TALLINN – With the ceremony that took place at the Mine Harbor in Tallinn on Tuesday, four vessels that had so far been part of the Police and Border Guard Board started operations as part of the Estonian Navy's fleet.
The Police and Border Guard Board will continue to detect marine pollution in the maritime area and in transboundary water bodies with aerial vehicles as well as detect and organize the elimination of marine pollution in transboundary water bodies, the Ministry of Defense said.
Sea rescue will also remain the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior, but if necessary, it is possible to involve navy ships in resolving events. In addition, merging the fleets will allow to acquire joint platforms for the performance of all necessary tasks and to make joint investments to ensure maritime security.
The task of the defense forces is to guard and protect the Estonian sea border, while border control remains the task of the Police and Border Guard Board. The defense force will be responsible for maritime situational awareness, until now the responsibility was shared. Even though the current status of the current border patrol vessels will change to a warship when part of the Navy, the performance of all necessary civilian tasks will continue, as the ships will retain the capabilities such as guarding the sea border, pollution control and rescue capabilities, which they still have today. With the merger, the chain of command of the fleets will also change, in the future it will be possible to plan all activities and assign tasks in a unified way, which will significantly speed up the possibilities of using ships in different situations.
"The inclusion of four vessels in the Navy ensures Estonia a comprehensive maritime security capability both in peacetime and in crisis. This improves situational awareness and responsiveness in the Estonian maritime area and provides Estonia with a better defense capability and creates prerequisites for an allied response to a conflict taking place in the region," Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur said.
Interior Minister Lauri Laanemets said that the merging and handing over of the fleets is not just a technical formality.
"Looking at the current situation, we need to increase the ability to respond to various hybrid challenges and crisis situations at sea in the future, because for a small area, Estonia has a long sea border in an area with heavy maritime traffic. As a Baltic Sea country, in addition to our own border control, we also have a responsibility towards our partner countries -- we must be ready and able to react to various threat situations and, if necessary, make a worthy contribution together with our partners. In this context, combining the capabilities of the Police and Border Guard Board and the defense forces is more than the sum of its parts and actually increases the country's maritime defense capabilities and monitoring capabilities in our border waters," Laanemets said.
Positions related to the operation of ships will move under the Navy. The Navy will also take over and start operating all maritime surveillance radars. At the end of 2022, the maritime surveillance center of the Police and Border Guard Board and the maritime operations center of the defense forces were relocated to the same premises.