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NEWS | April 7, 2022

U.S. Tri-maritime Services and Cabo Verde Authorities Interdict Large Trans-Oceanic Cocaine Shipment

By U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs

U.S. Sailors, Coast Guardsmen and Marines embarked aboard U.S. Navy Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4), with support from the Environmental Security Programme of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), assisted Cabo Verde authorities with the interdiction of a vessel smuggling approximately 6,000 kilograms of suspected cocaine, April 1. 

As part of the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP), the joint and combined U.S. and Cabo Verdean team worked in coordination with the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre - Narcotics (MAOC-N) and Cabo Verde's national Maritime Operations Center (COSMAR) to conduct a compliant boarding of a Brazilian-flagged fishing vessel operating in the international waters of the Atlantic Ocean near the west coast of Africa. 

“The United States has a longstanding commitment supporting African states to address their security challenges in the maritime domain,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Gregory Anderson, director of operations, U.S. Africa Command.  “Our long-term partnerships with African states, including Cabo Verde, are vital for addressing threats such as terrorism, illicit trafficking, and piracy, and building capacity in the region to ensure long-term security and stability.”

Under the jurisdiction of Cabo Verde, U.S. and Cabo Verde law enforcement authorities boarded and inspected the vessel, seizing approximately 6,000 kilograms of suspected cocaine with an estimated street value at more than $350 million. Seven individuals were taken into custody by Cabo Verde law enforcement during the counter-drug operation.

The U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard have a strong relationship with Cabo Verde, along with a bilateral law enforcement agreement, enabling support to counter illicit maritime activity in waters surrounding the archipelago.

“This operation is an excellent example of strong and mutually beneficial partnership between the governments of the United States and Cabo Verde,” said Vice Admiral Steven Poulin, commander, U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area. “Bilateral agreements such as this allow the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, and other agencies to work alongside partner nations in addressing their unique and shared challenges through a collaborative effort.”

Over the last decade, the United States has steadily increased maritime security cooperation with partners on Africa’s Atlantic coast to improve maritime domain awareness in order to help them protect their sovereign waters.

The U.S. Tri-maritime services routinely work with African partners to enhance their capabilities to counter sea-based illicit activity. Last month, Cabo Verde participated in the U.S.-led exercise Obangame Express 22, which is the largest multinational maritime exercise designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness (MDA), information-sharing practices, and tactical interdiction expertise in West Africa. 

“West African nations face serious challenges at sea, including illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, as well as narcotics trafficking,” said Rear Adm. Anthony Carullo, director of operations, U.S. Naval Forces Africa. “Illicit activity in the maritime undermines the economic development of the entire African continent. This successful interdiction sends a clear message that the countries of West Africa are poised to enhance their national and regional prosperity by intercepting and prosecuting illegal activity.” 

Hershel “Woody” Williams is the first warship permanently assigned to the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility. The U.S. shares a common interest with African partner nations in ensuring security, safety, and freedom of navigation on the waters surrounding the continent, because these waters are critical for Africa’s prosperity and access to global markets.

For more than 70 years, U.S. Sixth Fleet forces have forged strategic relationships with our allies and partners and solidified a foundation of shared values, experiences, and vision aimed at preserving security and stability.

The ESB ship class is a highly flexible platform that may be used across a broad range of military operations. Acting as a mobile sea base, they are part of the critical access infrastructure that supports the deployment of forces and supplies to support missions assigned.