Skip to main content



23 Nov 2023

Allied ships neutralise 16 historical sea mines in Estonian waters during mine disposal operations

Allied ships neutralise 16 historical sea mines in Estonian waters during mine disposal operations
NATO Allied Maritime Command Press Release

NATO mine countermeasures experts successfully neutralized 16 sea mines during scheduled historical ordnance disposal operations (HODOPS) conducted in Estonian territorial waters from Nov. 9-18. 

Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1) completed the nine-day operation in close coordination with the Estonian Navy.

In total, the multinational Allied task group spent about 120 hours searching, identifying, and neutralizing unexploded ordnance. Five minehunters and two minesweepers covered an area of more than 22 square nautical miles and classified 228 as mine-like objects. Finally, 16 of them were positively identified as historical mines and neutralized.

Planned months in advance by the Estonian Navy, the operation took place in southern region of the Gulf of Finland in Narva Bay. The purpose of operation was to locate and dispose of historical unexploded ordnance left over from World Wars I and II in designated areas to reduce the risk of unintended explosions to all maritime activities in this region of the Baltic Sea. A significant amount of historical ordnance remains off the coast of Estonia in underwater domain. Despite their age, these sea mines still pose a significant threat to mariners operating in these major shipping routes. 

“The Baltic Sea was heavily mined during the World Wars, however, some areas more densely than others,” Commander, SNMCMG1 Polish Navy Commander Piotr Bartosewicz said. “Estonian waters are one of the most mined areas in the world and provide a valuable opportunity to train and to increase SNMCMG1’s combat readiness.” 

Bartosewicz took charge of SNMCMG1 on behalf of the Polish Navy in July 2023. He leads the group from its flagship Polish Navy ORP Czernicki (511) along with an international staff on board. In addition, the group comprises minehunters: Belgian Navy BNS Crocus (M917), German Navy FGS Bad Bevensen (M1063), Royal Netherlands Navy HNLMS Vlaardingen (M863) and two Polish Navy minesweepers ORP Drużno (641) and ORP Hańcza (642). The group was further strengthened by Allied minehunters from Estonia and Lithuania – ENS Ugandi (M315) and LNS Skalvis (M53), respectfully, during the HODOPS.

Prior to the HODOPS, the task group visited Tallinn, Estonia, to carry out a short logistics stop and to collaborate with the Estonian Mine Warfare Data Centre to identify areas of potential mine threat. 

“I am happy that by conducting HODOPS with our friends and Allies we made another step forward to ensure freedom of navigation and safety for all mariners around Estonian territorial waters,” Bartosewicz said. “We also increased interoperability and strengthened the bond we share with our Estonian Allies, which is so important for NATO’s overall situational awareness in the area.” 

As a NATO standing response force consisting of minehunters from different nations, SNMCMG1 is continuously ready at short notice to bring the capabilities, skills and expertise to clear underwater explosives and make the maritime domain a safer place for all.

After completion of the Estonian HODOPS, SNMCMG1 visited Turku, Finland, to rest and re-supply before participating in multinational naval exercise Freezing Winds 23. Freezing Winds runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 1 and is the first Finnish-led exercise since Finland’s their accession to NATO. Freezing Winds is designed to enhance military capabilities and strengthen the partnership between Allies.

View all News