Djiboutian, US navies practice vessel boarding operations

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Djiboutian naval personnel and sailors from three U.S. Navy organizations have conducted Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) training in the Port of Djibouti in an effort to strengthen Djibouti’s naval forces and enhance cooperation with foreign navies in the region.

Sponsored by Africa Partnership Station, the training reflected a joint venture with the Djiboutian navy, Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF) and Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Training (MCAST) Command – Security Force Assistance section, said U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Dustin Smiley, CJTF-HOA maritime coordination officer to the Djiboutian navy. The training took place between May 7 and 31.
“This event, specifically, is a great example of CJTF-HOA, NAVAF and the MCAST working to bring together resources, expertise and the relationships to work with the Djibouti navy to build ‘visit, board, search and seizure’ capacity,” said Smiley.

The training provided a combination of lecture and hands-on application in three areas: armed sentry level 1, boarding team operations and boarding officer training.

The armed sentry portion covered topics such as weapons handling, searching and detaining personnel, while boarding team operations reviewed methods for boarding and searching a vessel at sea to enforce sanctions or look for contraband. The boarding officer course included information on international maritime laws surrounding interception, boarding and searching a vessel, as well as inspecting cargo and verifying documentation.
“This is something that will help them in maintaining maritime security and stability within their own region and within their own country,” said U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class John Brooks, MCAST mobile training team lead instructor and master-at-arms.

Eleven Djiboutians and six U.S. personnel ran through VBSS scenarios on the French navy landing craft La Dague, highlighting the cooperation between coalition partners and the Djiboutian military.
“We benefited from the French and the American navies,” said Djiboutian navy Master Ahmed Elmi Chirdon, team leader for the Djiboutian participants. “We also learned a lot of things from the U.S. Navy during this training. This is the first time I’ve participated in training like this.”

The interactions between the U.S. and Djiboutian participants also allowed for better partnerships since it provided insight into how both navies operate, said U.S. Navy Lieutenant Brad Kasenberg, MCAST mobile training team officer in charge.
“This has been very enlightening. Their navy is small… but they’re pretty organized and have a good infrastructure,” said Kasenberg.

He also noted the enthusiasm the Djiboutians displayed when practicing the tactics provided by the MCAST team members.
“It’s been very rewarding to see how eager they were to apply these skills,” said Kasenberg.

Ahmed also noted another important aspect of the interaction between the Djiboutian and U.S. navies.
“It’s very important socially, too, because we make new friends,” said Ahmed about his U.S. Navy counterparts. “This is a very good thing because we can become a little more familiar with each other.”

Last month members of the Djiboutian coast guard received training aboard the Spanish warship Infanta Elena, which is currently operating off the Horn of Africa as part of the European Union Naval Force.

After a visit of the ship and particularly the operational room and presentation of the sensors and weapons, the Djiboutian coast guard members were briefed on the measures to be implemented when under pirate attack, as well as preventative Best Management Practices for merchant vessels.

The Djibouti navy sailors were mainly briefed on Mercury, an Internet-based secured network used as an alert and coordination by all the anti-piracy stakeholders, civilian and military. This training is paramount for them in view of the Djiboutian Navy operational centre, which will be inaugurated soon.

A coordinated planning of all the training sessions in regional countries has been established, under the supervision of Force Headquarters on board FS Marne, and is implemented by all EU Naval Force ships when visiting ports in the area of operation. This is part of the European Union’s comprehensive approach on the fight against piracy and particularly of EU Naval Force’s will to participate actively in the maritime capacity building process of regional navies and coast guards, the Naval Force said.

Meanwhile, on May 16, the EU Navfor warship FS Nivôse welcomed ten Djiboutian coast guard members for training and discussion on skiff interception, vessel protection teams and online communication.

During a port visit in Djibouti, the crew of Nivôse and members of the Djiboutian coast guard shared their experiences in the fight against piracy, and more broadly on the coast guards’ role in the protection of Djiboutian waters.

The sailors of FS Nivôse presented their skiff interception procedures, the implementation of a vessel protection team on board a merchant vessel, as well as the handling of suspected pirates once arrested. Training was both theoretical and practical. Part of the day was also devoted to the use of the Mercury network.

The EU Navfor said these encounters help navies and coast guards in the region to further develop their own maritime capabilities, while allowing EU Navfor ships to take advantage of their experience and knowledge of the area. This also facilitates subsequent contacts during any counter-piracy operation during which collaboration may be necessary.



Piracy is a major problem in the Gulf of Aden/Horn of Africa region. According to the International Maritime Bureau, as of May 18 there have been 145 incidences of piracy around the world this year, resulting in 17 successful hijackings. Of these, Somali pirates have been responsible for 59 attacks, capturing 12 vessels and 188 hostages. Somali pirates are currently holding 13 vessels and 200 hostages.