Multinational Program Assists African Maritime Security
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 26, 2009 A number of African nations are learning how to make their ports, waterways and offshore areas safer and more secure, thanks to a Navy-led, multinational maritime partnership program, a senior U.S. officer said today.
The African Partnership Station initiative began in the fall of 2007, when the USS Fort McHenry provided onboard maritime safety and security classes to participating West African countries situated on the Gulf of Guinea, Navy Rear Adm. William P. Loeffler told reporters during a roundtable discussion at the Foreign Press Center here.
The APS’s “open and unclassified” mission, Loeffler said, is “to improve maritime safety and security in Africa.”
Joint medical teams also provide instruction as part of the APS initiative, said Loeffler, who is the director for policy, resources and strategy with U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, based at Naples, Italy.
The APS program is now engaged in instructing maritime personnel from Eastern, Western and Central African host nations, Loeffler said. Amphibious ships like the USS Fort McHenry, he said, offer ample room for classrooms as well as shallow drafts that enable them to enter and berth at most African ports.
Many African countries have favored setting up land forces, rather than establishing maritime services to patrol waterways, ports and offshore domains, Loeffler said.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise, he said, that some of Africa’s coastlines, waterways and ports have become conduits for illegal activities such as drug, arms and oil smuggling; human trafficking and illegal immigration and migration; unlawful fishing; and other illicit actions.
In fact, Loeffler said, illegal fishing operations conducted off African coasts is estimated to cost local economies more than $1 billion annually.
Besides maritime-security training, he said, the APS’s curriculum also addresses waterway safety, as well as search and rescue, humanitarian relief, environmental overwatch and other missions.
African countries involved with APS have asked for maritime capability and capacity training, Loeffler said, adding the United States has responded to these requests.
Feedback from participating countries, among which include Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Kenya, Gabon, Mozambique, Tanzania and others, is positive, Loeffler said.
The APS is not a U.S. military-centric activity, Loeffler emphasized. Rather, he said, it is a multinational, multiagency endeavor that includes participation by the U.S. State Department, U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other organizations.
“It’s not just the U.S. Navy doing this; this is truly an international effort,” Loeffler pointed out, noting that Italian experts working with the program are providing lessons on how to prevent oil spills.