January 14, 2021 (Google Translation) – The Netherlands today takes over command from Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1). The fleet association will be clearing explosives in the North Sea and Baltic Sea for the next 6 months. It also ensures that the fleet is ready for military operations at any time.
The Royal Netherlands Navy is in charge of this fleet association once every 5 years. “So that feels quite special,” says Lieutenant Commander Jan Wijchers. He will manage SNMCMG1 for the next 6 months. “We have minehunters from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Estonia and the United Kingdom among us. Quite a responsibility, but above all an honor.”
The staff ship is the Belgian command and logistics support vessel BNS Godetia. “The cooperation with the Belgians has existed for 25 years, when our operational naval staffs were integrated into 1 staff, Admiral Benelux (ABNL). It is therefore very common for a largely Dutch staff to operate from a Belgian platform.”
There are still many thousands of explosives from the First and Second World War in the sea. Wijchers: “We use mine-fighting vessels to explore the waters of Scandinavian countries and Baltic states to look for explosives. We use the minehunters to map out explosives that have been left behind and destroy them if possible. In this way we make a direct contribution to safety at sea; especially for shipping and fishing. ”
Many bombs and mines have been found recently during the construction of windmills in the North Sea. By turning the seabed, the explosives are exposed and pose a direct danger to the environment. “We can locate and dispose of these explosives in a very targeted manner.”
The association therefore also sails off the Dutch coast and will visit Den Helder in February for a port visit. The crew is not allowed to meet family on the quay this time. Those on board remain in a bubble; one of the strict measures to prevent COVID contamination on board.
The fleet association also participates in various exercises during deployment. For example, the crews in the Baltic Sea and in Estonia train mine countermeasures in the highest spectrum of violence. In addition, they practice weekly communication, navigational navigation and disaster relief. Wijchers: “This is how we maintain operational readiness. After all, NATO can deploy us at any time. ”