Operation OPEN SPIRIT

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.

Attention: Update

A small team of CAF clearance divers is participating in Operation OPEN SPIRIT from May 11 to 24, 2018. These CAF members are capable of conducting sub-surface advanced conventional munitions disposal.

This year, the operation is taking place in Estonia. It is being led by the Estonian Navy and includes NATO allies from 12 countries including Canada. The focus is to dispose of sea mines and ammunition remaining on the seabed from the First World War and the Second World War.

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.

Objectives

The goals of this operation are:

  • to reduce the threat of explosive remnants of war throughout the Baltic Sea region; and
  • to foster goodwill and relationships with defence partners in the region.

Specifically, Operation OPEN SPIRIT aims to:

  • reduce the risk from explosives for shipping and fisheries in the Baltic Sea;
  • practice disposing of mines at sea in a challenging environment;
  • deploy explosive disposal teams on mine counter-measures operations;
  • enhance interoperability in communications, seamanship and diving operations; and
  • contribute information to the Baltic Ordnance Safety Board.

Mission context

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.

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

A CAF task force took part in Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2016 in Lithuania from May 13 to 27. Eleven Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) divers and support crew worked alongside personnel from the Lithuanian Naval Flotilla. Twelve other partner nations also took part.

The Lithuanian Naval Flotilla led the 2016 operation. It took place in the waters surrounding Klaipeda Harbour.

The CAF diving team conducted 27 dives on over 60 mine-like contacts for a total dive time of 626 minutes. The team was able to confirm 2 square kilometres as clear of mines. The 13 nations that took part in the operation identified and disposed of eight mines. One of these was disposed of by the Canadian diving team.

2015

Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2015

A CAF task force took part in Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2015 in Estonia from May 15 to 28. Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) clearance divers and support crew worked alongside personnel from the Estonian Naval Flotilla (ENF). Twelve other partner nations also took part.

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

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

2014

Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2014

A CAF task force took part in Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2014 in Latvia from May 9 to 22. The task force included RCN clearance divers. They were 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 and 13 nations besides Canada.

The operation was led by the Latvia Naval Flotilla. It 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.

Date modified: