APS arrives in Sierra Leone

The Dutch amphibious ship HNLMS Johan De Witt (L 801) arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone last week, for a two-day port visit as part of the ongoing Africa Partnership Station (APS) initiative. Johan De Witt is in Sierra Leone in support of the first European-led APS deployment.
During the visit, the APS team will conduct engagements both afloat and ashore and embark Sierra Leone students for a four-week, at-sea training program.
“For many reasons, this is a special visit,” said Royal Dutch Navy Captain Ben Bekkering, commanding officer of Johan De Witt.
“As far as I can recall, it has been a very long time since the Dutch have visited here, and I am very glad for the Dutch Navy to return. Also, I am glad to see that Sierra Leone is doing so well in rebuilding the structures needed to ensure maritime safety and security. To play a part in that rebuilding, both to learn and to teach, is at the heart of APS.”
APS focuses on building cooperative partnerships with regional maritime services in order to achieve common international goals such as stability and security. APS brings an international team of maritime experts including elements from Belgium, Portugal and the United States to offer assistance in addressing maritime safety and security challenges such as unlawful, unregulated and illegal fishing, piracy and illicit trafficking.

Planned maritime safety and security training will consist of classroom interaction and hands-on skill-building. Topics to be covered include small boat maintenance, small boat operations, maritime law enforcement, computer software lessons and advanced first aid training.

In addition to maritime safety and security engagements, the APS Johan De Witt crew will conduct community outreach projects on both days. The projects include the donation of medical and relief supplies to the Tunguma and Lungi hospitals as well as helping these hospitals fix and maintain generators, electrical systems and other equipment.

The APS Johan DeWitt deployment began in September and will run through November. Port visits include stops in Cape Verde, Ghana, Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

Johan De Witt, a Royal Dutch Naval vessel, is the first European-led APS platform and is augmented by staff from Belgium, Portugal and the United States. APS, originally a US Navy initiative, is now an international effort aimed at improving maritime safety and security for the continent of Africa through training and other collaborative activities with African partner countries.

Pic: Johan De Wit ship