Eleven Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) clearance divers are currently in Lithuania to participate in this year’s Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2016. This annual mission aims to reduce explosive remnants of the First and Second World Wars in the Baltic Sea.
“The Canadian Armed Forces’ participation in Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2016 reinforces Canada’s role in NATO and maintains our engagement with Allies and defence and security partners in the region. This operation enables Canada to expand our strong and solid co-operation with our European partners and our ability to contribute to maritime safety,” said Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence.
The clearance divers are part of the Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic) from Halifax, Nova Scotia. They will be working with the Lithuanian Naval Flotilla and 12 other partner nations including Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States.
The eleven clearance divers will remain in Lithuania until May 27.
The naval mine clearance and ordnance disposal operation has been conducted on an annual basis since 1997 and is hosted on a rotational basis by Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Conducted under the spirit of Partnership for Peace (PfP), a program fostering a relationship between individual Euro-Atlantic partner countries and NATO, the operation aims to reduce the threat of unexploded ordnance in regions of the Baltic Sea that consist of seabed communications lines, international shipping routes, and fishing areas.
“The Canadian Armed Forces are proud to deploy members of its highly-trained and experienced Explosive Ordnance Disposal team. Participation in OPEN SPIRIT 2016 demonstrates our expertise in sub-surface munitions disposal and our ability to work in difficult environmental conditions with multi-national partners,” said LGen. Stephen Bowes, Commander Canadian Joint Operations Command.
Last year’s Operation OPEN SPIRIT took place in Estonia and CAF personnel worked alongside the Estonian Naval Flotilla. CAF clearance divers identified 15 mines and 58 mine anchors. They were able to dispose of 11 mines during the 28 dives conducted between May 15 and 28, 2015.
Featured image: Estonia. 19 May 2015 – 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)