US law enforcement participate in exercise Phoenix Express to help tackle maritime crime


Law enforcement experts from the US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) conducted a subject matter expert exchange hosted by US Africa Command in Bizerte, Tunisia during exercise Phoenix Express, on 18 May.

Exercise Phoenix Express is one of three regional maritime exercises executed by US Naval Forces Africa as part of a comprehensive strategy to provide collaborative opportunities amongst African forces and international partners in order to address maritime security concerns, US Naval Forces Europe and Africa said.

During their talks, interagency partners shared best practices as it related to key regional challenges such as illicit trafficking (human, arms, drug), piracy and maritime crime.

“Our presentation touched on exactly what we, as US law enforcement, are seeing in our criminal investigations,” said Kyle Burns, HSI supervisory special agent and senior liaison to US Africa Command (AFRICOM). “We provided information useful to our partnering nations because they will be the ones that will be boarding these ships while out at sea.”

Burns co-presented the session entitled “Maritime Smuggling Techniques, Trends, Threats, and Evidence Recovery” with Daniel Baldwin, DEA supervisory special agent and liaison to AFRICOM, where they shared tactics used by the US agencies during smuggling seizures.

In North Africa, more than half of economic activity relies on safe and lawful use of the maritime domain, making maritime security and partnerships essential to economic development and sustainment. Exercises like Phoenix Express foster trust between participating nations by promoting mutual understanding and cooperation. These established and tested partnerships help overcome the challenges that threaten freedom and security on the world’s oceans, US naval forces said in a statement.

“We need our partners to help with investigating international crimes,” said Baldwin. “Just like the Department of Defence, law enforcement can’t tackle these challenges on our own.”

The thirteen nations participating in Phoenix Express 21 are Algeria, Belgium, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, and the United States.

The US Navy remains operational during COVID-19, following all COVID-19 safety precautions and regulations.

US Naval Forces Europe-Africa/US Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners to advance US national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.