Colombian Defense Minister, Juan Carlos Pinzon, participating in the opening ceremony of the 54th Unitas Naval Operation, in Cartagena, Colombia, on Sept. 8, 2013. The Unitas Naval Operation is a training and cooperation exercise, between different countries' armies.
Colombian Defense Minister, Juan Carlos Pinzon, participating in the opening ceremony of the 54th Unitas Naval Operation, in Cartagena, Colombia, on Sept. 8, 2013. The Unitas Naval Operation is a training and cooperation exercise, between different countries’ armies.

A multinational naval drill, codenamed Unitas Naval Operation, kicked off in the Colombian Caribbean Monday, Colombia’s navy said.

In a statement issued by the navy, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said 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, among other events.

Naval forces from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Peru, the United Kingdom and the United States kicked off UNITAS 2013, an annual multinational exercise

Accompanied by the head of the U.S. Southern Command John Kelly, Pinzon and his Peruvian counterpart Pedro Cateriano Bellido launched the maritime maneuvers 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.

The 16 Participating countries are Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominica, El Salvador, Ecuador, Germany, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Britain and the United States, according to the navy.

Held each year since 1959, Unitas Naval Operation includes traditional at-sea exercises and in-port training activities. This year’s naval exercises last till Sept. 15.