After a couple of tries this year, I finally got to go onboard one of the Russian Navy’s ships at the Manila South Harbor, the Admiral Vinogradov (554), an Udaloy I class Destroyer. It wasn’t easy, but it was a good experience as these ships are not as common in our shores, especially before this administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
’Better Queueing Organization’
One reason I was able to get in this time was because there was a better overall organization of the queueing system for going into the ship. First was that they finally got a fairly competent guy to handle the queue who worked hard, communicated well and had a good system for queueing the people up.
Unlike before where there was basically no line, this time there was, although it looked intimidating at first since it extended from the Gate all the way to Delgado Street. The people were made to line up, and then their names were written down on a piece of paper in batches of 74, which was the total number of passengers than the bus can carry.
Each time a bus arrived, a roll call was made and the people went into the bus as their names were called. The buses that were used to bring people back and forth the main gate and the ship were large and air-conditioned, the type that are used for Provincial Trips.
So what I did was that I made sure I had a good lunch before I started lining up at around 12:30 pm. I finally got to get on the bus at 2:45 pm, and then boarded the ship at around 2:50 pm. I went around the ship and boarded back the bus by around 3:35 pm, and was out of the gate by 3:45 pm.
My waiting time from the time I started falling in line to the time I boarded the bus was was around two hours and fifteen minutes. Thankfully there was enough natural shade from the trees in the area outside the gate, and the weather was also now cooler as we are in the “ber” months already. So the waiting was not that bad, except that we had to stand practically the whole time.
There were a number of foreigners who also waited in line, some of them even bringing along their kids and families. Others who had Diplomatic credentials were able to zip thru the gate and into the ship.
The queue fared well until the focal person had to leave and eat lunch, and the guy to took over wasn’t as competent so some people started hanging around the gate entrance again. A small group of Millennials even tried the “We Were Here Earlier but Forgot to Sign Up” tactic, and apparently it worked because I saw them with my batch.
I finished touring the ship at almost four o’clock, and as I was leaving I saw that there was still a long line of people all the way to Delgado Street. I hope they all eventually got accommodated as the ship was supposed to be open up to 5:00 pm only.
As for the tour itself, only the Vinogradov was open for the tour, the Admiral Panteleyev (548), another Udaloy I class Destroyer was berthed nearby but was not allowed to be boarded.
Upon arrival near the Vinogradov, there were two Russian sailors in full uniform that you could take pictures with before you proceeded to the Gangway (or small Bridge between the Ship and Harbor) on the Port (or Left) side of the ship near the Stern (or Rear). I noticed that the welcoming sailors weren’t very tall, perhaps as a courtesy as to not dwarf us locals, LOL.
After crossing the gangway, you proceeded up via a Ladder (could also be called Stairs, but navies prefer to use the word “ladder” instead) up to the Landing Pad area where you can take pictures with the Kamov Ka-27 Helicopter. You can even climb the cockpit where some Russian personnel kept a close watch on what you touched.
Then you went down another ladder on the Starboard (or Right) side of the and proceeded towards the Bow (or Front) part of the ship, passing along the way the FTTA-53 Torpedo Launchers, AK-630 Close In Weapons System (CIWS), Rastrub-B Anti-Submarine and Anti-Ship Missile Launchers before finally seeing the AK-100 Main Guns and the Rotary Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells of the 3K95 Kinzhal Surface to Air Missiles (SAM).
To leave the ship, you proceeded towards the stern on the on port side, cross the gangway again and ride the bus back to the gate. All in all I spent around 45 minutes on the ship’s deck, but it didn’t feel like it, time passed by so fast I thought I was only there for around fifteen minutes.
One of the first things I noticed about the Vinogradov was how the Ladders were steep and thin, they were not easy to climb up and down on, and in fact some less agile people had trouble navigating them.
Another was the lack of Anti-Slip Matting or Coating on the Deck as can be seen on one of the pictures I took, unlike on the other ships I have been to. I imagine it would be quite an adventure walking around that wet deck during bad weather when it’s raining and the ship is rolling around because of big waves.
The ship had a somewhat dated, Cold War or USSR/Soviet Union kind of feel to it, and rightfully so since it was commissioned in the late 1980s. Up close the outer shell of the AK-100 cannon was rough as can be seen on a video I took, it seems they skipped finishing it to save time and money.
The biggest surprise for me were the 3K95 SAMs, based on the size of the cells it looks like they were no more than a foot and a half in diameter. I expected them to be bigger, or at least twice as wide.
If I remember it correctly, only one Russian ship visited Manila during the last Administration under PNoy from 2010 to 2016. But we did get a lot of visits from American naval ships.
But now under this new administration and its “Pivot to Russia“, it is the exact opposite, in 2017 alone there has been three separate visits to Manila by four Russian ships, but no American ship visits to Manila so far.
In the past couple of years I have been photographing and videoing naval ships in Manila, I don’t remember any of the American or its allied ships ever opening their ships to the public. On the other hand, in all three visits by the Russians ships this year, they have always opened the ship to the public each and every time.
Opening the ships to the public definitely gave great publicity for Russia, just think of all the Social Media engagement each visitor generated when they posted their pictures and videos online. The media coverage and President Duterte’s visits to the ships also definitely added even more publicity for the Russians.
It was a great experience for me, visiting a ship I only got to read about during the Cold War. Hopefully I can get to visit some more, and that Russia will bring their smaller but more modern ships next time like their Admiral Grigorovich and Gepard class Frigates, and/or their Steregushchiy class Corvettes.
Below are the links on Flickr of all the pictures and videos I took during my visit to the Vinogradov:
- Admiral Vinogradov (554) Destroyer by TrDP,
Ka-27 Helicopter Aboard the Admiral Vinogradov,
Admiral Panteleyev (548) Destroyer by TrDP,