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American Forces Press Service

Africa, Partners Work for Maritime Security

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2010 – The international community is taking focused, collaborative action to remove maritime insecurities in Africa, the deputy commander of U.S. Naval Forces Africa said yesterday.

Navy Vice Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. spoke to international reporters in a roundtable discussion at the State Department’s Foreign Press Center here. He talked about the complex situation in Africa and the multinational partnership committed to providing security there.

Maritime insecurities -- such as illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, oil theft, piracy, illicit trade, narcotics trafficking, human trafficking, illegal immigration and environmental degradation -- put African development in jeopardy and affect the global community, Harris said.

“These conditions foster easy avenues for transnational threats to travel within and outside of Africa, opening new routes and bases of support for criminals and extremists of every type,” he said. “These problems are complex and have deep historical roots, but these are not insurmountable problems.

“To African coastal states and the U.S. and European partners, this situation is intolerable, and the time has come to take action together, with African nations in the lead.”

The Africa Partnership Station is improving security and safety, Harris said, calling its efforts a “true international partnership.” This is possible because African nations, particularly the 11 Gulf of Guinea nations, asked for the partnership. The United States and Europe are not imposing their ships and Africa Partnership Station on the continent, he explained.

“We got the clear message from our African partners that they wanted our help to develop their capacity to provide for their own maritime security and safety,” he said. “[Africa Partnership Station] is inspired by the belief that effective maritime security and safety will contribute to the development, economic prosperity and security ashore.”

The Africa Partnership Station will see even more support from the United States and other nations through joint-training endeavors, Harris said, as more ships, equipment, people and time will be given to train willing nations. A “hub concept” the partnership will establish this year will allow ships to port longer and bring regional partners on board for classroom training, followed by hands-on training at sea, he said.

“This puts what the students have learned into practice for several days underway immediately after we've done the classroom phase,” the admiral added.

The current Africa Partnership Station mission off Africa’s eastern coast is the largest to date. Though it’s smaller than the west coast’s mission, the international staff includes sailors from Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Mauritius, and two ships dedicated to the mission.

The west coast African Partnership Station mission has a Nigerian naval officer as its deputy commander, Harris noted.

The international effort in Africa hopes to build trust and long-lasting partnerships at the national, subregional and regional levels, Harris said. The effort is designed to bring maritime safety and security to Africa and reflects African nations’ desire to improve their capacity.

“We float on trust,” Harris said. “Our African partners have told us they want our help to develop their capacity to provide for their own maritime security and safety. Africa Partnership Station is taking these partnerships into action in a concerted, interagency, multinational effort to promote maritime governance around Africa.

“And from a global community perspective, ladies and gentlemen, that's good for everyone, and it's good for us in America,” he said.

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