Naval personnel from East Africa, South Africa, Europe, Indian Ocean nations, the US and several international organisations have started the fourth iteration of the multinational maritime Exercise Cutlass Express.
Supported by the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), the exercise aims to bolster regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness and information-sharing practices to help East African and Indian Ocean nations battle sea-based illicit activity.
US ambassador to Mauritius Shari Villarosa said: "Maritime security has long been a cornerstone of US security policy.
"All of our nations are bound together by the oceans, therefore it is in our collective interest to work together as partners. Each of our nations will be stronger as a result of our close partnership."
Using The Djibouti Code of Conduct as a framework for practising information-sharing traditions and imposing maritime rule of law at sea, the exercise forms part of a broad strategy by CNE-CNA/C6F and AFRICOM to offer collaborative opportunities among African partners dealing with maritime security issues.
The eight-day event, which will be conducted in the surrounding area of two operational hubs including Djibouti, Djibouti and Port Louis, Mauritius, involves three days of at-sea scenarios to assess boarding teams and watchstanders in the maritime operations centres.
US Navy Destroyer Squadron 60 deputy commander captain Richard Dromerhauser said: "We commit to Cutlass Express because we share a common goal: safety and security at sea.
"A secure maritime environment ensures that global trade continues unimpeded."
Nations taking part in the exercise include Australia, Canada, Comoros, Djibouti, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Seychelles, Tanzania and Turkey, in addition to US representatives from the Eastern Africa Standby Force, EU Naval Force, International Maritime Organization and the Combined Maritime Forces.
Image: Maritime officials during the opening ceremony of Exercise Cutlass Express 2015. Photo: courtesy of mass communication specialist 1st class David R. Krigbaum.