VICTORIA, Seychelles (NNS) — Maritime forces from East Africa, West Indian Ocean nations, Europe, and the United States, as well as several international organizations, concluded the seventh iteration of the annual multinational maritime exercise Cutlass Express 2018, Feb. 7.
Cutlass Express, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and conducted by U.S. Naval Forces Africa was designed to assess and improve combined maritime law enforcement capacity, promote national and regional security in East Africa.
"We appreciate the enormous effort Seychelles put in to hosting this year's exercise," said David Reimer, U.S. ambassador to Seychelles and Mauritius. "Maritime security was the first thing President Faure and I discussed yesterday. It's not just a U.S. concern, or just a Seychelles concern, it's an international priority."
The exercise lasted eight days and included an in-port preparatory phase, five days of underway visit, board, search and seizure drills as well as various workshops in Seychelles and Djibouti.
"The Djiboutians have always been wonderful and gracious hosts – both for this exercise and for the U.S. military in a more broad sense," said Capt. John Tully, senior defense attache at the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti. "With Cutlass Express they accommodate a group of partners from the region, as well as further afield, for a multinational exercise, and that's huge. I think it speaks volumes about their status as a regional leader in maritime security and even in broader security issues."
The U.S. Navy War College additionally facilitated a senior leaders' symposium (SLS), which promoted the development of national maritime strategies and the development of operational concepts and capabilities to operationalize maritime strategy.
"The SLS provided a phenomenal opportunity for us to meet our African partners in the region," said Rear Adm. Shawn Duane, vice commander, U.S. 6th Fleet. "Together, they provided a great baseline where we can talk about different issues and challenges in maritime security in the East African waters and West Indian Ocean."
The participating nations successfully tested their ability to illicit trafficking, piracy, illegal fishing, as well as search and rescue situations. Maritime operations centers gave participating nations the ability to track and report procedures of simulated suspect vessels.
This year's exercise was the first in 27 years that Somalia participated in an international exercise outside their borders.
"That fact alone makes this event historic and shows the progress we're making as a team as we work together in the region," said Duane.
Nations that participated in this year's exercise included Australia, Canada, Comoros, Denmark, Djibouti, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Turkey and the United States.
Cutlass Express is one of three Africa-focused regional, "Express" series exercises sponsored by U.S. AFRICOM and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet. The exercise falls under Africa Partnership Station, the umbrella program for the Express series of exercises and other capacity-building initiatives throughout Africa.