Naval forces and organisations from across 14 nations have officially started the US Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF) led multilateral maritime exercise Cutlass Express 2023 (CE23).

An opening ceremony to mark the beginning of CE23 was held at Coast Guard Training Center in Djibouti on 5 March.

Participating nations include the US, the UK, France, Canada, Djibouti, Mauritius, Comoros, Greece, Mozambique, Seychelles, Georgia, Kenya, Madagascar and Tanzania.

Sponsored by the US Africa Command, CE23 provides an opportunity to boost interoperability between the US, African and international partner nations, while simultaneously enabling them to address their common transnational maritime concerns.

It aims to enhance collective maritime law enforcement capacity as well as bolster national and regional security in the Western Indian Ocean region.

The exercise is taking place in and around Djibouti, Kenya and Mauritius. Besides, this iteration will feature a series of shore-based and at-sea training activities off the eastern coast of Africa.

CE23 will be linked together with Naval Forces Central Command’s (NAVCENT) International Maritime Exercise, which is currently underway.

NAVCENT vice commander rear admiral Robert Nowakowski said: “Security in East Africa, the Indian Ocean and in Africa as a whole, matters for global stability.

“By deterring piracy, preventing illicit trafficking, and stopping illegal fishing, we are making the world safer. By working together, we can address these challenges in a way that no single nation can on its own.”

CE23 will focus on improving maritime interdiction, maritime domain awareness, information sharing with Maritime Operation Centers and counter-proliferation interdiction to counter illicit maritime instances to strengthen East Africa’s safety and security.

All the participating forces will undertake exercises to deter illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing, illicit trafficking and oil bunkering activities abiding by the Jeddah Amendment to the Djibouti Code of Conduct implemented in 2017.