Operation OPEN SPIRIT

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The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) takes part in Operation OPEN SPIRIT every year, with an aim of clearing explosive remnants of war in the Baltic Sea. The three Baltic nations—Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia—take turns hosting the operation. A number of other countries take part. The CAF sends a task force on behalf of Canada.

Nations conduct this operation in the spirit of Partnership for Peace (PfP). This is a program where individual Euro-Atlantic partner countries work with NATO on practical projects. It allows the 22 partners to build an individual relationship with NATO. The countries choose their own priorities for cooperation.

A controlled detonation

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.

How Many People Are Deployed?

Usually, a small team of 10 to fifteen clearance divers and support personnel from the Royal Canadian Navy take part in this operation.

What Are They Doing?

During the operation, the dive team works with international partners to search for mine-like objects in the water. Once they confirm that an object is an explosive remnant of war, they or another partner will countermine it. This means that they conduct a controlled detonation.

After they thoroughly search an area, they can declare that it is clear of dangerous mines. This reduces the risk for the shipping and fisheries industry in the Baltic Sea.

History and context of the operation

The Baltic Sea saw heavy fighting during World War I and World War II. This 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. This presents a potential safety hazard in the area.

Past deployments

CAF members have contributed to this operation each year since 2014. Working alongside partners, they achieved the following:

  • in 2014, they countermined two ordnance in Latvia
  • in 2015, they identified 15 mines in Estonia
  • in 2016, they countermined one ordnance in Lithuania
  • in 2017, they countermined one ordnance in Latvia
  • in 2018, they countermined four ordnance in Estonia
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