Seventeen nations’ navies, coast guards and security forces are in the middle of a maritime security exercise in the western Indian Ocean that aims to boost capability and cooperation in the region as it faces piracy, trafficking and other concerns.
Cutlass Express 2016, which began Jan. 30 and runs until Feb. 6, is sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and is meant to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness and information sharing practices, according to a Navy statement.
Scenarios will test watchstanders’ ability to respond to illicit trafficking, piracy, illegal fishing, and search and rescue situations, according to a Navy statement. Maritime Operations Centers of participating nations will exercise tracking and reporting procedures to aid in international information sharing and enforcing international maritime law.
“Security of commerce, protection of maritime economic assets, and the prevention of piracy and illicit trafficking is a critical mission that directly affects all maritime nations,” Capt. Tate Westbrook, deputy commodore of Task Force 65/Destroyer Squadron 60 and tactical commander of Cutlass Express 2016, said in the statement.
“The Republic of Seychelles archipelago is the ideal location for this training; water conditions, weather, and its location along a pivotal trade route combine to ensure we are training here … how, when, and where it matters.”
The illicit trafficking portion is primarily focused on the movement of materials that support weapons of mass destruction, according to another Navy statement. The scenarios in the exercise are focused on the multinational Proliferation Security Initiative, with the hopes that participating countries will be able to detect and disrupt the delivery of materials used to build and develop weapons of mass destruction.
Vessel queries and ship boardings, airborne maritime patrol operations, and search and rescue drills are on the agenda for the exercise. An at-sea period earlier this week included a slew of visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) activities: maritime forces from Seychelles using a Seychellois patrol boat, forces from Madagascar using a French frigate, Mauritian coast guardsmen using a Seychellois rigid hull inflatable boat, and Rwanda Defense Force members using a Djiboutian coast guard craft.
Cutlass Express 2016 participants includes: Australia, Canada, Comoros, Djibouti, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, United Kingdom, and the United States. The Eastern Africa Standby Force, European Union Naval Force, International Maritime Organization and Combined Task Force 150 provided support for the exercise, which falls under the Africa Partnership Station series of events.