Maritime Center of Excellence Graduates Second Class
Thirty-one students from eight countries graduated from the Maritime Center of Excellence (MCE) at Bandari College in Mombasa, Kenya August 7, 2009.
The graduation marked the completion of the second group to attend the three-week course.
MCE, sponsored by Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), is the result of coordinated efforts between U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Naval War College, the Global Maritime and Transportation School, and Kenya Ports Authority's Bandar College.
"The [MCE] is the result of three years of listening to the African demand signal for maritime safety and security," said Commander John Fritz, MCE co-director from CJTF-HOA.
MCE students studied a variety of subjects related to maritime security including: piracy port security operations, smuggling, counter-terrorism measures and risk management.
Students in attendance represented multiple militaries and a broad set of maritime professionals from African nations. This ties into one of MCE's primary goals: increased information sharing.
"I think that is the most important part [of the training], is being able to have these nations and their representatives sit down and communicate with each other and understand what each of them brings to the table amongst these various scenarios that were going through, "said Jeffrey Landsman, a U.S. Naval War College professor who taught a portion of the course.
Senegalese Lieutenant Commander Jean-Jeaques Lopez, a graduate of the U.S. Naval War College, commands a naval base in Senegal. Lopez talked about how what he learned at MCE will change the way he operates when he returns home from Mombasa.
"We've been presented with the big picture. Being a naval officer, of course you have an opening to the world, but I don't have any specific knowledge about other stake-holders in maritime affairs: port state authorities, shipping lines, transportation, trade and how all these things interrelate. We have been presented with some tools that have to do with risk assessment and some other things that I can probably use to tailor a security plan," said Lopez. "I can use most of the stuff we've been taught.
It's nice to know who is in charge of security in port facilities; you know who are the players and how it is organized. So my intention is when I go back, I will probably get in touch with the director of the port and sit down and work out a security plan."
Other students were vocal about how networking with nearby countries will change the way they do business. Francis Nabugyer Manana, a Ugandan assistant superintendent of police for the eastern region of Lake Victoria, is responsible for all Ugandan maritime forces on the eastern part of the lake. He said the course provided him with valuable contacts on the waters he patrols.
"I got to know my comrade who polices Kenyan waters because I am with him in the same training," said Manana. "That's great, because here we can get contact. I know him now personally, and he knows me personally. On the other side [of Lake Victoria] which he is opposite me, we can talk in case of anything, any [accident], in case of any emergency or anything that happens in the waters."
Groundwork for MCE took years. The course was developed in response to discussion that took place from 2006 to 2008 at the East Africa Southwest Indian Ocean conferences. "These conferences brought together a variety of civilian and military leaders from the region who are interested in the broad array of maritime safety and security issues," said Fritz. "It took three years for the concept to be flushed out, and what exactly a maritime center of excellence would look like."
Landsman reflected on the courses' significance.
"What we are doing here is supporting the Chief of Naval Operations maritime strategy," he said. "To get in here in Africa and do it is really important...this is kind of uncharted territory, so it gives us a chance to get integrated and find out what the issues are."
Fritz said the more African states work together to tackle trans-boundary issues, the more effective they will become. "This means less opportunities for hot-spots, and less reason for the United States to get involved with situations that are spiraling out of control," said Fritz.
The third, and final MCE class for this fiscal year begins August 17th.