On Wednesday, 28 August 2013, the historical ordnance disposal operation Open Spirit 2013 ended in the east Baltic. During the ten-day operation twelve ships and four EOD teams from eight nations searched the sea bed for underwater explosives. During this time SNMCMG1 covered the area of 24 square nautical miles, finding and identifying 134 contacts and pronouncing the area safe for navigation.
The operation started on Monday, 19 August 2013, north-east of Klaipeda (Lithuania). The ships were designated to separate boxes (1 square nautical miles) and tasked to search for any underwater objects that may pose a threat to safety of navigation. After 362 hours of minehunting operation three SNMCMG1 units: BNS ‘Narcis’, ENS ‘Admiral Cowan’ and HNLMS ‘Makkum’ travelled within the boxes the distance of 555 nautical miles and identified 134 objects. None of them turned out to be dangerous for seafarers.
On the last day of operation there was a mine demolition demonstration to show how powerful and dangerous the underwater explosion may be. The controlled detonation was prepared and conducted by the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) team and followed by the parade of all the ships that took part in the Open Spirit operation this year.
The idea behind the operation organised annually from 1997 is to secure the sea lines of communication and approaches to ports in the Baltic because this is the way the goods from Asia are shipped to northern and eastern Europe. The ships of SNMCMG1 and other mine-hunting capable ships are now hunting for dormant mines, torpedoes and bombs laid in the Baltic during the first and the second world war to ensure the safety of the seafarers. SNMCMG1’s mission is to provide continuous and far-reaching maritime mine countermeasures capability for operations in peacetime and periods of conflict. The group is therefore engaged in search and disposal operations within NATO but also with NATO partners. Curently the SNMCMG1 consists of the Flagship ORP ‘Czernicki” (Poland) and three minehunters: BNS ‘Narcis’ (Belgium), ENS ‘Admiral Cowan’ (Estonia) and HNLMS ‘Makkum’ (The Netherlands).
Open Spirit is an annual multinational naval mine clearance and ordnance disposal operation in the spirit of Partnership for Peace. It is part of the common effort among the countries bordering the Baltic Sea. These nations have an interest in conducting and continuation of Open Spirit in order to reduce risk for navigation, fishing and the ecological environment in the Eastern Baltic. Conducting such a multinational operation also contributes to the enhancement of mutual understanding, cooperation and interoperability in mine countermeasure and EOD techniques, tactics and procedures.
Press Release, September 3, 2013; Image: SNMCMG1