DAKAR, Senegal -- Members of the U.S. Naval forces along with African and European maritime partners concluded the annual multinational exercise, Saharan Express, March 14.
During Saharan Express 2014, which began March 6, maritime forces from seven African nations, five European nations and the United States executed a multitude of scenarios, resulting in sharpened strategic and tactical expertise designed to increase collaboration on regional maritime security.
“Saharan Express is important because it is aimed at maritime security capacity building. This will help extend law and order into the waters that supply so many resources in all our countries,” said Sandra Clark, charge d’affaires at the United States Embassy in Dakar. “This training will not only benefit West Africa and West Africans. This training will have a direct impact on security in Europe, North America and the rest of this evermore interconnected world. As economic growth improves, we will all see the benefits of a wealthier world with more trading partners. The benefits of your training will be felt an ocean away.”
The fourth annual exercise was conducted across three different operational hubs in waters near Cabo Verde and Senegal. Scenarios included counter-piracy, counter-illicit trafficking and illegal fishing.
“I am pleased that the exercise scenarios that were selected and executed this year are realistic and perfectly reflect the treats proliferating in the maritime area of Africa,” said Rear Adm. Cheikh Bara Cissokho, Senegalese chief of navy staff. “Indeed, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing drug trafficking and arms smuggling are scourges that require all maritime stakeholders to have a constant vigilance and continuous training of defense forces and security.”
Saharan Express is one of four African regional “Express” series exercises facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet. The objective of the exercise was to increase regional cooperation, Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA)/information sharing and improve communications and interoperability among participating forces to strengthen regional partner nations’ capabilities to counter maritime threats.
“Each Saharan Express has built on the successes of the previous year’s work. I am proud to say that we have helped to advance the region’s ability to preserve maritime security through stronger professional bonds as well as improved communications and finely tuned skills,” said U.S. Navy Capt. John Tokarewich, Saharan Express 2014 exercise director, during the closing ceremony here.
Participating nations felt that the exercise was beneficial to improving skill sets that can be used in real-world operations. Additionally, African partners will play a larger role in planning future iterations of the annual exercise.
“Saharan Express 2014 is a turning point since the beginning of the organization of the exercise. Indeed, this year was marked by the gradual transfer of responsibilities to the Navies and Coast Guards of West Africa with regard to planning, conduct of operations and logistical support. This is timely and fits perfectly in line with the objectives of the integrated Maritime Policy of the Economic Community of West African States,” Cissoko said.