Exercise Obangame/Saharan Express 2016 commences


Maritime forces from Gulf of Guinea nations, Europe, South America, the United States and several regional and international organizations began the multinational maritime exercise, Exercise Obangame/Saharan Express on 17 March.

Exercise Obangame/Saharan Express provides African, European, South American and U.S. partner maritime forces the opportunity to work together, share information and refine tactics, techniques and procedures in order to assist Gulf of Guinea maritime nations with building capacity to monitor and enforce their territorial waters and exclusive economic zones, US Naval Forces Europe-Africa/US 6th Fleet Public Affairs said.
“We are seeing success in the increasing quality of maritime security in the gulf of guinea. The International Maritime Bureau has decreased threat levels off the coast of some zones. The hard work we have all contributed over the years is apparent in the adjusted levels of illicit maritime activity,” said Vice Admiral James G. Foggo, III, commander, U.S. 6th Fleet.
“In effect the exercise is to reinforce planning capabilities, drive regional naval cooperation, share information more effectively and better interoperability for specific missions at sea. This is so that we have a better mastery of our maritime missions,” said Rear Admiral Cheikh Cissokho, head of the Senegalese navy.
“The United States and its West African partners enjoy a strong partnership. Our nations strive for peace and prosperity, and exercises such as Obangame/Saharan Express allow us to build on our partnerships and provides us with the opportunity to get to know each other better. Our partnerships extend across many arenas, especially the maritime realm, where our nations recognize that maritime security is vital, and criminal activities such as piracy, oil theft, illegal fishing and illicit trafficking harms the security and prosperity of our people,” said US Navy Captain Heidi Agle, U.S. officer in charge of Obangame/Saharan Express 2016.

Sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), Obangame/Saharan Express will focus specifically on counter-piracy, energy security, counter illegal fishing, and counter illicit trafficking.

This year, the exercise will also feature training on Search and Rescue Operations, and advanced medical training. The exercise will include a wide variety of training for all participating forces including at-sea ship boarding and queries, air operations, communication drills, and regional information sharing.

The ability to govern the seas helps counter problems such as trafficking of people and illegal material, oil bunkering, drug trade, illegal fishing, and piracy.

The two exercises were combined into one exercise to enhance and increase regional partnerships across West Africa. Combining the exercises allows countries to work together who had not worked together previously, the US Navy said.

Pre-exercise work-up began on 14 March. Expeditionary Fast Transport ship USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1), the Commander U.S. Naval Forces 6th Fleet Maritime Operations Center and several U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet staff personnel will participate alongside other international naval forces in this exercise.
32 nations are scheduled to participate in this year’s exercise including Angola, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, South Africa, Togo, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States . Regional organizations such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) will also participate in the exercise.