ODESSA, Ukraine (NNS) -- Exercise Sea Breeze, the largest multinational maritime exercise in the Black Sea, began July 8, as representatives from the 16 participating and observing nations gathered together for the exercise's opening ceremony.
Air, land and naval forces from participating countries will work together both ashore and at sea from July 8-20 in order to strengthen interoperability and improve maritime security.
Leaders from the Ukraine and U.S., who are co-hosting the exercise for what will be a 16th iteration, shared sentiments about the progress of both the exercise and maritime security in the Black Sea that have occurred since the exercise's inception.
"Peace and stability in this region is highly important to us, and increasing cooperation between the nations involved is the key to maintaining peace and stability," said Rear Adm. Dennis Berezovsky, Ukrainian deputy director, in remarks at the opening ceremony.
Much of the exercise will focus on maritime interdiction operations as a primary means to enhance maritime security. The other key component is utilizing sea-basing to conduct a range of operations ashore such as non-combatant evacuation to humanitarian assistance/disaster relief.
The aim of the exercise, as expressed by those at the opening ceremony, is that by practicing these necessary skill sets, it will bring navies operating in the Black Sea closer together and ultimately increase stability in the region.
"Our partnership and collaboration has led to increased interoperability and enhanced security," said U.S. Navy Capt. James Aiken, deputy exercise director, who spoke alongside his Ukraine counterparts at the opening ceremony. "As we build upon lessons learned in past exercises, Sea Breeze has developed a robust and challenging agenda that will develop strong relationships to enhance maritime security and stability."
This year's participants include Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine and U.S., along with France, Germany, Libya, Lithuania, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates, as observers.
Sea Breeze 2013, an annual multinational exercise in the Black Sea, is a combined air, land and maritime exercise designed to improve maritime safety, security and stability in the Black Sea by enhancing the capabilities of Partnership for Peace and Black Sea regional maritime security forces.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/naveur/.