Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) clearance divers and support personnel are disposing sea mines and other First and Second World War munitions in Estonia.
“Canadian Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams are widely regarded as some of the most capable, highly trained and experienced in the world. We look forward to working alongside our NATO allies and security partners to facilitate safe navigation in Baltic waters. This operation will also help our clearance divers to validate munitions disposal capabilities under real world conditions that cannot be easily replicated in Canada,” Lieutenant-General Jonathan Vance, commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command.
The Baltic Sea region saw heavy fighting during the First and Second World Wars, which included air bombardment, naval gunfire support, mine-laying, and submarine warfare. As a result, unexploded ordnance (UXO) remains in some areas of the Baltic Sea.
UXO are munitions that have been fired but have failed to explode, presenting a potential safety hazard to maritime shipping and fisheries in the area.
The aims of Operation OPEN SPIRIT are to reduce the threat of UXO throughout the Baltic Sea region, foster goodwill, and to support an important relationship with our security and defence partners.
Canadian military divers will work alongside personnel from the Estonian Naval Flotilla (ENF) and 12 other partner nations throughout Operation OPEN SPIRIT.
The CAF contingent consists of 14 clearance divers and support personnel based out of Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic) from Canadian Forces Base Halifax in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Operation OPEN SPIRIT is an annual, combined and joint Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) clearance operation conducted in the spirit of Partnership for Peace and hosted on a rotational basis by one of three Baltic State NATO members, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The countries participating in Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2015 include Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and the United States.
“The Canadian Armed Forces participation in Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2015 demonstrates Canada’s support of Partnership for Peace initiatives as well as our commitment to render assistance to our NATO allies and security partners. These kinds of operations also present valuable opportunities to enhance military and diplomatic relationships with fellow NATO allies and security partners in the region,” Jason Kenney National Defence Minister.
The operation is led by the ENF and takes place in the territorial waters and exclusive economic zone of Estonia. This year’s operation will be based out of Simisti Harbour on the Estonian Island of Muhu from May 15 to 28.
Royal Canadian Navy Clearance Divers assist a diver as they prepare to get out of the water during Operation OPEN SPIRIT on May 19, 2015. The operation is a multi-national underwater mine clearing exercise to rid the waters near Estonia of mines laid during World War I and World War II.
Photo by: Cpl Chris Ringius, Formation Imaging Services Halifax
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