The Royal Netherlands Navy will patrol the North Sea with mine countermeasure vessel HNLMS Zierikzee in mid-December. This is done in a coalition of like-minded countries, which together form the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF).
The JEF alliance also monitors the Baltic Sea. Northern European partners build up a picture of activities at sea during patrols and deter malicious parties.
The JEF independently responds to potential threats. This is the first time this force has been activated. It is done by order of the defence ministers of all ten JEF countries. Last Tuesday, 28 November, they agreed on this.
The aim is to counter espionage and sabotage. Think of tapping internet cables and destroying gas pipelines lying on the seabed. Wind farms can also be a target for malicious practices. Aircraft of the Netherlands Coast Guard also observe the North Sea during this period.
Aware of the threat
The Dutch government is aware of the threat targeting vital infrastructure. The Dutch intelligence and security services MIVD and AIVD warned about Russian spy ships earlier this year. These were said to be preparing for espionage and sabotage. Since then, the Dutch navy has been monitoring and escorting such ships, in cooperation with the coast guard.
In July, the government announced that Defence will be given a regular task in the North Sea in mapping the threat in the North Sea and escorting units of non-NATO countries, when warranted. The navy does this in close cooperation with the coast guard.
However, keeping vital infrastructure safe requires more than just a military response. Other ministries and civilian parties also have a role to play. Therefore, a strategy is now being developed under the leadership of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.
Because vital infrastructure does not stop at the Dutch part of the North Sea, the navy works together with other countries. Apart from the JEF, NATO’s two northern fleet alliances also regularly patrol the North and Baltic Seas for image building and deterrence.
The Dutch air defence and command frigate HNLMS Tromp and minehunter HNLMS Vlaardingen are currently part of those fleet deployments.
Picture: The minehunter HNLMS Zierikzee (by the Dutch Ministry of Defence).