US-supplied patrol boat aims to enhance Benin’s anti-piracy fight

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The United States has delivered a new 10 metre long patrol boat as well as maintenance and launch facilities to Benin to assist it combat piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

Piracy is a serious concern in the Gulf of Guinea along the southern coast of Western Africa and the US is working with Beninese officials to increase their capacity to combat international piracy within their territorial waters there, the US Army Corps of Engineers said.

US Africa Command, working with the US Embassy in Benin, delivered the new patrol vessel, associated maintenance and launch facilities and specialized training to the Beninese Special River and Maritime Police Unit, or USPFM based on its official name in French – l’Unité Spéciale de Police Fluviale et Maritime. The US Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District managed the construction of an improved boat launch facility.

The USPFM operates similarly to how those in the United States might think of the US Coast Guard and plays a key role in maritime policing in Beninese waters in the Gulf of Guinea.

“The Gulf of Guinea has some of the highest incidents of maritime piracy in the world and prior to receiving the vessel and other aspects of the programme, the maritime police had little capacity to patrol or interdict,” said Deputy Political-Military Affairs Officer Matthew Briggs from the US Embassy in the Beninese economic capital of Cotonou. “These efforts substantially increase the maritime policing capacities for patrolling within territorial waters of Benin. This provides local and regional benefits since, much in the same way we look at the fight against terrorism in the north, the fight against piracy is similar in that you can’t just expect it to stop at the borders, especially because those don’t really exist on the ocean.”

In addition to the new patrol boat, the US Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District managed the construction of an improved boat launch facility capable of launch and recovery of the new, larger vessel and a new, modern boat house and maintenance shop.

The boat house and maintenance facility were delivered just prior to COVID and the USPFM have been using those facilities to support their regular operations and maintenance needs since then. The new launch was completed during 2022, replacing what had been a simple gravel ramp that was not capable of handling operations of the new vessel.

The improved boat launch is larger, incorporates poured concrete to facilitate smoother operations and has erosion control features to ensure its resilience.

“These are really nice, modern facilities that we provided for launching and maintaining vessels,” said US Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District Project Engineer Chris De Pooter. “I think they will provide great benefits for the community as a whole. It’s a really good project and I’m proud we could be a part of it.”

The United States has provided boats to Benin previously – in July 2014 Benin’s navy received a Metal Shark boat from the United States to improve maritime security along the coastline of Benin and its neighbours. In 2010, the US donated two Defender Class Boats.