Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 ( SNMCMG1 ) is conducting Historical Ordnance Disposal Operations (HODOPS) in the North Sea, along with training activities and a port visit to Den Helder in the Netherlands, NATO Maritime Command announced with a press release.
NATO mine countermeasure groups conduct Historical Ordnance Disposal Operations for a while. These sea mines are considered a danger for merchant traffic and submarines as well. Moreover, HODOPS is a good opportunity for the crew of the MCM assets.
SNMCMG1 flagship BNS Godetia, along with the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1), executed a maneuvering exercise near the Dutch coast together with the Royal Netherlands Navy vessels Karel Doorman, De Zeven Provinciën, and Van Speijk, on 1 February 2021.
“Interoperability in the maritime environment has always been a strength of NATO. Now, this has been demonstrated with units from three different task groups coming together at sea, upping communications and conducting tactical maneuvering within an hour after a rendezvous. Together we can maintain and even enhance our readiness regardless of COVID-19”, said the Commander of the Netherlands Maritime Force, Commodore Ad van de Sande.
From SNMG1, HMCS Halifax and FGS Spessart participated in the exercise and continued the Royal Netherlands Navy cooperation for several days. “Standing Naval Forces like SNMG1 and SNMCMG1 are robust and highly capable multinational integrated maritime forces who are united in task and purpose,” said the Commander of Standing NATO Maritime Group One, Commodore Bradley Peats. “This maneuvering exercise and sail past, involving six vessels representing four proud NATO countries, demonstrates the strength of Allied solidarity and cohesion as well as our collective will, capability and steadfast resolve to defend and protect our citizens and territory from external threats.”
SNMCMG1 is now visiting the naval base of Den Helder, the Netherlands, between 5 and 8 February 2021. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the port visit program has been scaled down. Official events and open ship events will not be held. The visit is mainly designated for crew’s rest and for logistical re-supply.
This visit takes place on completion of the first week of Historical Ordnance Disposal Operations (HODOPS), held in the Dutch and Belgian territorial waters by SNMCMG1. In total, SNMCMG1 units identified two and disposed one historical arial bomb. All operations and activities were executed in close cooperation with the Royal Netherlands Navy and the Belgian Navy.
On Monday, 1 February, BNS Lobelia also found an old canon near the Belgian coast. It was too heavy to lift for further investigation ashore, but was mapped for future operations.
“It is always a surprise what you will find on the seabed, but sometimes the sea presents its secrets. The Dutch HODOPS is an opportunity to complete continuous mine countermeasures activities on the North Sea, where the concentration of historical ordnance leftovers is one of the largest in Europe. Thanks to the good effort of our units, despite the weather conditions, we were able to make the sea a little bit safer”, said the Commander of SNMCMG1, Commander Jan Wijchers.
Historical Ordnance Disposal Operations continue between 31 January and 11 February 2021.
Currently, SNMCMG1 consists of the flagship BNS Godetia, with an international staff on board and three mine countermeasures vessels: BNS Lobelia, FGS Datteln, and ENS Ugandi. HMS Blyth of the Royal Navy has left the United Kingdom to join the Group in the coming days.