July 7 (UPI) -- The USNS Trenton and patrol boats of the Tunisian navy concluded a five-day interoperability exercise off the Tunisian coast, the U.S. Navy said Wednesday.
The U.S. ship is a Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport vessel, used to support overseas operations, conduct humanitarian aid and disaster relief, and support special operations forces.
It can operate in shallow water and has an aviation flight deck suitable for helicopters.
It was joined by Tunisian navy fast patrol boats Hamilcar and Giscon and auxiliary ships Zarzis and Taguermess in "joint maritime domain awareness operations to enhance maritime security and Tunisia's ability to protect its maritime borders," the U.S. Navy statement said.
The USNS Trenton joined Tunisian navy ships in January for similar exercises, and the USS Herschel "Woody" Williams conducted joint maritime operations with the Tunisian navy in May 2021 as part of the multinational Phoenix Express exercises in the Mediterranean Sea.
"This exercise provided both nations vital and valuable interoperability training of our capabilities during at-sea maritime interdiction operations and maritime domain awareness, greatly increasing Tunisia's ability to protect their maritime border," said Cmdr. T.J. Seifert, commander of the USNS Trenton, of the exercises, which concluded July 2.
The ship is part of U.S. Naval Force Europe-Africa and the U.S. Sixth Fleet, which regularly patrols the Mediterranean Sea.
"Through collaboration with the Tunisian navy, we're taking the right steps forward to enhance security in their heavily traveled waters," Capt. Matthew Salas, ship's master of the USNS Trenton, said.
The Tunisian navy is active in rescuing migrants departing North Africa for Europe.
At least 43 migrants crossing to Italy from Libya drowned in a shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea off Tunisia last week, international aid officials said. The boat was carrying more than 120 migrants and sank off the coast of Zarzis, Tunisia.