank in Chile; 35 with the rank of seaman, and 12 guest officers from partner navies from around the world.

“The visit of the T.S. Esmeralda constitutes a combination of diplomatic, professional, cultural, and athletic activities,” Capt. Espinoza said. “This is a very enriching experience because they have the opportunity to interact with different cultures and exchange opinions with officers or cadets who are in a similar situation.”

The training ship was welcomed by its Colombian host, the “Almirante Padilla” Naval Cadet School. Colombian Navy officers were responsible for the in-port training of naval cadets.

“In addition to the warm reception on the part of the Colombian civilian and military authorities, there was an athletic event that brought together cadets from the two naval academies,” Capt. Espinoza said. “The excellent relationship between Chile and Colombia has allowed for permanent support and exchange of technology and personnel between the two navies.”

A thorough learning experience

The T.S. Esmeralda is one of the largest sailing vessels in the world. It is 113 meters in length with a 13-meter beam. There are certain challenges and benefits to this brigantine-schooner type vessel which are learned during the instruction voyage, which in this case, will be five months long.

The reception for the T.S. Esmeralda included local artistic and gastronomic displays from Cartagena, as well as an athletic event to encourage camaraderie between members of the Chilean and Colombian navies. (Photo: Colombian Navy)

“Teamwork, cohabitation, and raising your level of tolerance for your shipmates are crucial on this type of ship because the crew must remain in tight spaces for prolonged periods of time,” Capt. Espinoza said. “Learning to adequately guide the personnel is one of the main challenges for the cadets during this experience, which can only be obtained through onboard experience.”

The goal of training during a voyage is to offer the cadets the opportunity to see different cultures and have different experiences, like the characteristics of the societies, the architecture, and the history of each of the countries they visit. The T.S. Esmeralda provides cultural tours and social activities to complement the experience.

“Training on a sailing ship, in contrast to warships, allows for staying in contact with the elements, natural conditions that normally are not perceived on a warship,” Rear Adm. Pérez said. “On a warship, the training is more technical and doctrine-focused, while a sailing ship allows for an experience that is closer to the sea environment, which is very important for any navy officer.”

“In Colombia, we have benefited greatly from training with Chile. Because of its geographic conditions, with its enormous Pacific coast, they have developed a number of maritime resources over a long period of time that are associated with their economic development and progress,” Rear Adm. Pérez added. “Chile has a robust navy which has a lot to offer.”

The ship's voyage

The selection of the route taken yearly by the T.S. Esmeralda is the result of planning that begins one year in advance by the Chilean Navy, in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During that time, priorities for the voyage and commitments with navies of the countries to be visited are evaluated, along with the Navy's interests.

The routes of the training ship vary. It might go to Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, the Americas, etc. The choice depends on the interests of the Chilean government and Navy or a particularly important event that would involve the ship.

This year, the voyage began on May 7th. It set off from Valparaíso, Chile, and after visiting nine ports in five countries in the western hemisphere, it returned to its port of origin on October 1st.

“We learn something different at every port we visit,” Capt. Espinoza concluded. Cartagena, with its historical heritage and its massive naval presence, is one of the ports most visited by the T.S. Esmeralda, registering a total of 16 visits since 1956.”

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