To show solidarity with their allies against Russian aggression and various other threats, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Toronto is currently deployed to the Black Sea as part of its overall deployment on Operation REASSURANCE with Standing NATO Maritime Group 2.
The three weeks spent in the Black Sea specifically show solidarity with Ukraine, a country vying for partnership in NATO while constantly confronted with the threat of Russian aggression. The visit to the Black Sea will also help to preserve peace and promote security in the region and increase diplomacy between the two nations.
HMCS Toronto’s time in the Black Sea started off with a port visit to the Ukrainian city of Odessa.
“There’s a great pressure on Ukraine and NATO wanted to show their solidarity with the country,” said Commander Martin Fluet, Commander of Operation REASSURANCE Maritime Task Force and Commanding Officer of HMCS Toronto.
Even though Russia remains on high alert with NATO ships so close to its borders, Commander Fluet says the overall interaction has been peaceful as they are conducting their operations transparently.
“Everything is professional. It’s very much of a standoff approach, where they just follow us and keep track of us,” added Fluet.
The port visit to Odessa earlier in April lasted three days. During this time the ship was open to visitors, and more than 2,000 people from the city stepped on board to visit HMCS Toronto. Additionally, bilateral meetings were held between the nations, along with a press conference, a lunch on-board with several other NATO diplomats and, a reception with more than 100 guests.
“It’s also a very nice port visit. Very pretty. We got to rest, to get some food, but also took the opportunity to co-operate with Ukrainian Navy and promote Canada and stability in the region,” commented Fluet.
After setting sail from Odessa, HMCS Toronto conducted a day of exercises with the Ukrainian navy.
For the remainder of their time in the Black Sea, HMCS Toronto is on the NATO Exercise SEA SHIELD 19. The exercise is hosted and co-ordinated by Romania, and other countries involved include Bulgaria, Greece, the Netherlands, Romania, and Turkey. The exercise is focused on conduct practice procedures to counter underwater, surface and airborne threats
After their visit to the Black Sea, HMCS Toronto will make its way to Italy for a two-week rest and maintenance period.
HMCS Toronto left Canadian shores in mid-January for its deployment on Operation REASSURANCE.
When the 240 personnel aboard the ship aren’t on active operations, Fluet says they spend their time at the gym or use their access to the internet to watch movies and contact their families. Even though a phone is available to connect with their families, naturally the crew still remembers their loved ones.
“Despite being in contact with them, we still miss them very much. It’s a long six-month deployment,” said Fluet.
The ship has plans to return home in July.
“We are looking forward to spending the summer with them,” added Fluet.