US, Cabo Verde authorities interdict large cocaine shipment


US Sailors, Coast Guardsmen and Marines embarked aboard US Navy Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4), with support from the Environmental Security Programme of Interpol have assisted Cabo Verde authorities with the interdiction of a vessel smuggling approximately 6 000 kilograms of suspected cocaine.

As part of the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP), the joint and combined US and Cabo Verdean team on 1 April 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.

Under the jurisdiction of Cabo Verde, US 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 US Navy said on 7 April.

The US Navy and US 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, the Navy said.

“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, US Coast Guard Atlantic Area. “Bilateral agreements such as this allow the US Coast Guard, US Navy, and other agencies to work alongside partner nations in addressing their unique and shared challenges through a collaborative effort.”

“The United States has a longstanding commitment supporting African states to address their security challenges in the maritime domain,” said US Army Major General Gregory Anderson, director of operations, US 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.”

Over the last decade, the United States Navy said it 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 US 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 US-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 Admiral Anthony Carullo, director of operations, US 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.”