Residual explosives in Montenegrin waters, a leftover from 20th century wars, were mapped out in a joint military mine detection effort.
By Nedjeljko Rudovic for Southeast European Times in Podgorica -- 31/10/12
US-trained dolphins detect underwater mines. [Montenegro government]
A recent joint exercise between Montenegro and the United States military made headway in boosting the ties between the two countries, as well as clearing the Bay of Boka of landmines.
The stars of the show, however, were new to the region. Several hundred people crowded the Tivat dock on Tuesday (October 24th) where dolphins, trained in detection of underwater mines, showed some of their skills. The dolphins, which are trained in the US, operate by applying their outstanding natural sensors for mine detection.
The spectacle formally concluded the international Dolphin 2012 exercise, which took place for two weeks this month. The exercise gathered six dolphins from the US Navy Marine Mammal Programme, US Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit, and Montenegrin, Croatian and Slovenian army divers.
An extensive underwater search was conducted in the bay as divers inspected every suspicious object discovered by the dolphins.
Afterwards, a map of Boka Bay was produced, detailing location and information on residual explosive materials.
Montenegro's Defense Ministry will make the final decision as to whether, when, and how to remove the explosives.
Christian Harris, marine biologist and San Diego US team manager, was pleased with the experience in Montenegro.
"This environment is very similar to the one we have in San Diego, the water is cleaner and more transparent, and the temperature was only about two degrees higher from the ideal. Our dolphins have not had a chance to work on a site with such interesting topography and seabed characteristics like the Boka Bay. It was useful for them to work in such conditions, performing tasks, searching for suspicious objects, and marking them on the bottom of the sea," Haris told daily Vijesti.
Fifteen Montenegro divers received their US certificates in mine warfare, as part of the training.
US Ambassador Sue Kay Brown, US military Attache Bruce Murphy, Montenegro Army Chief-of-Staff Dragan Samardzic and Montenegro Navy Commander Darko Vukovic attended the ceremony.
Brown noted the excellent US-Montenegro defense co-operation.
"Our people travelled more than 10,000 kilometers from San Diego to the beautiful Bay of Kotor by transport plane C-17. For over 20 trainers, veterinarians and support staff, MMP team and 11 members of EODMU-1, this was a unique opportunity to participate in this international exercise. Members of the EODMU-1 units with their Montenegrin counterparts provide more than 20 hours of theoretical and practical training in the detection, identification, and demarcation of explosive devices at the bottom of the sea," Brown said.
Predrag Supic, exercise director, said this was the first appearance of MMP dolphin programmes in the Mediterranean.
"Our people have had the opportunity to learn from the best US mine divers. We made an additional step in raising our capabilities and increasing interoperability with NATO forces," Supic told SETimes.