The International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) 2016 has commenced in the Middle East to demonstrate collaborative defence efforts in mine detection and clearance missions.

IMCMEX aims at protecting the region against any maritime threats to allow a disrupted access to the world to tap into the resources.

Termed as the world’s largest maritime exercise, and organised and led by the US Naval Forces Central Command, the exercise will see participation from international naval and civilian maritime forces from more than 30 nations across six continents.

“This exercise is a great opportunity for us to build proficiency and test the latest technology.”

During the exercise, participating navies will engage in a range of defensive operations comprising of mine countermeasures, diving operations, small-boat exercises, maritime security operations coordinated with industrial and commercial shipping, unmanned underwater vehicle operations, and port clearance operations.

The exercise will also exhibit new technologies such as unmanned underwater vehicles and assess the sealift abilities of expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Choctaw County and afloat forward staging base USS Ponce, fitted with the US Navy’s only operational laser weapon system.

US Naval Forces Central Command commander vice-admiral Kevin Donegan said: "This exercise is also a great opportunity for us to build proficiency and test the latest technology available for ensuring the global maritime commons stay open and secure.

"It also allows us to work with our partners to reinforce adherence to the international rules and accepted behavioural norms expected of professional mariners."

According to Donegan, the Middle East features six important maritime chokepoints which are the Suez Canal, Strait of Bab Al Mandeb and the Strait of Hormuz with the latter accounting for 20% of the global oil transits.

Royal Navy Combined Maritime Forces deputy commander and leader of the exercise commodore William Warrender said: "Our aim in IMCMEX 16 is to conduct exercises with our partner nations that allow us to continue to develop our interoperability and capability to ensure that we are ready to meet potential challenges now and in the future."

Image: Explosive ordnance disposal technicians from Commander, Task Group 56.1 during the exercise. Photo: courtesy of US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Scichilone/Released.