By Lt. Cmdr. Kevin West
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs
DAKAR, Senegal ‚Äì More than a dozen organizations and agencies gathered at the Admiral Faye Gassama Naval Base in Dakar to explore maritime security issues as part of Exercise Saharan Express 2013 (SE-13), March 11.
The participants, both governmental and non-governmental, represent major stakeholders in West Africa‚Äôs maritime security.
The exercise, which began March 7, is an international maritime security cooperation exercise designed to improve maritime safety and security in West Africa.
‚ÄúThis is only the second time maritime stakeholders have been together as part of an Express-series exercise,‚Äù said maritime outreach project manager Kirsty McLean. ‚ÄúCivil society has a really important role to play in maritime security. Integrating all these agencies into the process makes a much more effective process.‚Äù
Participating agencies included the Department of Fisheries, World Wildlife Fund, World Bank Fisheries Project, the United Nations Office for West Africa, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, University of Dakar, Maritime Affairs Agency, Ministere de l‚ÄôEnvironment, Ministere de l‚ÄôInterieur, Ministere des Forces Armees, the presidentially-appointed coordinating body for Senegalese maritime security HASSMAR, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the COMFISH fisheries project.
McLean said the goal of the tabletop discussion was to familiarize the participants with the purpose and process of the exercise and to document the flow of information-sharing for each of the scenario events.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs an introduction of a whole society approach to maritime security in West Africa,‚Äù she said.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not just about fighting the bad guys who hurt people through piracy and the illegal trafficking of persons and weapons,‚Äù said U.S. exercise director Capt. Andrew Lennon. ‚ÄúWe do that, yes, but there‚Äôs also a benefit to the economy in reducing the illegal fishing that‚Äôs going on. That‚Äôs a benefit to the economy of every nation in the region.‚Äù
SE-13, which has occurred annually since 2011, is one of the four African regional Express-series exercises known as Africa Partnership Station (APS). The regional maritime exercises test skills learned from previous APS training events.
As part of the U.S. Navy‚Äôs global maritime partnerships, APS was developed to support sustained, focused training and multinational and organizational collaboration on a regional scale in order to increase maritime safety and security in Africa.
Fourteen nations are participating in SE-13 including Cape Verde, Cote d‚ÄôIvoire, France, The Gambia, Liberia, Mauritania, Morocco, The Netherlands, Portugal, Senegal, Sierra Leon, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.