Obangame Express a platform for increasing maritime security in Gulf of Guinea

Turkish Navy Special Forces assigned to the martime security centre of excellence mobile training team introduce themselves to Ivorian Sailors at the Ivorian Naval Base March 20, 2017. Photo: US Navy

Navies and maritime security forces from Europe, South America, the United States, and Gulf of Guinea nations began training for the multinational maritime exercise, Obangame Express, March 20, 2017.

Obangame will officially kick off on March 23, when nations begin executing real-world scenarios.

For the next three days, African countries are preparing for the exercise by participating in training with maritime forces from around the world.

The exercise is sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, and is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and tactical interdiction expertise to enhance the collective capabilities of Gulf of Guinea and West African nations to counter sea-based illicit activity.

Participating nations include Angola, Benin, Belgium, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Togo, Turkey, the United States, and the United Kingdom, as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

Exercises will last until March 31 encompassing an in-port command post exercise and an underway field training exercise that will take place throughout the Gulf of Guinea. The largest footprint ashore will be in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire. An Opening Ceremony will be held in Accra, Ghana, and a Closing Ceremony will be held in Abidjan.

Obangame Express’ purpose is to create realistic scenarios that mirror past piracy incidents whereby a hijacked vessel will transit from one territory to another. Maritime operations centers (MOCs) during the exercise will be challenged to recognize these illicit acts appropriately and share with other MOCs. Additionally, the exercise tests each individual maritime force to patrol their economic exclusion zones and detect and prosecute illegal activity, accordingly.

“Maritime security is a collective effort, which is why Obangame Express is such an important exercise,” Navy Capt. Heidi Agle, Obangame Express officer in tactical command, said. “The majority of the region’s economic activities rely on the safe and lawful use of Ivory Coast waters. This exercise, in various forms and names over the years, has proven successful at increasing partner nations’ capabilities. I’m looking forward to once again working with our African partners to deter criminal activity at sea.”

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