RCN ships visit Togo

HMCS Kingston Navigating Officer Lt(N) Graham Austin discusses search-and-rescue strategies with Togolese military and government personnel on March 7, 2019.

Royal Canadian Navy ships conduct first ever visit to Togo

By Lt (N) Jeff Lura,
Public Affairs Officer, Operation PROJECTION West Africa

The Commanding Officers of HMCS Shawinigan and Kingston present donated school supplies to the director of L’Espace de Fraternité in Lomé, Togo on March 6, 2019.

On a beautiful Tuesday morning, HMC ships Kingston et Shawinigan came alongside in Lomé, the capital city of Togo. Deployed on Operation PROJECTION West Africa, the ships had already visited a number of other African countries, but the reception this time was different. Uniformed Togolese military personnel – including the commander of Togo’s largest naval base – lined the jetty. A camera crew filmed the ships as they arrived, preserving the event for posterity.

The reason? No RCN ship had ever before visited the country.

“We’re honoured to be the first Canadian warships to visit your country,” LCdr Jeremy Samson, Kingston’s Commanding Officer, told journalists shortly after arriving.

“Building and reinforcing relationships is a large part of our mission here in Africa, and we look very much forward to spending time with you.”

The visit was a busy one for the ships’ crews. Hours after entering the harbour, sailors exchanged their working uniforms for gleaming whites, and welcomed members of Togo’s military, government, and community organizations onboard. Representing Canada, Ambassador Heather Cameron spoke to guests of the importance of cooperation between Canada and African partners, and the strength of the Canada-Togo relationship in particular.

“Relations between Canada and Togo are founded on almost 60 years of history,” she told attendees.

“Cooperation is essential in order to ensure regional maritime security, maintain international trade, and develop coastal communities.”

Following the official presentations, military personnel from both nations made fast friends, posing for photos and discussing the many similarities between the RCN and the Marine Nationale de Togo.

The next day, sailors visited L’Espace de Fraternité, a centre that welcomes mistreated youth in search of a better life from all over the region. There, sailors provided a fresh coat of paint to the facility’s 40-bed dormitory, and played a game of soccer with newly-donated soccer balls and nets from Canada.

“You cannot imagine how much these past few hours have restored hope and a taste for life to our children, and given needed encouragement to we who guide them,” the centre’s Director Mack Adodo gratefully explained after the visit.

In the final hours of the visit, Kingston crewmembers were joined by Togolese Search and Rescue professionals, discussing the respective nations’ procedures and strategies for responding to vessels or people in distress.

“My favourite part of international deployments is meeting new people,” said Lt(N) Steve Bartholomew, who organized the visit on behalf of the ship.

“Today, we had a great opportunity to share some of our practices with the Togolese SAR community, and to learn how they do things in return. Overall, it was a great event.”

Spirits were high as the crews prepared to leave after a hectic and rewarding few days in Lomé. Their collective focus already shifting to their next set of regional engagements, each sailor was now part of the history of Canada’s warm and ever-strengthening relationship with Togo.