HMC Ships Moncton and Goose Bay leave for Operation Projection 

HMC Ships Moncton and Goose Bay left Halifax on January 20 for a deployment to Operation Projection in West Africa.

HMC Ships Moncton et Goose Bay leave for Operation Projection 

Par Joanie Veitch,
Équipe du trident

For the first time since 2020, two of the Royal Canadian Navy’s Kingston-class ships — HMC Ships Goose Bay et Moncton — are crossing the Atlantic Ocean on deployment to Operation Projection West Africa.

Operation Projection is a strategic deployment that aims to promote maritime stability and security in the Gulf of Guinea region. Working with West African partner nations, the goal is to foster and develop relationships, building capacity through cooperative activities.

While deployed, the ships will also participate in Obangame Express 2022, a multi-nation exercise led by US Africa Command.

HMC Ships Glace Bay et Shawinigan deployed on the same mission in early 2020, but the operation was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year’s scheduled deployment to West Africa for Shawinigan et Goose Bay was also canceled.

With December’s surging COVID-19 case numbers resulting in more restrictions across Maritime Forces Atlantic (MARLANT), the pandemic continued to add a wrench into the works as the crews of Goose Bay et Moncton prepared for their January 20 departure, said Cdr Daniel Rice, Commanding Officer of Goose Bay, in an interview a few days before departure.

“Deploying after the Christmas break is always a challenge, but deploying with MARLANT in maroon posture, when everything is operating at half capacity, makes things not just twice as hard, it’s more like four times as hard,” said Cdr Rice. “But everyone’s so motivated… people’s positive attitude has made the difference for sure.”

The crossing will take about a month, and will include a port call at the Spanish naval base in Las Palmas, on Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, to get fuel and supplies before heading to West Africa.

While in the region the ships have several scheduled port visits: Dakar, Senegal; Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire; Tema, Ghana; Takoradi, Ghana, and Freetown, Sierra Leone.

The ships collected a number of items to be donated to communities they visit during the deployment, including school supplies, sports equipment, and more.

On the way back to Canada, the ships will also stop at the Port of Funchal, in the Portuguese island of Madeira.

Port visits will be handled on a “case by case” basis and decided in consultation with the Canadian Defence Attaché (CDA) in the region, along with CAF Health Services, said Cdr Rice.

“The critical part in deciding our activities will be the hospitalization rates in the area. For every port we have a rough plan and then, depending on what the data says, we may either scale up or scale back or even cancel some activities. We’ll be taking it country by country and port by port,” he said.

“This is part of the Navy getting back to regular operations, but in an ongoing pandemic environment. Over the past year and a half we’ve learned a lot but now, with vaccinations in place and following public health measures, we are much more comfortable and can manage. We’re aiming for maximum flexibility, while still being prudent.”

With more than 30 countries taking part, Obangame Express 2022, scheduled from March 12 – 27, is the region’s largest annual military exercise. Led by Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF), the forward-deployed naval component of US Africa Command, the exercise focuses on maritime interdiction operations, as well as visit, board, search and seizure techniques.

A detachment of personnel from the Naval Tactical Operations Group (NTOG) and a Maritime Operations Centre (MOC) mentorship team have deployed with Moncton et Goose Bay and will also participate in the exercise.

“The main maritime security challenges in the region are piracy, kidnapping and illegal fishing. Most of the nations we’re working with have very small navies so part of our role is to help them to build capacity and train for these types of situations,” explained Cdr Rice.

In the lead-up to deployment, the ships’ crews — helped by the Halifax & Region Military Family Resource Centre — collected donations of school supplies, hygiene products and sports equipment to bring for distribution to the various African countries they will be visiting.

NCSM Carleton, the naval reserve division in Ottawa, also coordinated a kids’ shoe drive and a Goose Bay sailor, MS Frederic Duclos, also raised $2,400 to buy more than 100 soccer balls, hand pumps and goalie gloves.

Cdr Rice said the ships will work with the Canadian Defence Attaché, to ensure the various donations go to where they are most needed.

S1 Martha Mbuyi-Kanyinda is a reservist based out of HMCS Chippawa,, a Naval Reserve division in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Now 23 years of age, she was born in Tanzania in East Africa, and moved to Canada with her family at age nine. She joined the Naval Reserves in 2016 and was posted to Goose Bay last May, working as a Naval Communicator (NAVCOMM).

“I’m pretty excited. It’s the first time I’m doing a long deployment like this… I’m looking forward to it, especially as we’ll get to do some hands-on stuff, working with children there and helping out. Things like that are really close to my heart.”

The ships are scheduled to return to Halifax on April 15.