Maritime forces from East Africa, West Indian Ocean nations, Europe, and the United States, as well as several international organizations began the seventh iteration of the annual multinational maritime exercise Cutlass Express 2018 on 31 January.
Cutlass Express 2018, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and conducted by U.S. Naval Forces Africa, is an exercise designed to assess and improve combined maritime law enforcement capacity, promote national and regional security in East Africa as well as information sharing, planning and operating.
“Criminal activities pose a big threat to the security of Africa’s maritime environment,” said Melanie Zimmerman, charge d’ affaires for the U.S. Embassy in Mauritius and the Seychelles. “These are challenges that no single nation can overcome on it’s own but, if we work together, overcoming those challenges becomes achievable.”
This years exercise leverages the recently adopted Jeddah Amendment to the Djibouti Code of Conduct, which 14 nations are signatories, as a framework for exercising information sharing practices and enforcing maritime rule of law at sea.
The participating nations will be testing their ability to illicit trafficking, piracy, illegal fishing, as well as search and rescue situations.
“Today, we face serious challenges at sea such as illegal fishing, trafficking of weapons, narcotics, people and the ongoing threat of piracy,” said Rear Adm. Shawn E. Duane, vice commander, U.S. 6th Fleet. “Our efforts here will help make the region a safer place for maritime commerce and help increase prosperity throughout the region.”
Participating nations in Cutlass Express include Australia, Canada, Comoros, Denmark, Djibouti, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, New Zealand, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, The Netherlands, Turkey, and the United States.
“Today, we see cooperation between countries with diverse foreign policies unified around the common theme of maritime security,” said J. Alexander Hamilton, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Djibouti. “Most importantly, we see one of the clearest examples of international cooperation to mitigate region security challenges that has happened in modern times.”
Cutlass Express is one of three Africa-focused regional, “Express” series exercises sponsored by U.S. AFRICOM and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet. The exercise falls under Africa Partnership Station, the umbrella program for the Express series of exercises and other capacity-building initiatives throughout Africa.