Ships depart for West Africa

Navy News / March 12, 2018

By Ryan Melanson

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships Summerside and Kingston left the winter weather behind as they departed Halifax on January 26, 2018 for a three-month deployment to the Gulf of Guinea region in West Africa.

The trip will see the two maritime costal defence vessels work alongside more than 20 African countries as part of the American-led OBANGAME EXPRESS 2018 exercise, in addition to community and humanitarian-minded port visits to nations including Ghana, Nigeria, Cape Verde, Senegal, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire.

“It’s a bit of a cold, grey day, which might reflect the mood of some of the families here today, with these two very capable crews getting ready to leave us for three months,” said Commodore Craig Skjerpen, Commander Canadian Fleet Atlantic, speaking to a group of sailors and families prior to departure.

“But this is going to be an opportunity to share ideas about the maritime environment and about maritime cooperation, as they continue to expand the control of their exclusive economic zone in that West African region, and an opportunity for us to grow important relationships with our partner nations.”

Working toward that cooperation and interoperability began before the ships even left port, with two exchange officers, one from Ghana and one from Côte d’Ivoire, arriving

shortly before the deployment to accompany the ships as they make their crossing.

“With them on board, the cooperation starts as soon as we leave Halifax, and it will continue through the three months as we learn more about the way they do business,” said Lieutenant-Commander Matthew Woodburn, Commanding Officer of Summerside.

OBANGAME EXPRESS 2018, one of the largest components of the deployment, is an at-sea exercise designed to improve relationships among participants and increase maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea. The focus is on maritime interdiction techniques including boarding, searches and seizures, and for that reason the ships sailed with embarked personnel from the Maritime Tactical Operations Group to showcase the navy’s enhanced naval boarding party capability.

The deployment follows the NEPTUNE TRIDENT 17-01 mission that saw Summerside and Moncton sail to the region in the winter of 2017. Objectives were similar, with the

OBANGAME EXPRESS exercise, training with partner navies and coast guards, and community visits forming the bulk of the trip. Though Summerside is participating again, it sailed with a different crew last year, and only a handful of sailors from the 2017 deployment were tapped to sail to the region again.

Lieutenant (Navy) Andrea Murray, Summerside’s Executive Officer, said her crew have spoken to colleagues who deployed last year, looked through the collection of photos, and have been building up a high level of excitement and motivation to make the most of the opportunity. The ships left with gifts and donations for visits to schools, orphanages, women’s shelters and other community destinations, and she said sailors are ready to lend a hand in any way they can.

“After hearing stories from the first deployment, I really can’t wait, and this is the type of tasking that has gotten the whole crew engaged and excited as we prepare.”

LCdr Emily Lambert, Summerside’s Commanding Officer, is most looking forward to the opportunity to engage with young women and local female leaders during events and leadership forums being organized at different ports.

“I can’t wait to have a chance to exchange ideas and highlight the important role that Canadian women are playing in the Canadian Armed Forces,” she said.

Article courtesy of Trident Military Newspaper