Chilean frigate Almirante Williams, former HMS Sheffield, currently berthed in Argentina's main naval base, Puerto Belgrano, was visited Friday morning by the Defence ministers of Chile and Argentina, Michelle Bachelet and José Pampuro.
Ms. Bachelet on an official two days "friendship and transparency" visit to Argentina on arriving at Bahía Blanca said the presence of the recently acquired former Royal Navy vessel responds to a special invitation from the Argentine Navy and is indicative of the "high level relation between our Navies" adding that a "new space for exchange and interrelation has been opened, something that was unthinkable not so many years ago".
Ms. Bachelet also recalled that both navies for several seasons now are involved in very successful joint Antarctic patrolling.
Argentina and Chile maintain a fluid defence cooperation relation that includes homologation of defence budget elaboration and regular joint meetings of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence of both countries.
"Almirante Williams" is on her maiden travel under Chilean flag after her crew spent several months in the United Kingdom preparing to take command of the former HMS Sheffield. On her way to Chile "Almirante Williams" spent a few days in Brazil participating in naval exercises and will be doing something similar in Argentina before leaving next Sunday.
After crossing Cape Horn she's expected in Puerto Montt January 25 when "Almirante Williams" will be officially incorporated to the Chilean Navy.
Acquired last September HMS Sheffield was built after the Falklands conflict keeping the traditional name of a similar unit sunk by a French built Exocet missile fired by an Argentine naval fighter bomber in the South Atlantic in May 1982.
Ms. Bachelet said that in spite of being fifteen years old, "Almirante Williams" is the newest and most modern vessel of the Chilean Navy that averages between 33 and 35 years.
"Our frigates and destroyers have huge operational costs, are manned by big crew numbers and we need smaller forces, highly mobile, modern and far less costly to run". "We need to renew our fleet and our capabilities", added Ms. Bachelet.
Argentine Defence minister Jose Pampuro revealed that Argentina will also be investing heavily in modernizing and renovating its navy with the construction of three vessels mainly for fisheries patrolling in the South Atlantic.
"These contracts will also help develop our naval industry and other sectors of the economy", said Mr. Pampuro.
Ms. Bachelet announced that in the coming weeks Chile will be awarding the contracts for the building of three new frigates, one overseas and two in the Chilean navy Talcahuano yard.