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OPEN SPIRIT 24 Underway in Estonian Waters

OPEN SPIRIT 24 [© Estonian MoD: Aleksander Espenberg]

The OPEN SPIRIT 24 international mine countermeasures operation started yesterday, Monday 15 April, in Estonian waters.

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Press Release, Tallinn, 16 April 2024: [auto-translated] On Monday, April 15, 13 warships of Estonia and allied countries sailed out of Tallinn’s Mine Harbor to find and defuse historical explosive devices in Estonian waters as part of the mine countermeasures operation OPEN SPIRIT 24.

“In addition to making maritime areas safer and the possibility of realistic training, OPEN SPIRIT contributes to the deterrence posture of Estonia and NATO more broadly. Mine countermeasures are one of the key tasks in the Baltic Sea in keeping the sea lanes open to ensure the arrival of allied aid. With OPEN SPIRIT , we show that we are there together with our allies and that we can detect and defuse explosives in difficult conditions,” said Captain Lieutenant Ott Laanemets, commander of the OPEN SPIRIT 24 target group.

OPEN SPIRIT 24 [© Estonian MoD: Aleksander Espenberg]

OPEN SPIRIT 24 takes place in Estonian territorial sea and economic zone 15-26 April. The operation involves 14 ships, 11 shore-based divers and underwater robot teams, and a total of over 700 Allied and Partner country personnel and the Estonian navy. In total, there are participants from 16 countries, including minesweepers from Sweden and Finland.

OPEN SPIRIT 24 is a landmark event for the Finnish Navy, as their ship is part of NATO’s Rapid Response Force for the first time, being part of NATO’s 1st permanent mine countermeasures group. “We have hunted mines before with NATO’s 1st Permanent Mine Action Group, but now sailing on OPEN SPIRIT under the NATO flag, this is undoubtedly a historic event for us,” said Senior Lieutenant Henri Savisaari, commander of the Finnish minesweeper Vahterpää.

The Swedish Navy, which has supported the Estonian Navy since 1994 in clearing historical explosive devices from its waters, is participating in this year’s operation for the first time as a NATO member. “Sweden has participated in these operations almost every year, and we are happy to continue this tradition now as a member of the Alliance. At the same time, we should not forget the practical value of the operation, which consists of searching for real explosives and making them harmless – this is an irreplaceable activity for a minesweeper, and the entire ship’s crew is fully prepared for it,” said Captain Major Andreas Holmqvist, commander of the Swedish minesweeper Ulvön.

OPEN SPIRIT 24 [© Estonian MoD: Aleksander Espenberg]

In 1995, the cooperation of the Baltic States began on the operation BALTIC SWEEP, which by 1997 developed into the mine countermeasures operation OPEN SPIRIT. This annual operation takes place on a rotating basis in Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania. OPEN SPIRIT was last held in Estonia in 2021, but for the first time in 1998.

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