Estonian, US navies working together in coastal patrols
The Estonian Navy (Merevägi) is working together with the US Navy to boost maritime surveillance and awareness of Estonia's coast, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Friday. The work includes ensuring the security of pipelines and cables running under the Gulf of Finland.
The work is vital due to the Russian Navy's interest in the seabed infrastructure in the Baltic Sea, as highlighted by last year's Nord Stream pipeline explosions, with minds also concentrated from reports by the public broadcasters of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, that Russia has a program in place to sabotage energy infrastructure including undersea cables and wind farm superstructures.
Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur (Reform) told AK that: "Following the Nord Stream incident, I tasked our navy with checking our connections with Finland - both the Balticconnector and Estlink cables."
Batliconnector is a natural gas pipeline opened in 2019, while Estlink consists of electricity cables, also linking Estonia and Finland.
"We have carried this out and we didn't find anything untoward - some old sea mines a little further from the connections, but nothing more," Pevkur went on.
The minister said that permanent supervision of the infrastructure is the responsibility of the owner of the connections, in other words state transmissions systems operator Elering.
However, if the need arises to respond to a threat, the navy will do so, Pevkur added.
Not only the Estonian Navy (Merevägi) but also navies of allied nations are involved.
The U.S. Navy contingent is under the command of the U.S. Task Force 61, which falls under the U.S. Sixth Fleet's organization and includes U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) personnel and their amphibious assault vessels.
Maj. Robert Mortenson of the USMC told AK that: "Understanding what's happening in the maritime domain, out in the Gulf of Finland, the northern Baltic Sea, around the Estonian coastline; so that in the event of a conflict against an adversary, that both us, the U.S. Forces, NAVEUR forces, the Sixth Fleet and the Estonian Defense Forces are able to respond."
NAVEUR refers to United States Naval Forces Europe and Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF).
This the second time the USMC unit has been aiding Estonia in its maritime awareness work.
The Americans make use of mobile radar, telescopes, drones and other tech to identify sites of interest along Estonia's lengthy coastline, including its islands.
Their maritime ops center is located right next to that of the Estonian Navy.
The work has also pressed into service conscripts, following Norway's model, AK reported. At present, four such personnel are involved.
Estonian Navy Lt Cdr Ardo Riibon, commander of the Estonian naval ops center, said: "In the summer of 2022, we had half of the 20 needed and so had to recruit a dozen. The present day situation is that, together with the conscripts and people we have recruited, this number is 20."
Maritime border surveillance work was transferred to the navy from the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) at the start of this year following a reorganization, with preparation work starting the preceding summer as noted.
The PPA personnel previously tasked with the maritime surveillance tasks had been transferred to other roles in any case, Riibon added.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael
Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera'