Members of the Belgian navy are co-ordinating the operation from land. Fake explosive devices have been hidden all over the rear port and mini submarines are being used to detect them. Once detected divers set to work.
“Explosive devices in port are usually smaller than the sea mines used off the coast. That’s why it’s so important exercises are held both at sea and in port” says Lieutenant at sea 1st class Filip Clauwaert.
“A terrorist minded to attack a port won’t need much. A small, plastic barrel, full of equipment, a detonator and sensor will be sufficient to do a lot of damage. We’ve copied barrels like that to ensure our NATO forces are well-trained”.
The exercise in the Ostend rear port forms part of a larger international operation: Operation Sandy Coast. The Belgian and Dutch navies take turns organising this annual exercise.
Last week manoeuvres took place at sea in the waters between Ostend and Zeebrugge.
“We placed dummy mines off the Belgian coast. They look just like real mines. The goal is to localise and identify them and remove them from the waters of the North Sea. It’s not as easy as you might think” confides Clauwaert. “Visibility under water is limited. There’s a strong current and this is part of the North Sea with loads of traffic”.
The international exercise continues until 11 September.