After spending 8 months at sea, four of which with the present crew, HNLMS Haarlem sailed into the port of Den Helder for the last time on Friday 7 October.
The minehunter will be taken out of service. The 42-strong crew, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Paul Bijleveld, was met by a crowd of about 150 family members and friends.
The crew was mainly enthusiastic about the mission. Last May, they sailed to the Mediterranean on board HNLMS Middelburg, expecting to be home again in 8 weeks. “Our original task was to map out the illegal immigration occurring between Africa and Southern Europe, but half way on our journey we were informed that we would change ships and participate in the minehunting mission in the waters off Libya aboard HNLMS Haarlem.”
Since the crew members had had several years of training in minehunting, they were very enthusiastic about the ‘swap’. “Minehunting off the coast of a country where there is a war going on is something quite different from border control,” said one of the crew members. “Sometimes we were so close to the shore that we saw the bombs as they struck home. That was quite intense.” Lieutenant Commander Bijleveld commented: “It is easier to deal with this when you know that the bombs are not being aimed at you. Besides, we were well prepared, for immediately after changing ships we started with an extra training.”The Commander of the Royal Netherlands Navy, Vice Admiral Matthieu Borsboom, expressed his admiration for the flexibility of the crew members. “There is a great deal involved when the objective of a mission changes so drastically, but you have performed your duties splendidly.”In late September, HNLMS Haarlem handed over its tasks off the Libyan coast to HNLMS Vlaardingen.
Source: defensie, October 12, 2011