- POSTED: 04 Oct 2013 09:34
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Warships from 17 countries were steaming into Sydney Harbour on Friday for a nautical extravaganza to commemorate 100 years since the Royal Australian Navy's fleet first entered the city's waters.
SYDNEY: Warships from 17 countries were steaming into Sydney Harbour on Friday for a nautical extravaganza to commemorate 100 years since the Royal Australian Navy's fleet first entered the city's waters.
Ships from nations including China, Thailand, the United States, Malaysia, France, Japan and former colonial power Britain passed through the heads into the famous harbour where they joined 16 tall ships from around the world.
The armada was welcomed by a 21-gun salute from HMAS Sydney, at the head of seven Australian warships, before a ceremonial fleet review on Saturday led by Britain's Prince Harry, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Governor General Quentin Bryce, the Queen's representative.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-100-year event," fleet director Captain Nick Bramwell said, adding that about 1.4 million people were expected to watch the events.
"There'll be approximately 8,000 sailors in town for the week, open days, fireworks, the fleet review, parades, so it's a big week."
According to reports, two Russian ships pulled out at the last minute, because of tensions over Syria, while two Canadian ships also cancelled after colliding during a towing exercise
Sydney is playing host to a week of maritime celebrations, including aircraft fly-pasts, helicopter display teams, marching bands and firework displays, with many of the visiting ships open to the public.
On October 4, 1913, seven Australian warships, led by HMAS Australia, first steamed into Sydney to be met by huge crowds, heralding the country's independent sea power and emergence as a modern nation.
Until then, the Australian colony had been watched over by British vessels.
While lots of the week-long festivities are ceremonial, many of the warships have been involved in joint training exercises before arriving in Sydney, including maritime security and aviation procedures.
"Maritime security is something that we really must protect and no nation can do that alone," Commodore Peter Leavy, co-exercise director, said.
"Our ability to work with our regional neighbours and friends is so critical.
"The training we get at sea both this week and after the fleet review means that this is not just a commemorative undertaking in Sydney," he added.
"There is some really valuable training with navies that we don't get to work with all that often."