Maritime forces from Gulf of Guinea nations, Europe, South America, and the United States and several regional and international organizations concluded the multinational maritime exercise, Obangame Express 2015, March 27.
Obangame Express, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), was designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices and tactical interdiction expertise to enhance the collective capabilities of Gulf of Guinea nations to counter sea-based illicit activity.
“The maritime security challenges threaten global trade and the economies of the countries in the region, requiring collaborative effort to combat. We have some examples of the impact of the collaborative efforts between local stakeholders and the sub-regional partners that confirm the value of partnership. It is for this reason I am calling on the participating navies especially those from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Economic Community of Central African State (ECCAS) to use this exercise as a foundation to enhance their cooperation to ensure a safe maritime security environment.”
– Ghana Vice President Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur
“I am confident that our forces will be able to work together more effectively to address regional challenges. More than that, as we have spent the last two weeks operating together, talking meaningfully with – and learning from – one another, what we have really done is improve our relationships. Now, when challenges arise, we can respond cohesively, collectively, and effectively, because we know each other, we’ve worked together, and we’ve built trust and friendships.”
– Commander, U.S. Navy 6th Fleet Vice Adm. James Foggo
“With nine European partners, partners from South America and the United States, along with the 12 African partner nations, I think that the amount of resources that’s being dedicated throughout 23 nations to participate and make this exercise successful is indicative to us of the seriousness of maritime security and its importance in this region to continue to grow the economy and bring security and stability to the waters. The African Partner nations are working diligently towards enhancing, improving and expanding their capabilities to project the maritime security and improve the maritime security in their waters. Through this exercise, we are continuing to expand those relationships, and to work collectively to maintain maritime security.”
– Capt. John Rinko, officer in tactical command of Obangame Express 2015
The safety and economical security of the Gulf of Guinea member states depends in substantial part upon the secure use of our waters. There is therefore the need to review and strengthen all our strategies and efforts to combat the evolving threats in our maritime domain. These efforts have clearly been spelled out in the Yaounde Code of Conduct, which is supposed to be fully operationalized by 2015. Exercise Obangame Express is one of the primary efforts in ensuring that the framework of the Yaounde Code of Conduct is operationalized. No one nation can do it alone and therefore putting our effort together, with of the assistance of our international partners is the right direction.”
– Commodore Mark Ransford Nanabayin Yawson, Ghana Navy flag officer fleet
- Exercise Obangame Express, now in its fifth year, is one of four U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa-facilitated regional exercises. The exercise is part of a comprehensive strategy by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet and AFRICOM to provide collaborative opportunities amongst African forces and international partners that addresses maritime security concerns.
- The exercise sought to leverage the Code of Conduct for West and Central Africa, which provides a regional framework for cooperation and information sharing.
- The exercise lasted nine days and included a two-phase underway portion that encompassed a regional framework, and then transitioned to an emphasis on national patrols.
- The Maritime Operations Centers (MOCs) exercised information sharing practices during the event.
- Specific skill sets exercised included boarding techniques, search and rescue operations, medical casualty response, radio communication, and information management techniques.
- Through enhanced cooperation, detection capabilities, and capability to respond — all objectives of Obangame Express — Gulf of Guinea nations ensured they were ready to tackle various maritime challenges, such as:
- Deterring narcotics traffickers, protection of the fishery trade, safeguarding waters from piracy, and allowing for global trade to continue unhampered.
- The Military Sealift Command’s joint high-speed vessel USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) also participated in Obangame Express.
- This year’s participating nations in Obangame Express 2015 included Angola, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome & Principe, Spain, Togo, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).