Bogota, Sep 10 (IANS) A multinational naval drill, with troops from 16 countries, has begun in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Colombia, officials said.
Codenamed Unitas Naval Operation, the exercises involving regional naval commanders seek to bolster maritime security, safeguard waters from drug trafficking, and prepare naval personnel for search and rescue operations, emergencies and natural disasters, Xinhua cited Colombian Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon as saying.
The 16 countries are Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominica, El Salvador, Ecuador, Germany, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Britain and the US.
Accompanied by the head of the US Southern Command John Kelly, Pinzon and his Peruvian counterpart Pedro Cateriano Bellido launched the drill Monday in the northern Colombian city of Cartagena.
"We will see this large multinational fleet deployed in the Caribbean Sea, and witness how sailors from 16 countries will be training professionally, working on humanitarian operations, maritime intervention against transnational crimes and efforts to defend sovereignty when necessary," Pinzon said.
Held each year since 1959, the drill includes traditional at-sea exercises and in-port training activities. This year's naval exercises will go on till Sep 15.