An international task force of Marines embarked the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) landing platform dock HNLMS Rotterdam (L800) Aug. 30 as part of a 3-month comprehensive effort to strengthen capabilities with African partner forces in West Africa.
The ship and combined security cooperation task force, comprised of U.S., U.K., Spanish and Dutch Marines, will conduct practical application exercises in security techniques and tactics alongside forces from partner nations Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Benin.
The combined military engagements stem from the Africa Partnership Station (APS) program. APS, established in 2007, is an international security cooperation initiative aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa.
Rotterdam, which left its homeport of Den Helder, Netherlands on Aug. 25, is supporting Africa Partnership Station under a companion capacity program called “African Winds.” Sailors of Rotterdam will work with African partners to build capabilities in maritime activities such as visit, board, search and seizure, maritime operations center planning and execution, and small boat operations.
The security cooperation task force will work with African ground forces to conduct amphibious landings and exchange best practices in infantry tactics.
U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa sees the work of Rotterdam as an extension of the international collaboration that is APS.
“We are thankful for the U.S.-Dutch partnership, as well as the involvement of the U.K. and Spanish Marines, and our African partners as we collaboratively seek to enhance the security environment in Africa,” said Rear Adm. (Select) John B. Nowell, Jr., U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy, Resources, and Plans. “African navies have made great strides to increase their maritime capabilities and this iteration of APS sets the stage to further sharpen those skills.”
Dutch senior leadership equally recognizes how vital the series of engagements will be to capability enhancements of African participants. This is second time the Royal Netherlands Navy has contributed a major Naval asset to APS, the first being the landing platform dock (LPD) ship HNLM Johan De Witt (L801) in the Fall of 2009.
“The Royal Netherlands Navy recognizes the US AFRICOM APS program as the most effective way of gradually improving the West African maritime security environment. Working alongside and together with African partner nations is to our mutual benefit,” said Royal Netherlands Marine Corps Col. Frederik R. Swart, Commander of Netherland Landing Forces participating in the APS program. “Also working with an international Marine Task Force enhances interoperability among all coalition forces involved.”
Participants from other forces also see the benefit of the combined engagements.
“The U.K. sees this engagement as an excellent opportunity to contribute to the security of the West African maritime environment and to conduct some valuable cross training with African partners and members of the combined security cooperation task force,” said Royal Marines Maj. Anthony Liva, officer in command of the Royal Marines Whiskey Company of the 45 Commando, embarked on HNLMS Rotterdam. “Training will be progressive and focused; I have no doubt that every nation involved in this initiative will benefit immensely.”
Africa Partnership Station and partner efforts like African Winds are inspired by the belief that effective maritime security and safety will contribute to the development, economic prosperity and security ashore within Africa.