BY ODITA SUNDAY
A SPECIAL multinational sea exercise, which involved 16 nations, came to a close at the weekend, with the participating countries unanimously endorsing a joint fight against piracy and other illicit businesses on the sea.
The exercise, Obangame Express 2013, focused on countering piracy and maritime security operations in the Gulf of Guinea. Camerounian government, in the city of Duoala, hosted the three-day exercise.
The operation provided Africa, Europe and other partnering maritime nations the opportunity to work together, share information and refine methods of tackling issues of security in the Gulf of Guinea for better monitoring and enforcement of the rules on territorial waters and¬†the exclusive economic zone.
During the exercise, the participants conducted training towards improvement in inter-operability between maritime forces of the participating nations, as well as the skills of individual ship. The training included sea ship boarding, air operations, communications drills and regional information sharing.
At the closing ceremony, the Commander, United States-African Command, General Carter Ham, said that maritime partnership and security were becoming increasingly important in the Gulf of Guinea to combat a variety of challenges, including maritime crime, illicit trafficking and piracy.
Director and Coordinator of the Exercise, Captain Dave Rollo, of the United States Navy, said Obangame Express would help to promote relationships among nations to combat illicit activities in the Gulf of Guinea. According to him, piracy is a global problem that must be jointly tackled.
The Camerounian Defence Minister, Mr. Meme Ago‚Äôo Edward Alain, said naval forces within the region must effectively strengthen the intervention capability using maritime surveillance system and reliable equipment. ‚ÄúThe required harmonisation of operational procedures of multinational players involved in securing the Gulf of Guinea guarantees the effectiveness of our naval forces in maintaining maritime security and safety.¬† ¬† Maritime security is a prerequisite for attracting investment, promoting trade and continuing economic development,‚Äù he said.