Ambassador Stephanie Sullivan’s As Prepared Remarks
at Exercise OBANGAME EXPRESS 21 Closing Ceremony
Ghana Armed Forces Burma Hall
27 March 2021; 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Chief of Defense Staff of the Ghana Armed Forces,
Vice Admiral Seth Amoama;
Chief of Naval Staff of the Ghana Armed Forces,
Rear Admiral Issah Yakubu;
Director, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa’s Maritime Partnership Program, Rear Admiral Jeffrey Spivey;
Representatives of participating partner nations,
All protocols observed.
I’m happy to be with you today at the closing ceremony for Exercise Obangame Express 2021. Congratulations on the completion of a successful exercise! The largest maritime exercise in Africa, spanning from Morocco to Namibia, took place over the past two weeks. Thirty-three nations and regional institutions gathered to promote maritime security and to enhance interoperability among African, European, Atlantic, and U.S. militaries and agencies.
Your efforts will have a lasting positive effect in improving regional cooperation and information-sharing among participating nations to counter sea-based illicit maritime activity and to strengthen safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea. Activities during the exercise spanned the spectrum of maritime security issues, with interoperability and training focusing on topics such as: Search and Rescue; Maritime Domain Awareness; Counter Trafficking; Counter Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) Fishing; and Piracy.
As the exercise was in full swing, one of the participating nations had a real-world success combatting drug trafficking on the high seas. On March 21, 2021, the French Naval Asset DIXMUDE interdicted maritime vessel NAJLAN in the Gulf of Guinea and a search of the vessel led to the seizure of approximately 6,068 kilograms of cocaine.
This interdiction was based on collaborated information from multiple international law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, passed from the Maritime Analysis and Operations Center- Narcotics (MAOC-N) based in Lisbon. It exemplifies the continued importance of capacity building with our African partners and the goals set for Obangame Express 2021.
Collaboration and cooperation between multiple nations and agencies were key to this success.The grounding of the container ship Ever Given in the Suez Canal underscores how important the global shipping routes are to the world’s economy and how interconnected the world has become. The blockage will divert shipping around the Cape of Good Hope, resulting in increased maritime traffic in the Gulf of Guinea.
I challenge all stakeholders and exercise participants to continue to use the lessons, skills, and networks developed during Obangame Express to counter potential increased piracy and other maritime crimes and to protect the global commons.
OE 21’s Senior Leadership Symposium gathered experts from defense, industry, government, and other stakeholders to discuss maritime security issues in depth and work together towards a common goal. This collaboration with our African, European, North and South American partners plays a key role in maintaining that security.
I’d like to thank all participants for their commitment to the exercise despite the additional hardship of the pandemic protocols. I’d also like to thank the Exercise planners who took every precaution to ensure the health and safety of our sailors, partners, and allies. These COVID mitigation measures provide a template for the rest of this pandemic and the next.
To conclude, I’d like to thank U.S. Naval Forces Africa for organizing this event, as well as the Government of Ghana and the Ghana Armed Forces for providing a world-class venue to host this and other regional security partnership programs. And I’d like to thank all of the participants once again and congratulate you on a successful exercise. I wish you fair winds and following seas as you make your way back home.
Medaase! Merci! Shukran! Gracias!
Obrigada! Natondi! Thank you!