US maritime cooperation in Africa

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A high-speed catamaran operated by the United States Navy is visiting a number of South African ports on a maritime security cooperation initiative.
HSV-2 Swift, a non-commissioned, hybrid catamaran chartered to the United States Navy Military Sealift Command, is primarily used for fleet support and humanitarian partnership missions and is currently in East London on her Africa Partnership Station mission. Prior to her arrival in East London she visited Simon’s Town in Cape Town.
The Africa Partnership Station (APS) is the US Naval Forces Africa’s (NAVAF) flagship maritime security cooperation program. The focus of APS is to build maritime safety and security by increasing maritime awareness, response capabilities and infrastructure.
Through APS, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) and NAVAF conduct engagement activities with international partners and governmental/non-governmental organisations. “2012 marks the fifth year that Africa Partnership Station has been working to improve maritime safety and security in Africa,” explained Lieutenant Nathan Potter of the US Naval Forces Africa Public Affairs Office.
“The first official APS deployment took place during 2007-2008 in West and Central Africa. US Navy vessels participating in APS 2012 so far includes the guided-missile frigate USS Simpson (FFG 56) and the high-speed vessel Swift (HSV 2),” Potter added.
To illustrate the increased importance of Africa to the US, the Swift recently made a port visit to Walvis Bay in Namibia, the first US Navy vessel port-of-call to Namibia in over a decade. The last time a US Navy vessel visited Namibia was in 1999.
Explaining APS at an official reception on board Swift hosted by the US ambassador to Namibia, Captain Susan Dunlap, director of Navy Africa Region, noted that a united global maritime community made up of partner nations is essential to the APS mission. “APS aims to help African navies provide for their own maritime security. Besides the US, there are 11 European partners and 27 African partner nations that have participated in APS since its inception in 2007,” said Dunlap.
According to Potter, interest from African, European, North and South American countries to participate in APS continues to grow.
Prior to visiting southern Africa, Swift visited Pointe Noire, Republic of Congo, Lome, Togo and Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire. From East London, Swift will visit Durban before going to Mozambique and thereafter continuing up the east African coast.
Built in Australia and privately owned and operated by Sealift Inc, the Swift is chartered to the United States Navy Military Sealift Command for her humanitarian partnership missions. As a result, the ship operating crew is civilian, while the balance of the crew is made up of US Naval and Marine members. As part of APS, the Swift transports US military training teams to conduct maritime training with regional civil and maritime services.
With its’ large cargo deck, the Swift is able to transport approximately 615 t of cargo. Much of this is carried under Project Handclasp. Project Handclasp is a US Navy program that accepts and transports educational, humanitarian and goodwill material on a space-available basis aboard US Navy ships for distribution to foreign nation recipients.
According to Wikipedia, the Swift is a wave-piercing, aluminum-hulled, commercial catamaran with military enhancements, such as a helicopter flight deck, strengthened vehicle deck, small boat and unmanned vehicle launch and recovery capability, and an enhanced communications suite. It features a new, modular design, which will allow the ship to be refitted to support any mission without requiring long shipyard periods. As a logistics vessel, it does not have water-tight compartments or weapons systems. Its propulsion is provided by directional water jets, powered by four Caterpillar 3618 marine diesel engines.
At low weight and under ideal conditions, the Swift is able to achieve a top speed of 45 knots.
Although home-ported in Norfolk, Virginia, the Swift only spends a few weeks a year in the continental US for maintenance. The rest of the time is spent delivering aid and advancing maritime security.

Pic: The Swift in Simon’s Town. Credit: Dean Wingrin