Dar es Salaam, Tanzania — Sailors and maritime professionals from eight nations wrapped up Exercise Cutlass Express 2012-2 (CE12-2) today after a week of multinational maritime events in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden, Nov. 1-8.
This year's exercise took place at sea in the vicinity of Djibouti, Djibouti; Port Louis, Mauritius and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania with coordination among regional maritime operations centers. Participating countries in CE12-2 include Djibouti, Mauritius, Mozambique, the Netherlands, the Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda, and the United States.
Held only for the second time since its inauguration last fall, Cutlass Express is an East African maritime exercise focusing on counter-piracy, counter-narcotics and illegal fishing, that focuses on information sharing and coordinated operations among international navies.
"We came here to work together with others in East Africa and to learn from one another," said Mozambique navy 1st Lieutenant Zacarias Moreno, operations officer for Mozambique's naval headquarters. "We know that working together and sharing information is the way to decrease piracy."
Throughout the week, participants honed their skills in maritime interdiction operations (MIO) including visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) techniques and practiced first aid techniques before heading out to sea to test their training in events based on real-world scenarios.
"This has been a good experience for the Royal Netherlands Navy and Marine Corps' VBSS trainers to share standard operating and tactical procedures from recent experiences with East African and U.S. partners," said Major Patrick van Rooij, Royal Netherlands Navy's headquarters operations planner.
"This will help to improve maritime interdiction and VBSS skills with navies in this important region."
Scenarios included counter-piracy, illicit trafficking and illegal fishing; issues that threaten not only East Africa, but all maritime nations.
Vessels that participated in the week-long exercise ranged from small rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIBs) to HNLMS Rotterdam (L800), flagship of Operation Ocean Shield, NATO's anti-piracy campaign off the Horn of Africa.
At sea, participating vessels coordinated with regional maritime operation centers in Djibouti, Tanzania, and Mauritius, to share information about simulated threats such as vessels suspected of piracy, smuggling drugs and weapons, or conducting illegal fishing. Once confirmed, boarding teams were sent to investigate and disrupt these simulated activities.
But navies cannot work alone.
U.S. Navy Commander Sueann Schorr, Cutlass Express exercise control group lead, who oversees the communications of the vessels from shore, spoke of the importance of navies and civilian maritime organizations working together.
"The extent that civilian maritime rescue coordination centers (MRCCs) and international navies were able to work together during this exercise has been quite impressive," she said. "By practicing the scenarios, standard operating procedures were developed and refined for each location and situation. I believe that MRCCs and participating navies involved now feel more confident in their ability to deal with a situation involving piracy, illicit trafficking or illegal fishing."
CE12-2 is one of four regional Express Series exercises and puts to test skills learned from previous Africa Partnership Station (APS) engagements. Earlier this year, APS events in East Africa were facilitated by high-speed vessel Swift (HSV 2) with port visits to Mozambique, Tanzania and Djibouti as well as theater-security cooperation port visits to South Africa.
APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa.