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Global Partnership Works to Increase African Maritime Safety

By Seaman William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 21, 2008 – A multinational, multi–agency effort is working with West and Central Africa partners to increase their capability and capacity in maritime safety and security, a senior member of that effort said yesterday.

Africa Partnership Station is part of a larger initiative called Global Maritime Partnership, which was created to fight maritime threats in certain regions, U.S. Navy Capt. John Nowell, commodore of APS, told online journalists and bloggers in a conference call.

“When you look at things like narcotics trafficking, illegal fishing, and illegal oil bunkering, no one country can go at these threats by themselves, so you need a partnership,” Nowell said.

Africa Partnership Station provides a persistent presence in the western and central regions of Africa to help in building the regions’ capability to deal with those threats, he explained.

The APS task force has a staff of commissioned officers and enlisted servicemembers from 11 nations.

“Collectively, this team allowed us to engage with 15 West and Central African nations using multiple platforms,” Nowell said. “We were able to train over 1,500 students in 1,700-plus courses of instruction and in more than 15 discrete courses of instruction, like martial arts, small-boat operations or maritime law.”

In addition to those courses, Nowell said, APS has been able to focus on the training for maritime safety and security, conducting humanitarian assistance and community outreach.

“[APS] has distributed more than 1 million high-nutrition meals, delivered more than $3.4 million worth of medical equipment, … and built a dual-use health clinic, as well as [conducting] medical and dental outreach,” Nowell said. “Maybe more importantly, just as we take a train-the-trainer approach when we’re working with the navies or coast guards here, our health professionals trained 185 midwives and 164 nurses, so that can become self-sustaining.”

Because many of the African countries do not have maritime professionals, APS has tapped the U.S. Naval Reserve community to help with capability and capacity building, Nowell said. Reservists can be deployed to these countries anywhere from several weeks to five months to help with coordination and labor that’s involved in the Maritime Partnership Program, he added.

U.S. Navy Seabees and U.S. Coast Guard personnel are in Africa working on several projects that include building clinics and a school, and conducting some law enforcement operations such as vessel boarding, search and seizure, Nowell noted.

In addition to being in western and central Africa, Global Maritime Partnership has started to engage eastern and southern Africa, as well.

“We’re not quite to the stage of … the Africa Partnership Station approach there yet,” Nowell said. “Some of that is just the maturity of the engagement, and some, frankly, is also the issue of resources. Right now it’s West and Central Africa, and then as additional assets become available, we will continue the engagement on a more limited basis off East and South Africa.”

While APS hasn’t moved to the inland countries yet, Nowell said, U.S. Army and Marine Corps involvement could lead to that.

“The Army expressed interest, and we will probably have Marines on board [the USS Nashville] do some training,” he said. “So while we’re not necessarily doing that with the inland countries right now, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t.”

(Navy Seaman William Selby works in the New Media branch of the Defense Media Activity.)

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