The flagship arrived in the port of Devonport in Plymouth on 22 January. The visit is intended to prepare the flagship for the six months deployment with commander Jan Wijchers from the Royal Netherlands Navy and his international staff (from the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Poland), before starting the first out of several planned Historical Ordnance Disposal Operations (HODOPS) in the North Sea and in the Baltic Sea. The other units of the group, FGS Datteln, BNS Lobelia and ENS Ugandi arrived on Tuesday morning after a transit from Zeebrugge and conducting exercises together in the Solent and nearby Tor bay.
During the visit, Vice Admiral Blount had a chance to have a conversation on the flight deck with the Commander of SNMCMG 1, Jan Wijchers and the commanding officers of all units of the group.
Mine warfare operations and HODOPS are vital for security in the European territorial waters
"Despite the ongoing challenging circumstances, this Group of ships, led by the highly experienced Commander Wijchers, is fully ready to carry the NATO flag and fulfil its mission. The sailors have a varied period ahead but their next challenge is in finding and disposing of Historical Ordnance. This essential task remains a highly visible example of the great work our Mine Countermeasures Groups do and helps keep ships safe and our trade moving," said Vice Admiral Blount.
"Mine warfare operations and HODOPS are vital for security in the European territorial waters," said Commander Jan Wijchers. "By training together, we can enable our units to reach a high level of professionalism and knowledge in mine warfare and to be able to operate successfully within NATO. It is true that COVID-19 crisis causes some anxiety within the crews of our units, as being away from home with less possibilities to have shore leave, requires a lot of perseverance and commitment from the crews to our mission. However, I believe we can endure and excel even in these challenging times."
SNMCMG 1 is one of four standing forces that comprise the maritime component of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), which is part of the NATO Response Force (NRF). To respond to contingency situations additional forces can be added to these groups, with the NATO command staff onboard and the ships of the group as the nucleus, capable of providing timely support to NATO operations.