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Plans underway for fourth year of Africa Partnership Station
The international naval collaboration designed to assist African nations with maritime safety and security threats – the Africa Partnership Station (APS) – brought with it several "firsts" in the past year, and planners hope 2011 will be no
PARIS (June 22, 2010)  †Imed Zammit of the African Union (AU), discusses the AU's priorities in support of Africa's maritime domain during the second day of the Africa Partnership Station (APS) 2011 Main Planning Conference  in Paris, June 23, 2010. Naval officers and maritime experts from 21 African nations, along with 6 European partners and the U.S., are meeting this week to develop activities for the 2011 deployment of APS ships.  APS, U.S. Africa Command's primary maritime security engagement program, is the U.S. Navy's initiative designed to help African partner nations build their maritime security capabilities through year-round training events along the east and west coasts of Africa. Zammit is the head of maritime and inland water transport for the AU. (Photo by Kenneth Fidler)
1 photo: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 1: PARIS (June 22, 2010) †Imed Zammit of the African Union (AU), discusses the AU's priorities in support of Africa's maritime domain during the second day of the Africa Partnership Station (APS) 2011 Main Planning Conference in Paris, June 23, 2010. Naval officers and maritime experts from 21 African nations, along with 6 European partners and the U.S., are meeting this week to develop activities for the 2011 deployment of APS ships. APS, U.S. Africa Command's primary maritime security engagement program, is the U.S. Navy's initiative designed to help African partner nations build their maritime security capabilities through year-round training events along the east and west coasts of Africa. Zammit is the head of maritime and inland water transport for the AU. (Photo by Kenneth Fidler) Download full-resolution version
The international naval collaboration designed to assist African nations with maritime safety and security threats – the Africa Partnership Station (APS) – brought with it several "firsts" in the past year, and planners hope 2011 will be no different.
APS will begin its fourth year in January, and representatives from 21 African nations, 6 European nations and the U.S. this week are designing a program to offer more training opportunities and will seek to expand the reach of the program.
"My brothers from the African countries who are here will contribute immensely," said Nigerian Vice Admiral Il Ibrahim, the chief of Nigeria's naval staff, and a special guest at the opening day of the APS 2010 Main Planning Conference.
This week's conference, which concludes June 25, is the main effort to determine the hundreds of training and familiarization activities that will take place with the navies along both the east and west coasts of Africa. These are designed in response to specific requests from African partners.
"Our partnership continues to grow," said Rear Admiral Gerard Hueber, deputy chief of staff for strategy, resources and plans, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa. "We are all listening to our partners, and it's our goal to incorporate lessons learned from both East and West Africa into next year's evolutions."
Hueber said some initiatives being looked at are providing longer duration training courses, more underway operations, more exercises, and shorter classroom training sessions. "That's more with our African partners in their ships, their boats, their crews, at sea," he said.
APS is an initiative by the U.S. Navy in response to a Gulf of Guinea Maritime Safety and Security Ministerial Conference in Benin in 2006, when ministers of 11 nations affirmed their commitment to address maritime safety and security issues.
Africa's coastal states contend with a wide range of challenges at sea, to include illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, oil theft, piracy, illicit trade, narcotics and human trafficking, environmental degradation, and other illegal and illegitimate activities, according to officials here from the African Union and U.S. Naval Forces Africa, the U.S. Africa Command (U.S. AFRICOM) lead component for APS.
Although APS uses primarily U.S. Navy platforms and facilities, it is very much an international program, with more than 20 nations – African, European, and more recently Brazil – participating to assist African nations improve maritime security, stability and safety.
It has been characterized as a "floating schoolhouse," where classroom work is followed by at-sea, hands-on training. Since the program began in 2007, thousands of African sailors and marines have been trained in such areas as leadership, maritime domain awareness, maintenance, navigation, small boat handling and other maritime-centered and professional military topics.
During his opening remarks, Ibrahim reminded the audience that the turn of the 20th century brought "significant changes in global security, the environment that led to the emergence of numerous security challenges."
Ibrahim emphasized that the dynamic of those challenges requires multinational cooperation in maritime strategy. "The complexity of these threats, which include maritime terrorism, has increased the need for increased collaboration and cooperation among maritime societies and security institutions," he said.
After three years, the APS program has evolved from a handful of ships making several port visits in West African nations, to eight U.S. and European ships working along both coastlines year-round and conducting comprehensive maritime training programs with African navies.
Some highlights of APS:
-In 2009, APS saw its first major foreign-led ship, the Dutch ship Johann de Witt. A Belgian ship this past spring finished the second foreign-led deployment. Spanish and German ships have participated in at-sea training programs, as well.
-A senior Nigerian naval officer served as the deputy commander onboard this past spring's APS West USS Gunston Hall deployment, leading an international command staff of 10 African and 4 European nations.
-Typically focused on coastal nations of West Africa, namely the Gulf of Guinea, APS expanded in 2009 to the east coast, and worked with nations such as Djibouti, Mozambique and Tanzania.
-In 2010, a second ship was added to the East Coast deployment. Its international staff consisted of officers from Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Mauritius and Brazil. Notably, the president of Tanzania, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwet, toured the APS East platform USS Nicholas January 23, 2010, in Dar es Salaam.
Ambassador Tony Holmes, U.S. Africa Command's deputy to the commander for civil-military activities DCMA, provided the conference's keynote address June 22.
The nature of security challenges in Africa are not conducive to short-term, unilateral or bilateral solutions, Holmes told the more than 200 conference participants.
"They virtually all require a regional approach and multilateral engagement," he said, echoing Ibrahim's comments and underscoring how AFRICOM attempts to encourage and facilitate cooperation among regional neighbors and its work with the African Union's peace and security architecture.
He said AFRICOM wants to continue to be part of the solution, and he described the military-to-military engagement work of U.S. Africa Command as "front and center."
"It is the nature of the command," he said. "We tend to focus on building partner capacity – building capacity of African nations to provide for their own security. We are all about engagement ... and I want to say here sustained engagement. That is what AFRICOM brings to African nations."
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