On March 27, 2021, OBANGAME EXPRESS 2021, US Navy-led multinational maritime exercise, concluded off the Côte d’Ivoire. OBANGAME literally means ”togetherness” in Fang, a West African language. The exercise involves, besides US Naval Forces, almost all West African Navies and maritime security forces, along with European and Canadian units. The multinational event was a fruitful opportunity to strengthen relations between regional Navies and international actors including the Italian Navy. The exercise was designed to improve cooperation between participating nations, with a view to enhance maritime security and free trade in that area.
The Italian Navy through the men and women of ITS Rizzo’s crew – paved the way for the consolidation of the relations between Italy and local governments. This valuable cooperation is and will be useful to ensure stability in the region, and to provide maritime security in an area that is extremely important for our country and for the international community. Suffice it to say that the vast bulk of commodities and raw materials from Western Africa transit through the main sea lines of communication, with a daily ship traffic density of thousands of merchant ships and fishing vessels.
The Italian Navy was also requested to provide support in a record seizure of drugs ever occurred in the Gulf of Guinea. On March 21, directly called on by the US Sixth Fleet, ITS RIZZO provided ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) and security support for the French amphibious helicopter carrier DIXMUDE, during boarding operations on a cargo ship sailing in international waters. At the end of the inspection onboard cargo ship “NAJLAN”, more than six tons of cocaine were discovered, with an estimated value of 1.3 billion dollars.
ITS RIZZO will be deployed within Operation GABINIA until next June, for the protection of national and international interests, and fight against piracy and illegal trafficking. Luigi Rizzo (F 595) is a Carlo Bergamini-class frigate of the Italian Navy which were developed from the FREMM multipurpose frigate program. On 9 December 2015, the launching ceremony of the ship took place at the Fincantieri yard in Riva Trigoso. Luigi Rizzo was commissioned on 20 April 2017. On 5 March 2021, Luigi Rizzo sailed alongside USS Dwight D. Eisenhower while transiting the Strait of Gibraltar.