Baltic Sea mine warfare drill Open Spirit draws to a close


The Estonian-hosted mine warfare drill Open Spirit concluded in the Baltic Sea on May 25.

Estonian Navy minehunter ENS Wambola detonates a historical mine during Open Spirit. Photo: NATO MARCOM.

The two-week multinational naval mine clearance and ordnance disposal operation took place in two main areas – around Tallin, and around the islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumma.

In addition to ships from Baltic states’ navies, the exercise was joined by ships from Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1).

The aim of the operation is to clear the sea lanes, international shipping routes and fishing areas from the threat posed by the explosives laid and lost in the Baltic during the First and the Second World Wars. In addition, it offers allies and partners an opportunity to train alongside each other.

A total of 800 personnel, 20 different mine countermeasure ships, from 15 different countries participated in the exercise. Over the course of the exercise, a total of 39 objects were found, with 25 historic explosives being countermined.

Open Spirit is organized by the navies of the Baltic States and takes place once a year on a rotational basis in Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania. Last year’s Open Spirit was hosted by Latvia.

SNMCMG1 currently consists of the flagship HNLMS Mercuur (Netherlands), FGS Bad Bevensen (Germany), HNoMS Otra (Norway), BNS Narcis (Belgium), HNLMS Urk (Netherlands), HMS Ramsey (United Kingdom), MCM Denmark and Portugese Navy divers.

“In 2018 we have conducted search operations in Norway, off the the French coast in Normandy, and now in the Gulf of Finland off Talinn” said Commander of SNMCMG1, Commander Peter Ramboor. “We will now stay in the area as a NATO Group, because we want to show we are ready to defend and ensure the security and stability of this important region.”

After concluding MCM operations off Estonia, SNMCMG1 ships headed for Latvia and a routine visit to Ventspils.