Key West is a popular port for navies foreign and domestic to show off their latest sea-going wares.
In the past three years, a slew of American Navy and Coast Guard ships, as well as French and British war vessels, have visited Key West -- and that doesn't include an upcoming multinational maritime exercise in September that will draw as many as a dozen frigates, destroyers and amphibious assault ships from the U.S. Navy and other allied nations.
Not to be left out, the new Royal Netherlands Navy HNLMS Holland will be arriving Monday in the Southernmost City at the Outer Mole Pier for brief visit before venturing out to begin hot-weather sea trials.
The ship is the first of the new Holland-class Dutch warships that represent a transformation of the Royal Netherlands Navy in the post-Cold War era, said Cmdr. Jaap Hubbelmeijer.
The 355-foot, diesel-powered ship is equipped with the latest communications and sensor equipment integrated within the ship's single mast. The 52-ton mast -- called the I-Mast 400 -- houses surveillance radar, an infrared surveillance system, a friend-or-foe identification system and an integrated antenna system, according to the Royal Netherlands Navy.
It's designed to chase pirates and drug smugglers rather than taking part in sea battles, but it's a versatile ship, her commander maintains, adding that it will also be taking on humanitarian missions.
The Holland can reach more than 21 knots and features a fast-response rescue boat, special forces landing craft and a helicopter hangar.
The rescue boat represents a tactical element that also is being implemented by the U.S. Coast Guard in its new fast-response cutters, which are to begin arriving in Key West in the coming months.
"This is a new class ship for our Navy," said Cmdr. Hubbelmeijer. "It represents the road map of our navy of the future."
Hubbelmeijer said the ship will expertly respond to a "lower threat spectrum," meaning pirates, drug or human smugglers and other lightly armed opposition forces. Holland is an allied nation that works with the Joint Interagency Task Force South in Truman Annex, a multi-agency force that targets illegal smugglers.
"With a new-type class ship, we like to test her in all weather conditions," Hubbelmeijer said. "We want to test in very cold conditions and also in hot weather. Of course, Key West is known to us as a Navy town with a large base where we work closely with JIATF South."
The HNLMS Holland will be in Key West for about a week, and will be commissioned in its home country in July before officially joining the Dutch fleet.