Kenya Navy take part in counter illicit maritime training

The USA led exercise has been operational since Monday, July 26.

Kenya Navy officers during a past inspection parade

Kenya Navy personnel are currently undergoing an annual maritime training exercise at Bandari Maritime Academy in Mombasa.

On Monday, July 26, Commander United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) General Stephen Townsend officiated the opening ceremony of Cutlass Express 21 (CE21).

Cutlass Express (CE) is a USAFRICOM directed annual maritime exercise conducted by the United States Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF).

It is aimed at promoting national and regional maritime security in East Africa and West Indian Ocean region.

This year’s training incorporated Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) procedures, best practices and interoperability with partner nations.

It aims to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, responsiveness of maritime assets and adherence to the rule of law and counter proliferation interdiction capabilities in order to disrupt illicit trafficking and counter piracy, revealed Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) in a press statement.

After Kenya, the VBSS exercise shall be hosted in Mauritius, Seychelles, Comoros, Tanzania, Madagascar and Djibouti.

The training focus of the Kenyan VBSS chapter is on illegal drugs, illegal fishing, trafficking of wildlife and human trafficking.

Both the Kenya Navy and Kenya Coast Guard Services have produced participating troops and vessels. Diving training will be conducted in Djibouti where Kenya Navy has been offered eight slots for divers to participate.

The exercise began with an in-port training period followed by at-sea scenarios and is set to conclude with a senior leadership symposium.

The underway portion of the exercise tests the ship’s abilities to conduct maritime interdiction operations by boarding teams against simulated suspect vessels, detecting illicit activity, and follow-on evidence collection procedures.

During the opening ceremony on Monday, General Townsend pointed out persistent challenges that continue to threaten maritime security in the region.

“Pirate groups, arms smugglers, drugs, human traffickers and illegal fishing all spread crime, fear, suffering and wreak havoc on communities and natural environments alike.

If we do not work together we cannot disrupt these groups but when we share our knowledge and coordinate our efforts, criminal and violent actors will soon find they have nowhere to turn,” he said.

Commander Kenya Navy Base Mtongwe Brigadier Thomas Ng’ang’a, highlighted the importance of training to form the foundation of any security or defence force and emphasised that it should be embraced with enthusiasm and professional focus.

“The Western Indian Ocean has been rife with many maritime challenges for a prolonged period of time due to the porous vast sea area.

However, through cooperation, sharing of information and combined training among the local bilateral and multi-lateral cooperation there has been tremendous improvement in maritime security,’’ said the Base Commander.

The 13 participating nations include Comoros, Djibouti, Georgia, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, United Kingdom, and the United States.

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