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OP-EUNAVFOR Atalanta Collaborates With Kenya’s Maritime Security Committee On Exercise To Enhance Cooperation In Dealing With Illegal Activities At Sea 

As part of the implementation of the Jeddah Amendment to Djibouti Code of Conduct, countries such as Kenya are actively participating in collaborative initiatives with implementing partners in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. These efforts aim to enhance cooperation and coordination in maritime operations to combat illicit activities in the region. 

To support this, the European Union funded programme, OPERATION EUNAVFOR ATALANTA conducted a joint multi-agency EXERCISE USALAMA BAHARINI 2024 in Mombasa, Kenya (20-24 May 2024) with the goal to improve maritime security capabilities, enhance information sharing, coordination, and interoperability. It included a legal seminar, maritime operations, IORIS, Search and Rescue (SAR), Special Operations, various port exercises, depicting operations at sea with high-speed boats, an anti-piracy exercise at sea and handover of suspects for legal finish. 

Figure 1. Photo slideshow of the Exercise 

120 participants drawn from agencies that form Kenya’s National Maritime Security Committee* took part in the training series and the exercise, which was also supported by other implementing partners, including IMO, Go Blue, and CRIMARIO II. The aim was to support Kenya in implementing its international and regional obligations, including the region’s new focus on the coordination of operations at sea. This will culminate in the effective handling of maritime perpetrators, considering increasing threats to maritime security, such as the ongoing Red Sea Crisis and the resurgence of piracy in the region. 

The inaugural exercise saw the Kenya stakeholders go through some theoretical seminars touching on best legal practices to ensure effective information sharing and legal tenets to support effective coordination of operations at sea.  Further to the theoretical seminars, Kenya stakeholders, went through a rehearsal of the exercise including practical boarding sessions to enable them to appreciate and internalize the process of what goes on during such operations including following specific protocols and guidelines to gather evidence, detain suspects, and handle legal aspects of the operation, while also upholding human rights enshrined in Kenya’s constitution. The exercises emphasized the importance of a whole-of-government approach, where different Kenyan agencies collaborated and played their respective roles to secure the maritime domain. The participants in the Exercise demonstrated a mastery of their individual and collective mandates by showcasing their knowledge and experience in carrying out maritime interdiction operations within the legal framework. 

Speaking on behalf of the Principal Secretary, State Department for Shipping and Maritime, Mr. Isaiah Nakoru, (Secretary Administration), highlighted that the successful execution of EX USALAMA BAHARINI ‘24, showcased the collaborative efforts of Kenyan security agencies, law enforcement, shipping, maritime, and blue economy agencies, among others. “This is testament to Kenya’s commitment to suppressing piracy activities and addressing maritime crimes, while fostering sustainable development in its maritime space.” 

Step-by-step demonstration of the Practical Simulation Scenario

Vice Admiral Ignacio Villanueva, (Operation Commander – EUNAVFOR Atalanta) added that the Exercise was significant step forward in the partnership between EUNAVFOR Atalanta and the Kenyan Navy and Coast Guard Service. “Practical simulated boarding operations such as these benefit Atalanta by improving its ability to work with regional allies and contribute to maritime security in the Indian Ocean while adding knowledge and experience to the Kenya Navy and Coast Guard.” 

Amb. Henriette Geiger (EU-Delegation to Kenya) underscored the importance of peace and security in the country’s sustainable development. “The EU-Kenya strategic partnership is hedged on three pillars, that is political security and stability, development cooperation and trade and investment. Our Economic Partnership Agreement is a game-changer offering unprecedented opportunities for Kenya’s economic development. 

* Agencies of the Kenya National Maritime Security Committee attending the Exercise include Kenya Coast Guard Service, Kenya Maritime Authority, Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Navy, Attorney General’s Office, Office of Director of Public Prosecutions, National Intelligence Service, National Police Service, Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Fisheries Services, Kenya Revenue Authority, Directorate of Immigration Services and the Kenya Forest Service. 

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