The international mine finding exercise Open Spirit, which aims to clean the Baltic Sea of old, World War II era mines, and promote interoperability between the units participating in the operation, has come to a close with a record tally of 200 naval mines and 10 other explosive devices.
The mine clearance and ordnance disposal exercise Open Spirit reconvenes in the Baltics every year, with host and command duties rotating between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It is the largest mine countermeasure operation in the area.
This year, 18 ships and 7 teams of divers from 15 countries – a total of over 800 naval personnel – met in Estonia to scan its waters for explosives. The Estonian Navy took part with minehunters Admiral Cowan and Sakala, and diving vessel Tasuja. Standing NATO Response Force Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG 1) and the Baltic Naval Squadron (BALTRON) also took part.
The two-week search yielded a total of 210 explosive devices, 64 of which have now been deactivated. Most of the ordnance was found in the area around the islands of Naissaar and Aegna. Commander of the Estonian Navy Captain Sten Sepper said the exercise also yielded detailed data of the seabed, which raises the navy's awareness level.
This year's operation marked 20 years of international cooperation in mine clearance. The first mine countermeasure operation was conducted in cooperation with Sweden in 1995. Open Spirit was held in Estonian waters for the seventh time.
After watching a World War II-era German mine with a payload of 550 kilograms being destroyed, Estonian Defense Minister Sven Mikser thanked all participants for making Estonian waters safer.
Tens of thousands of naval mines were deployed in the Baltic Sea during the two world wars.
Open Spirit 2016 will take place in Latvia.
Editor: M. Oll