FREETOWN, Sierra Leone –
Representatives from U.S. Naval Forces Africa, Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Training Command, Naval Sea Systems Command, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to conduct an Environmental workshop for Africa Partnership Station (APS) 2012, Feb. 20.
The workshop brings together representatives from U.S. Naval Forces Africa and key maritime and environmental stakeholders from the government of Sierra Leone to identify, prioritize, and mitigate maritime environmental concerns. Sierra Leone representatives include the National Fire Force, Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, Sierra Leone Maritime Administration, Ministry of Energy and Water Resources, Sierra Leone Ports Authority, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Ministry of Fisheries, and Marine Resources.
The five-day workshop includes briefs and presentations, focus group discussions, team brainstorming, site surveys of critical maritime locations, and culminates in presentations to senior leaders of the Sierra Leone government with the collective goal of mitigating environmental concerns.
Additionally, the assessments conducted during this visit will improve the U.S. Navy's ability to operate safely when visiting African partners' ports during APS deployments. The assessments will assist by identifying actual or potential negative environmental impacts to operations, existing in and near such ports. The project will also yield a secondary benefit of identifying potential future environmental or occupational health and safety projects that would meet the APS key area of developing maritime infrastructure. These projects may be sponsored during future APS engagements, or undertaken by the African partners independently.
Workshop organizer, Kirsty McLean, of U.S. Naval Forces Africa, says the workshop offers an opportunity to continue relationships between the U.S. and Sierra Leone and to recognize the importance of the maritime environment.
"The destruction of resources cause maritime insecurity," said McLean, "This workshop offers an important opportunity to address environmental concerns that affect fisheries, maritime security, and port development. By working with our African partners we not only expand our relationships, but also can develop solutions to environmental issues in Sierra Leone."
Rear Adm. Kenneth "K.J." Norton, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa deputy chief of staff for Strategy, Resources, and Plans, emphasized that the stakeholders attending the workshop have the capabilities to address environmental issues in Sierra Leone.
"We don't want future generations to be left with serious environmental problems," said Norton. "We have identified several issues today, fixing these environmental concerns starts as a cultural movement."
While in Sierra Leone, representatives from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Maritime Civil Affairs Team (MCAT) 202, will install equipment and conduct training with the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces to expand maritime domain awareness capabilities off the coast of Sierra Leone.
"Building maritime safety and security is a major focus of our efforts in Africa," said Lt. Catherine Reppert, MCAT 202 officer in charge. "Effective maritime safety and security will contribute to development, economic prosperity and security ashore."
Electronics Technician 1st Class Joseph Debarberie, leading petty officer and communicator of MCAT 202, expressed strong enthusiasm at being able to work with maritime stakeholders to provide a ground-based automated identification system to support Sierra Leone's vessel tracking capabilities.
"This is an important technology that will contribute to maritime safety for the coast of Sierra Leone," Debarberie said.
APS continues to build global maritime partnerships with African nations and improve maritime safety and security for all nations.
APS is an international security cooperation initiative facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa.