Exercise Obangame Express 2014, the multinational maritime exercise in the Gulf of Guinea, concluded April 23.
Obangame Express, which began April 16, provided African, European and Atlantic partner naval forces the opportunity to work together, refine tactics, and improve cooperation in order to help Gulf of Guinea nations deter piracy and other maritime threats.
“I have observed actions and proceedings of the exercise and am happy with the outcome,” said Vice Admiral Usman O. Jibrin, chief of staff of the Nigerian Navy, who spoke at the closing ceremony in Lagos, Nigeria. “In our part of the world, the maritime environment is threatened by piracy, poaching, smuggling, oil theft and other transnational crimes. Exercise Obangame Express helps West African countries combat these challenges.”
Focusing on counter-piracy and maritime security operations, the exercise included a wide variety of scenarios for participating forces to test a variety of skills, including at sea boarding procedures, queries, medical familiarization, air operations, communication drills and regional information sharing.
“Obangame Express allowed participating nations the chance to build relationships and interact at every level in spite of different cultural and professional backgrounds and languages,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Sueann Schorr, senior U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa representative in Douala, Cameroon, one of two operational areas for the exercise. “We all share the same desire for maritime security and each country had skills to share in this exercise.”
During the at-sea phase of the exercise, 11 nations were represented on board 36 different vessels hosting 20 different boarding teams. The boarding teams completed more than 40 boarding drills during three days of operations. Additionally, mmaritime operations centers throughout the theater were manned and contributed to common operational picture.
“We’re very pleased with the outcomes at a tactical level, but more importantly it’s the sharing of knowledge and the cooperation that we saw among partner nations during the exercise that really made this a success,” said Lt. Cmdr. John Petrasanta, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa exercise planner.
Twenty nations participated in this year’s exercise, including Angola, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome & Principe, Spain, Togo, Turkey and the United States.
The exercise, which has occurred annually since 2011, is one of four U.S. Africa Command-sponsored regional Express-series exercises under the international collaborative security cooperation program Africa Partnership Station (APS).
Press Release, April 24, 2014; Image: AFRICORM