NATO mine clear-up operation Open Spirit 2021 kicks off

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NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One arriving in Tallinn Friday Source: Jarkko Martin Pukki/Kaitsevägi

11 states and 21 vessels with diving squads are participating in the Open Spirit 2021 NATO mine countermeasures (MCM) operation launched in Estonian waters on Monday.

The main area of operation in this year's MCM mission is the Gulf of Finland and its southeastern part Narva Bay, military spokespeople said. Groups of mine clearance vessels are to find, map out and, if possible, disarm any ordnance found in the area.

Altogether 11 states, including the U.S., Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Sweden, Germany and Romania, are participating in the mine clearance operation to be held from April 19-29 with 21 diving teams and altogether almost 800 naval personnel. Alto taking part in the operation are the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (​SNMCMG1) and the Baltic Naval Squadron.

The Estonian Navy is participating in the operation with the minehunter Sakala and diving and support vessel Wambola, a diving squad and operational staff.

"The Open Spirit mine clearance operation, aimed at eliminating threats on the seafloor, is being held for the 26th time this year. It is significant that even at such complicated times, units from different states nonetheless come together to develop cooperation and jointly contribute to ensuring safe seafaring," commander of the Estonian Navy Jüri Saska, said.

Altogether over 400 explosives have been found and identified in the course of the Open Spirit operations. Pieces of underwater ordnance found in Estonian waters number over 1,500 in total.

The multinational naval mine clearance and ordnance disposal mission is hosted on a yearly rotational basis by one of three Baltic nations – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The operation was held in Estonia for the first time in 1998 and most recently in 2018.

Last week, several vessels arrived at Tallinn harbor ahead of the mine clearing operation.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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