MOMBASA, Kenya - After three years of collaborative planning, U.S., African and European countries heads of navies, civilian and military maritime experts along with a working group from the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa have opened the first Maritime Center of Excellence at Kenyan Port Authority's Bandari College June 22, 2009, with an opening ceremony, symbolic ribbon cutting and luncheon.
Presiding officials for the MCE opening were U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Michael E. Ranneberger, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Tony Kurta, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa commander, Kenyan Navy Brigadier Ngewa Mukala, deputy commander, and Ezekiel Langat, principal Bandari College. They welcomed the students and professors and talked about the importance of the MCE for African maritime safety and security.
The Maritime Center of Excellence's mission is to provide operational level training that addresses regional maritime issues such as piracy, drug trafficking, illegal fishing, environmental issues and more.
"The purpose the MCE is to build maritime safety and security in order to promote a stable and secure Africa," said U.S. Navy Commander John Fritz, MCE co-director. "This year's three-week pilot courses of instruction are designed to provide operational level training for mid-grade maritime officers and civilian maritime equivalents. The objective is to improve partner nation maritime capacity and to foster relationship building amongst African nations."
Attending the course were students from Senegal, Egypt, Uganda, Tanzania, Mauritius, Seychelles, Comoros and Kenya. The curriculum was developed by the Global Maritime and Transportation School, U.S. Naval War College, and Kenya Port Authority's Bandari College. The course is taught by civilian professors, naval officers from CJTF-HOA and the Kenyan Navy. The three week course will cover maritime trade and security, international, national and other regulatory schemes, maritime sectors, commercial maritime documentation and certificates, port and terminal operations and operational analysis ending with a capstone event. The course is predicted to evolve over time through multi-national and multi-agency forums and as the needs and interests of African nations maritime safety and security are revealed.
"The concept of maritime securityand managing the seas is very important to Senegal," said Lieutenant Commander Mamadou Ndiaye, Senegal Naval officer and MCE student. "With a 700 km coastline and more than 600,000 people relying on fishing in coastal waters it is important to protect our seas. Attending the MCE and interacting with the students and instructors I hope to have an exchange of ideas to improve and develop new strategies and concepts of maritime safety and security to take back to my country."
Ambassador Michael E. Banneberger attended the ceremony during his Muslim Outreach Tour to Mombasa. During his opening remarks he said that the Maritime Center of Excellence was not only a partnership between the U.S. and African nations to build regional maritime security and safety, but it was another example of how the U.S. is working towards new partnerships, new beginnings with the Muslim world.
AFRICOM and CJTF-HOA has a long term commitment to helping African nations develop maritime safety and security. The U.S. hopes the MCE will help fulfill its commitment through collaborative efforts and shared interests of U.S. and African nations to develop new ideas, increase cooperation and build partnerships to establish regional stability.
There are three scheduled MCE classes at Bandari College this year. The first MCE class will finish with a graduation ceremony, July 10. Its success will be determined by the knowledge, skills, ideas and friendships the students take back with them.
"The future is very bright!"said Maj. Thomas Nganga, Kenyan Navy and MCE co-director. "When we have partners working together, we can solve the maritime challenges we are facing."
Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa
Story by Master Sgt. Ruby Zarzyczny