More mine-sweeping drills planned in May
DUBAI - Global navies are set to return to the region for the second time in eight months this May for mine-sweeping and security exercises, Khaleej Times times can confirm.
More than 40 countries have been invited to participate this year and the three-week exercise will focus on mine counter-measure operations with additional emphasis on maritime infrastructure protection, according to the US Navy's 5th Fleet. Maritime infrastructure covers ports, shipping and shipbuilding facilities.
''The additional exercise serials will serve to deepen the relationship with maritime industry as well as developing further key capabilities,'' said Lt. Marissa Myatt of the 5th Fleet which is based in Bahrain.
Naval vessels transit in a formation in the Gulf of Oman during mine countermeasure exercises last September. - US Navy
No mines have been detected in regional waters recently, she said, but added that waterborne explosive devices continue to pose a threat to life and commerce in international waters and to the world economy. The International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2013 (IMCMEX 13) is intended to boost maritime security in the Arabian Gulf and for a coordinated response by navies. She evaded a question on whether the drill is targetted at any country. ''Mines are indiscriminate; they pose a threat to all maritime traffic, regardless of nationality or purpose,'' the 5th Fleet official said. There are over a quarter-million sea mines of more than 300 types in the inventories of 50 navies worldwide.
When asked why a second exercise is being conducted in a relatively short span, she said it is to expand on the success of the IMCMEX 12 where many technologies, including sea drones like Blackfish were tested. She said the last exercise was a ''great example of the robust international capability that can be leveraged to clear mines at sea''.
Last September's event brought together 3,000 personnel from 33 navies and covered 1,000 miles in the region.
The US Navy is again expected to play a leading role during the three-week exercise this May. The event will be held in four phases, including a staging and integration phase, an infrastructure protection symposium, a certification and training phase, and task execution phase.
The Initial Planning Conference for the anti-mine exercise was held last month in the United States. "The broad international participation in last fall's exercise on mine counter-measures reflects extensive cooperation for maintaining open and secure lines of commerce," Gen. James N. Mattis, Commander of the US Central Command had said during the conference. "As with 2012's international mine-clearing exercise which involved 33 nations' participation, this year's effort will reaffirm the ongoing, global cooperation that this mission enjoys with the international community's strong support for free trade in a region critical to the worldwide economy."
Some 500 ships sail through the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic sea passage from the Arabian Gulf to the open ocean and the rest of the world. About 300 of these ships are energy carriers, which in a typical week will transport about 100 million barrels of oil through the Strait's two-mile wide outbound traffic lane to fuel economies around the globe.
Concerns persist over Iran's nuclear programme as it heads to Kazakhstan next week for another round of talks with world powers.
Teheran has also said it could block the Strait of Hormuz if attacked over its atomic programme, which it says is for peaceful purposes. - email@example.com
Source: US Navy
- Sea mines are explosive devices that can destroy ships or submarines
- They can be triggered by the approach of, or contact with a transiting vessel
- More than 60 countries have a collective inventory of 250,000 sea mines
- A $10,000 mine can destroy a $2-billion vessel
- Mines have sunk more ships than conventional gunfire in the history of naval warfare