The French survey ship FS Borda visited London back in March to attend the Oceanology International Exhibition, and Patrick Boniface went on board and spoke to her young commanding officer, Lieutenant Arnuad Sibertin-Blanc, about his ship and his career in the French Navy.

When did you join the French Navy? I joined the Navy in 2000. I studied at the French Naval Academy, and after I graduated I embarked on the Landing Platform Dock Siroco for two years as a navigation officer. After that I joined the submarine forces, again as a navigator, and was in charge of underwater warfare, weapons and sonar. I served on the attack submarines FS Emerald and FS Casablanca before transferring to the nuclear ballistic missile submarine FS Vigilant. I took over command of FS Borda in July 2011 as the first command in my career in order to become a commander of a submarine. We need to command a small surface ship before we take command of a submarine.

What is FS Borda’s current mission?This ship is conducting a mission for SHOM (Service Hydrographique et Oceanographique de la Marine), which has been an independent hydrographic department since 2007. Before that time it was a Navy department. The missions of SHOM are to improve safety and navigation, and at present we are conducting a hydrographic survey of the Dover Strait to localise sandbanks, which are moving, and we need to localise them every ten years or so.

What other tasks does she undertake?The vessel is also used to support military interests in order to collect data for deployment of our SSN and SSBN submarines and the aircraft carrier, as well as having several civilian applications. Another mission is on the French Atlantic coast, where we work in shallow waters. Every two years a hydrographic ship is deployed on a longer mission, and last year Borda went to West Africa because we have agreements with a number of countries to conduct hydrographic surveys of their coastline, as they don’t have survey ships. The other tasks for which the ship is used are to support the French government’s maritime policy, to work on wind farm developments and to collect data. We are considered experts in this aspect of government policy.


Is there an exchange of informa-tion between Britain and France?Our country has its own area of responsibility because of an agreement of the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) to provide data for the Navy and for charts. Ourcountry shares information for those charts.

This is different from commanding a submarine; which do you prefer?Very different indeed, but my preference has to be for submarines. It’sbecause of the spirit on board, whichis seen as the spirit of the hunt. We are tracking other warships because of the operation. It’s incredible. There is no comparison.