War in Ukraine brings a renewed focus to Nato's mine-hunting fleet

Watch: War in Ukraine has brought a renewed focus for Nato's mine-hunting fleet.

The commander of Nato's mine-hunting fleet in northern Europe says the war in Ukraine has brought a renewed focus to their mission.

Royal Norwegian Navy commander and Standing Nato Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) commander Ole Torstein Sjo was speaking as five Nato warships made a special port visit to London.

The fleet of ships are part of an international task group that patrols the waters of northern Europe.

While much of their work involves disposing of legacy mines and munitions from the Second World War, the conflict in Ukraine means they are also closely monitoring Russian naval activity.

"We are very focused on not provoking anything that could be miscalculated or leading to an unwanted response," the SNMCMG1 Commander Ole Torstein Sjo said.

"But we are monitoring them closely," he added.

The flagship of SNMCMG1, Royal Norwegian Navy command ship HNoMS Nordkapp, passed under Tower Bridge with crowds of onlookers waving and welcoming the crew last week.

Watch: Tower Bridge opens to welcome rare sight of Norwegian Navy's Nato ship.

The task group patrols a huge area from the English Channel to northern Norway and the Baltics. 

It is an area that was heavily mined during the Second World War with many of them sitting on the seabed with their explosive charge still intact. 

On board, the multinational task group is several mine countermeasure teams plus a wealth of hi-tech kit designed to detect and ultimately destroy any dangerous mines they find.

It is estimated Germany laid nearly 50,000 sea mines during the First World War alone and after the Second World War, the Allies dumped 300,000 tons of munitions into the sea.

Hi-tech kit designed to detect destroy mines on board Nordkapp 28022023 CREDIT BFBS
A wealth of hi-tech kit, designed to detect and ultimately destroy any dangerous mines, is on board.

The task group has been in operation continuously since 1973.

As well as this Norwegian flagship, there are also German, Estonian, and Dutch mine hunters involved. 

During the visit to the capital, the ships' crews will pay their respects at the Norwegian War Memorial in Hyde Park as well as welcome children on board from the Norwegian School in London.

After this, the fleet will return to the waters of northern Europe, watching for mines and Russian activity, sending a message of solidarity from Nato. 

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