Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1) has completed a Historical Ordnance Disposal Operation (HODOPS) in Estonian territorial waters between 20 and 29 October 2020. The NATO Group, together with Estonian Mine Countermeasure Vessels (MCMV), covered an area of 34 square nautical miles and identified 20 historical ordnance objects, including two torpedoes. 19 of these, and an additional eight identified in previous operations, were disposed of by NATO teams. Also, one previously unchartered shipwreck (85m long with a deck length of 9m) was identified at 27m depth. All the historical ordnance disposal activities were executed in close coordination and with consent of the Estonian authorities.
Heavy mine-laying was conducted during both World Wars in the Baltic Sea, and some of the most affected areas are adjacent to Estonia. Units from 7 different nations, including the Estonian Navy, took part in the operation making the Baltic Sea a safer place for all seafarers. SNMCMG1 consists of the flagship LNS JOTVINGIS which has international staff onboard, in addition to six MCMVs:
- ENS ADMIRAL COWAN
- BNS CROCUS
- FGS SULZBACH-ROSENBERG
- LVNS IMANTA
- HNLMS SCHIEDAM
- HNoMS MAALOY.
SNMCMG1 in Estonia
Even though in-person interaction was significantly scaled down due to COVID-19 precautions, some engagements still went ahead with preventative measures in place. As part of the engagements, Commander of the Estonian Navy, Commodore Jüri Saska, greeted the Commander of SNMCMG1, Commander Audrius Venckunas of the Lithuanian Navy, in the port of Tallinn upon arrival.
Commander Venckunas said, “The Baltic Sea region is of high strategic importance to NATO and its Allies. SNMCMG1 returned to Estonia for the second time this year. This time the main focus was on Historical Ordnance Disposal Operations. Heavy mine-laying was conducted during both World Wars in the Baltic Sea, and some of the most affected areas are adjacent to Estonia. It was a great opportunity to practice SNMCMG1’s capability of locating and neutralizing the threat posed by historical sea mines.”