From 21 August to 1 September, the Netherlands will host the international mine action and port protection exercise Sandy Coast 23. The exercise takes place in the North Sea above the Wadden Islands and in the port of Delfzijl (Groningen Seaports).

By practising together and exchanging knowledge, all participants can prepare for actual deployment anywhere in the world. A total of six NATO countries and 500 military personnel are taking part in the exercise.

In Sandy Coast 23, participants train on making ports and sea areas explosion-free. The Royal Netherlands Navy is present with several ships: hydrographic survey vessel HNLMS Luymes, minehunters HNLMS Vlaardingen and HNLMS Makkum, the diving vessel Hydra, Mv GeoSea and the Expeditionary Survey Boat (ESB) Hydrograph. There are also several foreign units from Canada, Poland, Belgium and Finland, among others.

‘Mine warfare is an important task of the Royal Netherlands Navy and its NATO allies,’ says exercise leader Captain Lieutenant at Sea Peter Baars. ‘Commercial shipping and fishing still face the dangers of explosives on the seabed and at port entrances. Such as old explosives from the Second and sometimes even First World War. Ports are also a potential target of terrorism and crime.’

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Dynamic exercise area

The Wadden area lends itself perfectly to the exercise. For instance, there is shallow water, strong currents, a dynamic seabed and changing weather conditions. In addition, everything happens in the vicinity of busy shipping lanes and wind farms.

The first period is mainly dedicated to military cooperation at sea. In the final week, the military will work intensively with local and regional security authorities in the port of Delfzijl. So too with Groningen Seaports. In the port, for example, diving teams and port protection teams are deployed and personnel from the Explosives Clearing Service Defence (Explosieven Opruimingsdienst Defensie, EOD) come into action.

Picture: RNLN hydrographic survey vessel HNLMS Luymes (by the Dutch Ministry of Defence).

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