The bomb is detonated. Photo: Netherlands Ministry of Defence
On 23 August, the Dutch minehunter HNLMS Willemstad disarmed the 1,000th explosive since 2005 off the coast of Hook of Holland. From that year, the Dutch and Belgian navies intensified their hunt for explosives in the North Sea after 3 fishermen were killed when an aircraft bomb brought to the surface by their nets exploded on board their fishing boat.
The Commander of the Royal Netherlands Navy, Vice Admiral Matthieu Borsboom, was on board HNLMS Willemstad. "We are now marking the 1,000th detonation, but your services remain vital to shipping in the North Sea as there are still tens of thousands of mines and bombs on the seabed”, he said to the members of the crew.
HNLMS Willemstad is currently operating on the North Sea with the Standing NATO Mine Counter Measure Group One. (SNMCMG1) This mine countermeasures flotilla is specialised in locating and disarming explosives at sea.
Free of mines
The main task of the Royal Netherlands Navy's mine hunters is to keep the sea, coastal waters and harbour mouths clear of bombs and mines, both in mission areas and in the North Sea, where fishermen still find mines dating from the Second World War on a weekly basis. The accident on 6 April 2005 showed that, even after a half century, these explosives remain highly dangerous. Since that date, Operation Beneficial Cooperation has been in force off the North Sea coast. The Dutch fishing industry makes an active contribution to the operation by marking explosives fished out of the water and reporting their finds to the Coast Guard.