The US Navy’s 7th fleet flag ship “Blue Ridge” arrived at the port of Colombo today on a goodwill visit. The flag ship was ceremonially welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy in accordance with naval traditions.
The senior officer of the ship, the Chief of Staff of the US Navy’s 7th fleet, Vice Admiral Aucoin paid a courtesy call on the Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne at the Naval Headquarters in Colombo.
They held cordial discussions on the matters of mutual interests and mementos were also exchanged to mark the occasion.
The visit builds upon last month’s Partnership Dialogue in Washington D.C., where both nations pledged to strengthen maritime security cooperation efforts in the Indian Ocean Region in order to counter piracy, provide humanitarian assistance, and ensure free and safe navigation in the region’s vital shipping lanes.
“A strong relationship between United States and Sri Lanka will help foster greater stability, security, prosperity, and a rules-based order for the Indo-Pacific region and around the world,” said US Ambassador Atul Keshap. “This US Navy ship visit demonstrates the US commitment to partners such as Sri Lanka.”
The Blue Ridge team consists of more than 900 sailors, who will interact with their Sri Lanka Navy counterparts, experience Sri Lanka’s vibrant culture, and engage with its people. The sailors will also use their shore leave to volunteer at a community center by refurbishing its walls and furniture, building playground equipment, and serving food to the needy.
Members of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet Band will arrive with the ship and stage free public performances in Colombo, including a joint performance with the Sri Lanka Navy, Army, and Air Force bands on March 26 at Viharamahadevi Amphitheatre from 6 to 8 pm. On March 27 free solo public performances are scheduled at Majestic City at 12 noon and at the Dutch Hospital complex from 6 to 7 pm. On March 29, they will also perform for students from several area schools at Ananda College.
The USS Blue Ridge has been forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan for 36 years. As the command and control flagship for the U.S. 7th Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the USS Blue Ridge is committed to strengthening and fostering relationships within the Indo-Asia Pacific region.
The last US Navy ship to visit to Sri Lanka was the USS Ford (FFG 54), which conducted a port call in Galle October 11-14, 2011. (Colombo Gazette)