The second Saharan Express exercise has concluded, after eleven nations spent a week collaborating on the issue of improving maritime security in West Africa’s coastal waters and practising maritime interdiction operations.
Saharan Express 2012 commenced with a pre-sail conference in Dakar, Senegal, on April 23 and concluded on April 30. Ten ships from eleven nations (Cape Verde, France, Gambia, Liberia, Mauritania, Morocco, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States) took part in the exercise, which is held in support of the Africa Partnership Station (APS) initiative.
“During this past week, participating navies enacted scenarios they might encounter when patrolling maritime areas. Real-time simulations gave sailors a chance to practice boarding suspect vehicles; seek out illegal fishing activities; and search for and seize illicit cargo,” said Ambassador Lewis A Lukens, in concluding Saharan Express 2012. “As part of this exercise, participating countries worked together to ensure that we can prevent criminals from exploiting international boundaries to conduct illicit activity.”
“By making our seas more secure, we can reduce and control problems such as trafficking in persons, narcotics, and illegal material; not to mention help put a stop to crimes such as illegal fishing and piracy,” Lukens said.
Saharan Express focused on combating illicit activities – such as illegal fishing, trafficking and piracy – that are endangering the maritime security in many of the participant nations.
“We all know that illegal fishing threatens the food security of our countries,” said Senegalese Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Mohamed Sane. “Illegal acts like immigration, arms trafficking, pollution, piracy and terrorism threaten social stability. No maritime power can face these challenges alone.”
“Maritime security is everybody’s problem,” said Lieutenant Commander Mike Meydenbauer, deputy chief at the U.S. Embassy’s office of security cooperation in Dakar. “It’s a challenge all over the globe. No one nation can handle it alone.”
Exercise Saharan Express’s scenarios focused on maritime interdiction operations (MIO) including visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) drills; search and rescue scenarios; medical casualty drills; radio communication drills; and information management practice techniques. They ran off the coasts of Cape Verde, Mauritania, Senegal, and Gambia, and were monitored and controlled by multiple maritime operations centers (MOCs) in the region.
The scenarios provided African, European and U.S. maritime services the opportunity to work together, share information and refine tactics, techniques and procedures in order to help West African maritime nations to monitor and enforce their territorial waters and exclusive economic zones.
“Our efforts have become even more important as we watch neighboring states like Mali and Guinea-Bissau confront major challenges to their democracies and security structures. Our hosts for this exercise, the Senegalese, demonstrate to the world that stable West African democracies are essential to regional security,” Lukens said.
“I hope that the 2012 Saharan Express exercise has helped develop the standardized procedures that will allow everyone to work together more effectively to combat illicit activity in the maritime domain. Through this strong regional partnership – working together to fight the enemies of maritime safety and security – we are forming a united front. The United States is strongly committed to this goal and sincerely thanks all the participating countries for dedicating resources and personnel in order for this exercise to be a success,” the ambassador concluded.