Opening Ceremony Obangame Express 2015

Multi-national naval exercise underway. 

Opening Ceremony Obangame Express 2015 remarks: Capt. John Rinko, Obangame Express, officer in tactical command

ACCRA, Ghana – Capt. John Rinko, Obangame Express, officer in tactical command: Good morning ambassadors, admirals, commanders, commanding officers and colleagues. Thank you for being here today for the Obangame Express 2015 opening ceremony. I want recognize and thank the government of Ghana and the Ghanaian navy for hosting us in this beautiful location. I would also like to recognize and thank the many African governments and navies hosting different components of the exercise during the coming nine days – specifically: Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, Sao Tome and Principe and Togo.

I am honored to be here as the U.S. Sixth Fleet officer in tactical command for the fifth Obangame Express exercise.

On behalf of U.S. Naval Forces Africa, I welcome all of our partner nations and thank each of you for your participation.

This year, with 22 nations participating, we have multiplied the number of participants by more than four since the original 2010 proof of concept for this exercise. The level of participation is indicative of the global importance of this region and the desires of our African, European, and South American partners to continue to improve regional cooperation in the Gulf of Guinea – it is that cooperation we will continue to build at the operational level as we proceed through this exercise.

Every nation represented here today plays a critical role in not only their own nation’s maritime security, but the security of the entire region. Maritime security is critical in enabling continued economic growth in a region in which more than half of the economic activities rely on the maritime environment for execution. In this global economic environment, establishing a secure maritime environment requires more than just a single nation securing its waters, it requires regional and international cooperation to enhance information exchange and improve interoperability of our maritime assets – thereby, bringing to bear the collective capability of our maritime forces in establishing a secure maritime environment.

The Yaounde Code of Conduct for West and Central Africa provides the regional framework for cooperation and information exchange. The scenarios and training events during Obangame Express are designed to enable us to further improve the processes that underlie this regional framework. Each year we have built on the successes of the previous year to mature the coordination between nations, develop a higher level of cooperation and improve the capability and capacity of our maritime forces. During this exercise, we will not only work to enhance tactical and operational maritime security capabilities, but to improve international and interagency coordination for responding to that which threatens our maritime security. These capabilities are essential in overcoming the obstacles to economic progress created by maritime threats.

True regional maritime security can only be achieved through a team effort. That team must have players representing all levels who are empowered to take action to stop maritime threats. Each of you plays a critical role in the maritime security team – whether you are member of a team boarding suspect vessels or a government official creating policy that enables them to do so.

Obangame Express is intended to exercise our collective effort as a global network of navies and to forge the bonds of regional cooperation required to counter sea-based illicit activity. Over the next several days, we will be boarding ships, responding to medical casualties, practicing search and rescue operations, and standardizing communications between maritime operations centers. We will focus specifically on counter-piracy, energy-security, counter-illegal-fishing, and counter-illicit-trafficking. We will be busy.

In 2010, during the first iteration of the exercise, the name “Obangame” was selected. Obangame comes from a word belonging to the Fang people of southern Cameroon that means “togetherness,” which is the truest spirit of this effort. I greatly appreciate the efforts of all our partner nation’s who have come together to ensure the success of Obangame Express 2015.

Thank you and sail safe.


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