The deployment of the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams’ (ESB-4) deployment off the west coast of Africa allowed forces from Sierra Leone, Cape Verde and Senegal to use the U.S. ship as a base of operations for local missions.
Using williams enabled the forces to develop their own solutions to the maritime security challenges they faced, Captain John Tully, Director of African Engagements for United States Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF), and Captain Michael Concannon, the Commanding Officer of Williams, said on a media call.
“Our priority when working with African countries is to help our partners to help them develop African solutions to the security challenges they face, and we are very aware that we are not putting our partners in the position that requires to choose between working with the United States and other external actors to determine how best to protect their own sovereign and economic interests,” Tully said.
The maritime security operations carried out by WilliamDuring his recent deployment, all operations were partner-led, Concannon told reporters.
“We gave them a lot of support that they needed to carry out the operation, but it was their operation, it was their law enforcement process that went through determining the extent of the problem and what ‘it had to be done, judicially, legally and we were happy to be part of this support,’ he said.
From March to April, williams has completed maritime security operations with African partners such as Sierra Leone, Cape Verde and Senegal. In March, the Joint US-Africa Maritime Team intercepted an illegal, unregulated and undeclared fishing vessel operating in Sierra Leone’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
On April 1, as part of the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership, the joint team, led by Cape Verde, worked in coordination with the Maritime Analysis and Operations Center – Narcotics, INTERPOL and the National Maritime Operations Center of Cape Verde to carry out a proper boarding of a fishing vessel flying the Brazilian flag, which led to the seizure of approximately 6,000 kilograms of alleged cocaine with an estimated street value of more than $350 million.
The flexibility and capabilities of williams makes it ideal for maritime security operations in Africa, Concannon said, noting the ship’s ability to operate helicopters and store small craft on its mission decks. The ESB also has extensive logistics transport capabilities, personnel embarkation capabilities, and the endurance to conduct operations for an extended period before requiring refueling.
Concannon added that the deployment allowed representatives from three African countries to participate and collaborate with williams and that he hoped that future deployments would have more countries embarked on the ESB.
williams operating in the region enables African nations to overcome the difficulty of using surface vessels to patrol their EEZs and enforce their laws, Tully said.
“Having the African partners on board the Hershel “Woody” Williams as we did this time, we can help them overcome this challenge,” he added.
Tully said a key aspect of helping African partners enforce their laws in the maritime domain has been the bilateral law enforcement agreements the United States has with African countries. These agreements allow the US Coast Guard to have a direct and concrete effect in the rule of law in the maritime domain of countries that have agreements with the United States.
Efforts to support partners in the region cover a wide range, ranging from various maritime security exercises and operations, the provision of equipment such as radars and automatic identification systems, support and assistance to countries with their maritime control centers and institutional capacity building, Tully said. The initiatives aim to enable African partners to enhance their capabilities and build maritime security relationships with other African nations through U.S.-supported joint exercise and engagement activities, a he noted.
Although williams is currently back in Rota, Spain, Tully said the U.S. Coast Guard is expected to deploy a cutter to Africa later this year and noted that BSE’s departure from the region doesn’t mean he won’t return not soon.
He acknowledged that the limitations of having an ESB assigned to Africa include the ship’s inability to be everywhere at once, especially as there are regions in competition with Africa, such as the Mediterranean Sea. and the Indian Ocean, for operations. But the choice of deployment has always been determined on the basis of discussions with African partner countries.