Dutch mine-hunter to the Mediterranean in NATO response force

On Sunday, mine hunter Zr.Ms. Vlaardingen to the Mediterranean Sea. The naval ship will join NATO response force in that region ahead of schedule in connection with the Russia-Ukraine grain deal.

Today, the first Ukrainian grain ship was controlled in the Turkish port city of Istanbul. The Dutch mine-hunter becomes part of a NATO fleet association for mine control, which is ready to intervene in the area. The team consists of ships from Belgium, Italy, France, Turkey and the Netherlands.

โ€œReady Fasterโ€

The chance that the Vlaardingen will have to take action seems smaller after the first successful grain transport, โ€œbut we will be ready soon,โ€ says Lieutenant Lonneke van Kollenburg. โ€œBy going on Sunday, we can practice earlier and be ready faster.โ€ The initial departure was scheduled in a few weeks. The deployment takes about 15 weeks.

Defence is unable to provide details about the mine-hunters program for security reasons. Among other things, visits to various ports and training courses are planned. One of the goals is to strengthen diplomatic ties between NATO allies.

Nine naval ships

The naval ship joins a NATO unit in the Mediterranean that has been around for decades, but according to Van Kollenburg, it has been a while since a Dutch ship was part of it. The unit consists of up to eight mine-hunting ships and a support ship.

An estimated 20 million tons of grain are stored in Ukraine. Ukraine and the West say Russia is blocking the passage of grain ships with warships in the Black Sea. Moscow states that the ships cannot pass through because of Ukrainian sea mines.

Last month, Russia and Ukraine, in cooperation with the UN and Turkey, concluded an agreement to break the deadlock. In Istanbul, the ships are now being checked for any weapons on board to ensure that the route is only used for transporting grain.