Multinational boarding exercise Phoenix Express underway in Spain

Turkish boarding teams practice tactical movements aboard the Turkish frigate TCG Gokceada (F-494) during exercise Phoenix Express 2017 in Cartagena, Spain. Photo: US Navy

Naval forces from Europe, North Africa, and the United States are conducting the 13th iteration of the multinational maritime exercise Phoenix Express 2017.

The drill began May 10 with an opening ceremony at the Spanish Naval Base Arsenal de Cartagena and will take place throughout the Mediterranean Sea, to include territorial waters of North African nations.

Sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet (CNE-CNA/C6F), the exercise is designed to improve regional cooperation, increase maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities in order to enhance efforts to promote safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea.

The at-sea portion of the exercise will test North African, European, and U.S. maritime forces’ abilities to respond to irregular migration and combat illicit trafficking and the movement of illegal goods and materials. Additionally, participating forces will work together to practice search and rescue procedures in response to vessels in distress.

“This exercise has been going on for over a decade and it gets better every year,” said Capt. Daniel Hopkins, Phoenix Express 2017 officer in tactical command. “It gets better because of the people that make sure the boarding’s go correctly, the people that make sure the exercise stays safe, and the people that assess the training that allows us to be more effective.”

“Ideally the participating nations leave Phoenix Express with a baseline skillset that they can continue to build on, train from, and evolve into a competent boarding team that can go out and feel comfortable and safe aboard any vessel in the Mediterranean Sea,” said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Andrew Ray, visit, board, search and seizure facilitator. “It’s all about standardization with the partner nations.”

Nations participating in Phoenix Express 2017 include Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, the Netherlands, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States.

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