Naval personnel from Eastern Africa, Western Indian Ocean island nations, Europe and the US, as well as several international organisations have commenced the fifth 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 practises to help East African and Indian Ocean nation combat sea-based illicit activity.
Cutlass Express tactical commander and Task Force 65/Destroyer Squadron 60 deputy commodore Captain Tate Westbrook said: "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.
"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 eight day exercise will be conducted in the surrounding area of two operational hubs including Djibouti and Port Victoria.
The exercise will involve an in-port preparatory phase and three days of at-sea scenarios to assess boarding teams and watchstanders in the maritime operations centres.
Maritime Operations Centers (MOCs) of participating nations will assess the tracking and reporting procedures of dummy vessels.
The participating nations will exercise their skills on scenarios promoted by Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) to track and hinder any potential supply of materials intended to be assembled into mass destruction weapons.
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 Cutlass Express exercise will also include a three-day seminar to be conducted by the US Naval War College (NWC) aimed at developing the national maritime strategies.
Image: Captain Tate Westbrook speaking during the Cutlass Express 2016 opening ceremony. Photo: courtesy of US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mat Murch / Released.