NATO minesweepers leave Kiel for Baltic Sea patrol
A multinational group of four NATO minesweepers and a supply vessel left the German port of Kiel on Tuesday (22 April 2014) to deploy to the Baltic Sea to enhance maritime security and readiness in the region. The five ships are part of the Standing NATO Mine Counter-Measures Group One (SNMCMG1). “The Group’s presence contributes to regional maritime security,” said General Philip M. Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).
“During this period of tension, we felt it appropriate to deploy SNMCMG1 to the Baltic Sea as part of a broad package of actions by NATO’s maritime, air and ground forces,” he added. “Our intent is not to escalate the situation, but rather to demonstrate our strong solidarity as an Alliance and increase our readiness. During the deployment, the group will participate in numerous port visits and participate in an annual mine clearance operation hosted by Latvia next month. The ships will, together with vessels from partner nations, hunt for mines, torpedoes and bombs laid in the Baltic during the First and Second World Wars”.
The current flagship of the group is the Norwegian support vessel HNoMS Valkyrien. Other ships participating include the Dutch minehunter HNLMS Makkum, Belgian minehunter BNS Bellis, Norwegian minesweeper HNoMS Otra and the Estonian minehunter ENS Admiral Cowan. The group is being led by Commander Eirik Otterbu of the Royal Norwegian Navy.