Operation OPEN SPIRIT

Operation OPEN SPIRIT is an annual multinational operation dedicated to clearing Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) in the Baltic Sea. It is hosted on a rotational basis by one of the three Baltic nations – Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.

This operation is conducted in the spirit of Partnership for Peace (PfP), which is a program of practical bilateral cooperation between individual Euro-Atlantic partner countries and NATO. The program allows its 22 partners to build an individual relationship with NATO, choosing their own priorities for cooperation.

Objectives

The goal of the operation is to reduce the threat of ERW throughout the Baltic Sea region, foster goodwill and support important relationships with defence partners in the region. Specifically, the operation aims to:

  • reduce the risk from maritime Explosive Remnants of War for shipping and fisheries in the Baltic Sea;
  • exercise naval mine countermeasure operations in a challenging environment;
  • deploy land-based Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams in Naval Mine Counter-Measures (NMCM) Operations;
  • enhance interoperability concerning communications, seamanship and diving operations; and
  • provide information within the Baltic Ordinance Safety Board integrated support plan.

Mission context

The Baltic Sea 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 which have been fired or deployed but have failed to explode, presenting a potential safety hazard in the area.

Previous deployments

2017

Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2017

Eleven CAF clearance divers and support staff took part in Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2017. They operated in Latvia from August 18 to 31, 2017.

These CAF members came from Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic) out of Canadian Fleet Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia. They worked with the Latvian Naval Flotilla and 13 other partner nations.

During Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2017, Canadian Armed Forces clearance divers dove 21 times for a total of 4 hours and 29 minutes. 38 mine-like contacts were identified in the Baltic Sea and two contact mines were identified and confirmed. The Canadian Armed Forces countermined one mine, while the Latvians countermined the other. In total, the participating nations cleared 20 square kilometres of the Baltic Sea.

 

2016

Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2016

Eleven Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) divers and support personnel took part in Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2016 from May 13 to May 27, 2016 in Lithuania. They worked alongside personnel from the Lithuanian Naval Flotilla and 12 other partner nations: Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States.

The Lithuanian Naval Flotilla led this year’s operation, which took place in the waters surrounding Klaipeda Harbour.

While deployed, the Canadian diving team conducted 27 dives on over 60 mine-like contacts for a total dive time of 626 minutes. In doing so, the team was able to confirm 2 km2 as clear of mines. In total, the 13 nations participating in the operation identified and disposed of 8 mines, one of which was disposed of by the Canadian diving team.

2015

Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2015

Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) clearance divers and support personnel conducted Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2015 from May 15 to 28, 2015 in Estonia alongside personnel from the Estonian Naval Flotilla (ENF) and 12 other partner nations: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden and the United States.

The operation was led by the ENF and was based out of Simisti harbour on the Estonian Island of Muhu.

CAF clearance divers identified 15 mines and 58 mine anchors, and disposed of 11 mines during the 28 dives conducted over the course of the operation. 

2014

Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2014

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) participated in Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2014 in Latvia from May 9 to 22, 2014. The Canadian task force included members of the RCN clearance divers based out of Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic), from Canadian Forces Base Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The operation included military members from the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) and 14 nations: Latvia, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Germany, Lithuania, Turkey, United States, and Canada. The operation was led by the Latvia Naval Flotilla and was based out of the Latvian Naval Base in Liepaja, located in west Latvia on the Baltic Sea. Explosive Remnants of War were cleared in the Territorial Waters and Exclusive Economic Zone of Latvia.

Operation OPEN SPIRIT

Transcript

Canadian Armed Forces Clearance Divers conduct a controlled detonation of an unexploded mine in the Baltic Sea during Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2016 in Klaipeda, Lithuania.

Operation OPEN SPIRIT is an annual multinational operation dedicated to clearing explosive remnants of war in the Baltic Sea. It is hosted on a rotational basis by one of the three Baltic nations – Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.

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