Canadian Armed Forces clearance divers participate in unexploded ordnance disposal operation in Latvia

News Release

August 18, 2017 – Ottawa – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

Eleven Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) clearance divers and support personnel are participating in Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2017 in Latvia from August 18 to 31, 2017.

These CAF members come from the Fleet Diving Units (Atlantic and Pacific) in both Halifax, Nova Scotia and Esquimalt, British Columbia. They are working alongside personnel from the Latvian Naval Flotilla and 13 other partner nations. Their mission is to clear explosive remnants of the First and Second World Wars in the Baltic Sea.

Operation OPEN SPIRIT is a multinational naval mine clearance and ordnance disposal mission. It is hosted on a yearly rotational basis since 1997 by one of three Baltic nations – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It aims to reduce the threat of unexploded ordnance throughout the Baltic Sea region, including seabed communications lines, international shipping routes, and fishing areas.

Although the CAF’s participation in Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2017 is not part of Operation REASSURANCE, this deployment of Canadian experts in disposing sub-surface munitions

demonstrates the CAF’s reinforced role in NATO and commitment with Allies and defence and security partners in the region. CAF members were previously sent to Latvia as part of Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2014. 


“The Canadian Armed Forces is proud to deploy this highly capable, well-trained, and experienced team of clearance divers. Canada’s participation in OPEN SPIRIT 2017 forges stronger relationships with our NATO allies and contributes to safer navigation in the Baltic Sea.”  

— Lieutenant-General Stephen Bowes, Commander Canadian Joint Operations Command

Quick Facts

  • Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2017 is taking place in the Territorial Waters and Exclusive Economic Zone of Latvia. The CAF members are operating from the naval base in Mikeltornis.

  • Lieutenant-Commander William Barter, Commanding Officer of Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic), is the Task Force Commander of Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2017.

  • Fleet Diving Units (Atlantic and Pacific) members are fully-trained in mine countermeasures, routine and emergency underwater repairs, seabed searches, dive equipment repair and maintenance, submarine rescue, dive training, and support to other government agencies.

  • Fourteen nations are participating in Operation OPEN SPIRIT 2017, including Belgium, Canada, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States. The Latvian Naval Flotilla is the lead for this year’s OPEN SPIRIT.

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