Annual 'Open Spirit' naval drills under way

The annual 'Open Spirit' naval exercises in the Baltic Sea are underway with vessels from several different navies operating in Latvian waters.

Open Spirit 2017 will be conducted between 18 August and 31 August in territorial waters of Latvia and is an annual event dedicated to clearing Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) - in other words mines and munitions left behind during two world wars.

According to the official Sargs.lv military portal, this year’s operation led by Latvia will involve 15 ships and six unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance dive teams from 10 countries: Belgium, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland and the UK.

The Baltic Naval Squadron (BALTRON) and Standing NATO Mine Counter Measures Group One (SNMCMG1) will also take part in the training. Latvian Naval Force will be represented by minesweepers M-02 Imanta, M-08 Rūsiņš and command and support ship A-90 Varonis. SNMCMG1 will be represented by the Latvian Navy’s flagship A-53 Virsaitis.

Open Spirit is hosted by one of the Baltic States on a rotating basis and is designed to improve team cooperation and interoperability, as well as having the obvious benefit of making the Baltic Sea safer for shipping.

“For us, first and foremost, this operation is vital as an opportunity to clear the Latvian and Baltic Sea waters of explosive remnants: sea mines, torpedoes and air bombardment. Although sensors built into these explosive are no longer functional because they have disintegrated over time, the risk to navigation safety and the environment is still there. Secondly, this is an excellent drill, units interact in real conditions and environment, testing their minesweeping systems and divers,” saidLt Cdr Gvido Ļaudups, Commander of SNMCMG1.

Members of the public who happen to be in or around Mērsrags are invited to come to Mērsrags port on 19 August (from 10.00 to 14.00) and 20 August (from 11.00 to 15.00) when it will be possible to look at some of the ships involved as the military training will coincide with Mērsrags festival, which will take place between August 18 and August 20.

 

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