The Marines and sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa spent Oct. 2 to Nov. 14, with their U.K. counterparts, in Angola, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo, building the countries’ maritime capacity to counter piracy and illicit trafficking.
The service members travelled to each country aboard the U.K.’s HMS Lancaster during the APS mission. The U.S. Naval Forces Africa mission began in 2007 and evolved into an international initiative that increases the maritime safety and security capacity of African partners through collaboration and regional cooperation through engagement exercises.
The U.S. and U.K. militaries trained each country’s Navy and its special forces in visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS), infantry maneuver drills, weapons handling, marksmanship and combat lifesaver training.
The region has seen a significant spike in piracy and illicit trafficking that has disrupted the economies of these Gulf of Guinea countries, according to an article posted on Defence Web, a South African news portal.
In 2011 oil tanker-hijacking increased 42 percent throughout the international shipping routes for oil-producing countries, such as Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, Ghana and Equatorial Guinea, according to a 2012 Bloomberg article.
The U.S. Naval Institute reports that oil-tanker hijacking rates declined since 2011 due to “heightened naval patrols and vessel security measures,” and, in 2013, African nations working together to intercept would-be hijackers.
U.S. Marine 1st Lt. Kristan Volk, the SPMAGTF-CR-AF team officer in charge, said service members from each country during the month and a half long APS mission have, in some way, been involved with anti-piracy and counter-illicit trafficking operations and always want to learn more to minimize risks.
“Even though we worked with each country’s Navy with more or less the same type of training, they all have one common goal and that is to provide a safe and secure passage way for ships and its crews in these waters,” said Volk. “This past month has been filled with groups of professional, dedicated and brave service members who are willing to go in harm’s way and fight back against these issues to provide stability in the region.”