On Wednesday, 20 September, the Northern Coasts 2023 exercise ended, during which more than 3000 personnel practiced the defence of the Baltic Sea in the Gulf of Riga and the Irbe Strait.
“For the Baltic States and Finland, the sea route across the Baltic Sea is economically and militarily the main transport link with the rest of the world, the paralysis of which would put a halt to the economy in the long term and limit the deployment and supply of ground forces,” said Lieutenant Commander Ott Laanemets, commander of the Mine War Division. “During the exercise, activities were practiced in a situation where the adversary has blocked the sea route in the Baltic Sea. That means fighting surface ships, submarines, aircraft and mines.”
Of the ships of the Estonian Navy, minehunters EML Ugandi and EML Sakala participated in the exercise this year.
“For conscript crew members, this is their first sea voyage, which has offered many interesting activities with allies – from a joint port visit in Riga to complex maneuvering exercises in the Baltic Sea,” said Captain Major Märt Uuemaa, who is in the capacity of commander of EML Sakala. “We were also able to introduce the new crew members to the ship’s main task, which is mine clearance.”
The exercise took place mainly in Latvian waters, but some mine hunting was also carried out in the territorial sea of Estonia. 12 historic explosive devices were found throughout the exercise area, ten of which were made harmless on the seabed.
The International Vessel Traffic Coordination Element (NCAGS) was also located in Estonia during the exercise, whose task was to inform civilian ships and ports in the exercise area about the ongoing exercises.
The Northern Coasts 2023 exercise started on 9 September in Riga. The ships sailed out of the ports on September 11, when the first joint cooperation exercises began. This year, 14 NATO Allies and Partners, nearly 30 Navy ships, more than ten aircraft and helicopters, and more than 3000 Marines participated in the exercise.
Exercise Northern Coasts is an annual exercise held since 2007 involving both NATO and Partner countries. The exercise was founded by the German Navy, which also manages its organization every year.