Ghanaian and U.S. maritime forces completed a three-week combined maritime law enforcement operation as part of African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP), on April 11.
During the operation, the combined U.S.-Ghana boarding team was able to board three fishing vessels that were fishing illegally in Ghanaian waters. A fisheries agent from the Fisheries Commission of Ghana, embedded with the combined boarding team, recorded six infractions under Ghana fisheries regulations for these vessels, which could lead to potential fines of up to $2 million once the cases go through the Ghanaian judicial system.
“This joint exercise has improved the professional competence of the maritime security agencies and also interagency collaboration,” said Commodore Godson Zowonoo, Flag Officer Commanding of the Western Naval Command and 2 Garrison Commander. “Ghana’s joint boarding team will be at sea very often to ensure that the knowledge acquired is utilized.”
U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard members involved in the operation felt privileged to serve alongside their Ghanaian counterparts and to work toward a more secure maritime environment.
“This operation was successful as a result of collaboration and professionalism of all involved,” said Navy Capt. Marc Lederer, mission commander of Spearhead’s Africa Partnership Station deployment. “Efforts such as these, which focus on active patrolling, interagency and maritime governance, go a long way in increasing the capabilities of our maritime forces to ensure economic security and sustain global trade in these waters.”
Operations were conducted from the U.S. Navy’s joint, high-speed vessel USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1). Spearhead also assisted in escorting the violators to Ghana’s Western Naval Command in Sekondi, Ghana, where Ghanaian naval forces took custody of the vessels to enforce follow-on judicial actions.
The combined boarding team consisted of Ghanaian navy and marine police personnel, a Ghana fisheries agent, and members of a U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment.
Operations were conducted in close coordination with the Maritime Operations Center (MOC) at the Western Command Naval Base. Two U.S. Coast Guard operations specialists were embedded in the MOC to work alongside their Ghanaian counterparts to improve command and control of naval units and to enhance maritime domain awareness.
Ghana participants in AMLEP acknowledged the success of the operation and recognized the important skill sets that were gained as a result.
“The Americans and Ghanaians worked well together as one team,” said Ghanaian navy Sub Lt. Evans Blay Enwunli. “This experience and exchange of practices helps us all identify more tools to more successfully protect fishing [and other maritime threats] in Ghana’s waters in the future.”
U.S. Coast Guard personnel enjoyed working with their Ghanaian counterparts and credited them with mission accomplishment.
“The Ghanaians were the first aboard the vessels,” said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Jeff Deitell, the officer-in-charge of the U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment, who joined the team for several of the boardings. “They led everything and projected a strong, clear Ghanaian voice to conduct law enforcement.”
Not only was the U.S.-Ghana AMLEP helpful for the military forces, but it also aided the interagency dynamics that are involved in fisheries management, said the fisheries representative. The fisheries representative worked directly in tandem with Ghana navy and marine police personnel.
“[This operation] gives us an opportunity to not just work alongside American forces, but to bring many Ghanaian forces together,” said Josephine Laryea, a representative from the Fisheries Commission of Ghana embarked aboard the ship. “This was rewarding because the new team we’ve created brings more perspective to our collective Gulf of Guinea activity.”
AMLEP, the operational phase of Africa Partnership Station (APS), brings together U.S. Navy, U.S. Coastguard, and respective Africa partner maritime forces to actively patrol that partner’s territorial waters and economic exclusion zone with the goal of intercepting vessels that may be involved in illicit activity. The program aims to enforce partner nation maritime law, follow-on prosecution, so that African partners will benefit from revenue that comes from judicial processes.
AMLEP is a key operational milestone during Spearhead’s maiden deployment. Spearhead is deployed to the U.S. 6th Fleet area in support of the APS program and maritime security operations.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts a full range of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation missions in concert with coalition, joint, interagency, and other parties in order to advance security and stability in Europe and Africa.