Maritime forces from East Africa, West Indian Ocean nations, Europe and the United States, as well as several international organizations, began the sixth iteration of the annual multinational maritime exercise Cutlass Express on 30 January in Mauritius.
Cutlass Express 2017, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and conducted by U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF), is designed to assess and improve combined maritime law enforcement capacity and promote national and regional security in East Africa, inform planning and operations.
“The Cutlass Express exercise is a collaboration between…partners to develop their capability of controlling the waters around their countries, exercise law enforcement, reduce piracy, illicit trafficking, and promote commerce and trade,” said Capt. Geoffrey Colpitts, Exercise Cutlass Express 2017 Director.
“Maritime security is just not a U.S. concern, it’s an international priority. The fact that so many nations came to Mauritius to participate in Cutlass Express is a clear confirmation of the importance of international cooperation for maritime security but also the continued desire for strategic partnership among all the participatory nations,” said Melanie Zimmerman, U.S. Embassy Charge D’ Affaires.
“Cutlass Express aims to sharpen our skills in a number of ways so we can make these waterways secure for piracy, illegal fishing, marine pollution, illicit trafficking of people and other maritime threats that not only affect African nations, but in this interdependent world it affects all of us,” said Scott Ticknor, Foreign Policy Advisor for the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.
Scenarios will test participating nations’ ability to board vessels and detect illicit activity or respond to piracy incidents.
The exercise leverages The Djibouti Code of Conduct, which 21 nations are signatory to, as a framework for exercising information sharing practices and enforcing maritime rule of law at sea.
The scenarios and objectives, specifically for endorsing nations of the globally-recognized Proliferation Security Initiative, are designed to increase capabilities to detect and disrupt the delivery of materials used to build and develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Participating nations in Cutlass Express 2017 include Canada, Comoros, Djibouti, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Uganda, and the U.S. Representatives from the Eastern Africa Standby Force, EU Naval Force, International Maritime Organization (IMO), and Combined Task Force 150 will participate as well.
Exercise Cutlass Express is one of three Africa-focused regional “Express” series exercises facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet. The exercise is part of a comprehensive strategy of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet to provide collaborative opportunities among African partners to address maritime security concerns.