Posts Tagged 'Maritime security'

10 Things about Phoenix Express 2012

SOUDA BAY, Crete (May 9, 2012) – Chief Fire Controlman Timothy Wheeler, a member of the boarding team from guided-missile frigate USS Simpson (FFG 56), secures a stairway during an exercise aboard the training ship Aris at the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Center during Phoenix Express 2012 (PE12). PE12, a multi-national maritime exercise between Southern European, North African and U.S. Naval forces, is designed to improve cooperation among participating nations and help increase safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian A. Goyak/Released)

Phoenix Express is an at-sea exercise designed to improve cooperation on maritime safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea. Representatives from North African and Southern European countries and the U.S. practice tactics and share techniques. Here’s a brief introduction:

1) This is the seventh time Phoenix Express has occurred. (Check out one story from Phoenix Express 2011.)

2) The exercise this spring runs from May 7 to May 30, 2012.

 3) Phoenix Express is one of four African “Express” exercises designed to test skills learned in previous training events. (Read about Saharan Express, which recently wrapped up.)

4) Representatives from 11 countries are participating or observing this time: Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Libya, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey and United States.

5) The exercise is packed with learning and sharing. Scenarios involve search and rescue, boarding drills, communication drills and information management techniques. Workshops will also be held on such topics as operations and safety, damage control and firefighting, deck seamanship, navigation, small boat operations and leadership, and more.

6) Why is the U.S. participating? One part of the overall strategy of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF) is to enhance regional stability by strengthening maritime partnerships. As General Ham, AFRICOM commander, wrote in his 2012 Posture Statement, “Our objectives for maritime security include developing maritime domain awareness, increasing response capabilities, and fostering regional integration and cooperation.”

7) The guided-missile frigate USS Simpson is part of the exercise.

8) A portion of the exercise will be held at NATO Maritime Interdiction Operation Center in Souda Bay, Greece. The center was established in 2003 to focus on Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO) training.

9) The exercise offers the opportunity to learn before real-life situations occur. “One of the biggest obstacles we encountered was the language barrier,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Brenton Paulk, a staff instructor from Rota, Spain. “It’s something we are learning to overcome during our training, and I think learning how to interact with other nations will be helpful during real-world maritime interdiction operation.” (Read more: “PE12 Continues Multinational Training, Promotes Teamwork“)

10) Phoenix Express 2012 also includes a medical component. U.S. medical personnel from  the U.S. Army Reserve 396th Combat Support Hospital shared techniques such as applying tourniquets.

Read more:

PE12 Continues Multinational Training, Promotes Teamwork

“Phoenix Express 2012 Conducts MIO Training” 

“Phoenix Express 2012 Begins in Souda Bay”

View photos on Flickr:

Phoenix Express 2012 

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Benin maritime conference wraps up

Delegates at the Maritime Safety and Security Seminar this week in Benin. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Olufemi Owolabi/U.S. Africa Command)

A record number of piracy attacks were reported in the Gulf of Guinea last year, according to the International Maritime Organization, making it one of the top 10 piracy hotspots in the world and prompting a push by insurers to label the region “high risk.”

Those are distinctions countries in the area would like to see go away.

This week in Benin, member states of the Economic Community of West African States and the Economic Community of Central African States  discussed how to prevent piracy, smuggling and other security challenges affecting the region’s waterways and commercial trade. The two groups, plus experts and representatives from outside organizations, met for two days at the annual Maritime Safety and Security Seminar, hosted by U.S. Africa Command and the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

In October, the United Nations passed resolution 2018, which encourages the affected states to work together and also calls for more international aid and a UN assessment mission. Also last year, Nigeria and Benin launched joint sea patrols that resulted in the arrests of at least eight alleged pirates.

The seminar built on previous meetings and continued the effort to cement an agreement between the West and Central African states involved.

“This initiative comes at a time when the menace of and threat posed by piracy is touching the pillars of the economy of both the coastal and land locked states in our region,” according to Lt. Col. Abdourahmane Dieng, Senegal head of regional security. “Within West Africa, and the Gulf of Guinea in particular, we can identify a series of trans-border crimes such as hijacking, armed robbery, illegal migration, illicit fishing, toxic waste dumping, human trafficking, illegal drug trafficking, piracy and hostage taking.”

Col. Austin Anyalechi, a Nigerian Army engineer and his country’s defense attaché to Cotonou, said collaborative efforts like those emphasized at this week’s meeting are key to preventing maritime crime and security threats.

“All efforts have been made by individual nations, but no single nation can combat the problem of piracy alone,” Anyalechi said. “That’s why it calls for the need for synergy. So, with the two economic communities coming together under this kind of arrangement, I am very optimistic that it is actually going to yield the desired result of curbing the menace of piracy and sea robbery, and other related forms of maritime insecurity.

Note: Staff Sgt. Olufemi Owolabi, U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs, reported this week from Benin. Click here to read the entire story. 

Africa Snapshot: Benin

Interested in learning more about Africa? Watch for updates in our ongoing series that delivers a quick intro about an African country.

Map of Benin

Africa map highlighting Benin (Source: CIA Factbook)

Today we bring you a snapshot of Benin, where the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) are meeting this week to discuss efforts to improve maritime safety and security in the region.

Where is Benin? Benin is a small country in West Africa – about the size of Pennsylvania. Its coastline is on the Bight of Benin, part of the Gulf of Guinea.

Royal roots: Dahomey, a prominent West African kingdom, once ruled the land that is now southern Benin. The kingdom of Dahomey rose in the 15th century and ruled for centuries. The French took over the territory in the late 19th century. When the colony became independent in the 1960, the area adopted the name Dahomey again as the Republic of Dahomey. The name was later changed to the Republic of Benin.

Leading the way to democracy: In 1991, Benin underwent the first successful transition in Africa from a dictatorship to a democracy. Then-Prime Minister Nicephore Soglo was elected the first president. (Today he’s the mayor of Cotonou, Benin’s largest city.)

Rising youth population: Of the 9 million people in Benin, about 45% are 14 years old or younger.

Religion: Benin is one of the few African countries where the majority of people practice indigenous religions. Voodoo is practiced along the coastal area.

Malaria woes: This mosquito-borne disease is the No. 1 killer in Benin. Read about the government’s combined efforts with UNICEF to help enlist citizens in preventative measures (UK’s Guardian).

U.S. partnerships: Benin works with the U.S. on various exercises and trainings, such as African Partnership Flight(APF). APF is a two-week, military-to-military regional engagement event. Service members from Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Senegal and the United States participated in classroom instruction and hands-on aircraft training recently in Accra, Ghana.

Benin flag

Benin flag (source: CIA Factbook)

Piracy: Attacks by pirates are on the rise in West Africa.  “According to the IMB Annual Report, a total of eight hijackings, ten vessel boardings, and two other piracy attacks were reported near Benin in 2011, compared with no incidents in 2010.” (From One Earth Future Foundation) Since the recent piracy began, ship arrivals at the Port of Cotonou have dropped by 70 percent, according to Benin’s defense minister, Issifou Kogui N’Douro, in an Associated Press article: “UN says piracy off Africa’s west coast is increasing.”

Sources: CIA Factbook, “The Encyclopedia of Africa,” “Africa 2011,” Associated Press, The Guardian, “The Economic Cost of Somali Piracy.

Keep reading the blog for more from Benin and the Maritime Safety and Security Seminar happening there this week.

Benin meeting focuses on maritime security in West, Central Africa

Piracy, drug smuggling, child trafficking and illegal fishing are all challenges for the African countries that border the Gulf of Guinea.

Those issues hinder economic development, which in turn can lead to destabilization of countries. According to the director of the Maritime and Coastal Security Africa conference held in October:

Piracy and other maritime threats around Africa are now costing most international users of sea routes millions in increased fuel prices, insurance, security and ransom payments as well as costing Africa its integrity, security and position as a leading player in sea trade.

But several nations are working together to combat those challenges. Representatives from both the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) are meeting this week to continue an effort started last year to improve maritime safety and security in the region.

The same groups met last year in Garmisch, Germany. More than 100 participants from 25 nations attended, plus representatives from the International Maritime Organization, the U.S. Coast Guard and several other interested agencies. (Read more about last year’s meeting here.)

This week’s meeting is in Benin, a West African nation with a coastline on the Gulf of Guinea. ECCAS and ECOWAS member states will talk about how they can work together in order to at quickly and decisively to counter maritime threats in their sea.

Benin is a member of ECOWAS, which includes 14 other West African countries working together promote economic integration across the region.  It was started in 1975.

ECCAS, a similar coalition of 10 Central African countries, was established in 1983 but was inactive for several years due to regional conflict. It aims to maintain economic stability and raise the standard of living for its member nations.

We have a reporter at this week’s conference, and we will bring you updates throughout the week here on the blog and our other AFRICOM social media sites.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the issues discussed this week or ask us questions as the meeting and our coverage progress.


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