Captain Philippe Ebanga, Commanding officer of the French Navy's amphibious landing helicopter dock (LHD) Tonnerre — the lead ship of France's Amphibious Task Group Jeanne d' Arc — said on Friday that it was ‘great' for the midshipmen on board the Tonnerre to make a port visit here as “India counts in the Indian Ocean”.

Addressing the media aboard the Tonnerre, which was on a four-day visit, Captain Ebanga said that he felt proud to come back to the port where he began his career.

“I started my career as a midshipman when I came here aboard the helicopter carrier Jeanne d' Arc about 23 years ago. It was my first foreign port visit. The loop is closed today,” he said.

On the Tonnerre's operational deployment, he said it was primarily a training cruise, meant to give hands-on, professional, advanced training for 121 midshipmen including 88 ensigns fresh from the French Naval Academy.

On the port call at Kochi, he said, as with any foreign port call, the idea was to develop a network and build relationships with personnel of the Indian Navy.

In response to a question on the anti-piracy operation carried out by the ship in the Gulf of Aden in May, he said: “We had to dismantle a couple of pirate action groups in the Somali basin. But this is what we call common origin business for us.” To a question on the visit of the Tonnerre by a team of personnel of Pangode-based 91 independent amphibious brigade on Friday, Captain Ebanga said that the goal “is to share with our Indian counterparts the way we operate, the capabilities that we have and to further escalate and develop the way we could be interacting in this field [of amphibious operations].”

Tonnerre is a multipurpose ship with capacity to operate as a force projection and command ship, as a helicopter carrier, as an amphibious assault ship and as a hospital. Captain Ebanga said the Tonnerre specialised in helicopter and amphibious operations.

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