The government has decided to assign a permanent task to the Ministry of Defense to identify potential threats in the vicinity of the Dutch part of the North Sea. Minister Kajsa Ollongren reports this to the House of Representatives today on behalf of the cabinet.
The government recognizes the threat of sabotage to vital infrastructure in and under the sea.
Think, for example, of mapping internet cables, gas pipelines and wind farms, but also preparing for disruption and sabotage or espionage via data cables. This is now being addressed by giving the Ministry of Defense a permanent role in the protection of this infrastructure. In this way, the Ministry of Defense can better contribute to the image of threats in the North Sea.
It is about increasing the so-called Situational Awareness and Situational Understanding. This means that the Ministry of Defense builds up a picture and understanding of threat actors and factors in the North Sea. These observations are processed and can possibly be shared with private partners and allies.
The Ministry of Defense works closely with the Dutch Coast Guard. The coast guard already maps out a detailed (traffic) picture in the context of its tasks for, for example, enforcement, maritime security and services. The Ministry of Defense is now contributing to this and is also mainly looking at state threats. Together with the coast guard, the Ministry of Defense is also strengthening cooperation with (private) sector parties in the North Sea. The primary responsibility for the protection of critical infrastructure lies with the providers themselves.
With the permanent task, the government also formalizes the guidance of ships of non-allies or partners through the Dutch part of the North Sea. Currently, on the basis of agreements with NATO allies, the Ministry of Defense regularly accompanies Russian ships through the Dutch Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
HNLMS De Ruyter and HNLMS Tromp, for example, shadowed the Russian research vessel Admiral Vladimirsky in the North Sea last week. The Russian ship sailed through the Dutch EEZ, which is permitted under international law. The navy shadowed the Russian ship to show vigilance for protecting vital infrastructure in the North Sea. The ship gained international fame because it has been repeatedly linked to espionage activities at sea.
Furthermore, just like the AIVD, the MIVD already has a role in investigating (covert) activities that pose a risk to national security. The vital infrastructure in the North Sea is part of this.
Cooperation with Coast Guard
Minister Ollongren recently paid a working visit to the coast guard. Among other things, she boarded a Dash-8 patrol aircraft for a surveillance flight. Among other things, she was shown how an environmental image is built up. During this flight she saw from the air how HNLMS De Ruyter escorted the Russian research vessel Admiral Vladimirsky in the North Sea. The Ministry of Defense works closely with the Coast Guard in the context of image construction in the North Sea.