Mine Hunter of Royal Netherlands Navy Clears Mine in Westerschelde Shipping Lane

Mine Hunter of Royal Netherlands Navy Clears Mine in Westerschelde Shipping Lane

A mine hunter of the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) detonated a heavy sea mine in the Wielingen channel, the very busy southern approach to the Westerschelde. The mine constituted a direct threat to shipping.

The previous night, the Navy had received a report of a fishing cutter catching a mine-like object in its nets and dropping it overboard again. The minehunter HNLMS Willemstad lost no time in getting to the location to try and find the explosive, which was located and identified this morning with the help of sonar equipment. It turned out to be a German GC influence mine, one of the most infamous of the Second World War.

“Not only was this mine equipped with acoustic and magnetic fuzes, it was also fitted with boobytraps. That makes it a direct threat to shipping in this very busy channel”, explained the captain, Lieutenant Commander Michel Woltman. Following identification, marine divers placed an explosive charge on the mine, after which it was detonated under controlled conditions. As of Monday 6 August, HNLMS Willemstad will join the NATO mine countermeasure flotilla to hunt mines in the North Sea.

Free of mines

Minehunters’ main task is to keep the open sea, coastal waters, ports and maritime approaches free of mines, both in mission areas and the North Sea. In the North Sea, fishermen happen upon mines from the Second World War almost every week. The fact that even after half a century such mines are still extremely dangerous became evident on 6 April 2005. On that day, 3 crew members of the Dutch fishing cutter OD-1 lost their lives when an aircraft bomb from the Second World War exploded on deck. After this incident, the RNLN initiated navy operation “Beneficial Cooperation”. The hunt for old explosives was intensified in collaboration with the Belgian Navy. The Dutch fishing industry also makes an active contribution by marking the explosives accidentally recovered and reporting them to the coastguard. The explosive is then rendered harmless by minehunters of the Royal Netherlands Navy.

Naval Today Staff, August 16, 2012; Image: Defensie