U.S. Gives Patrol Boat to Benin to Assist with Gulf of Guinea Security
The effort at reducing piracy activity in the Gulf of Guinea continues to be a multi-national initiative supported by a broad range of countries. The United States is highlighting its ongoing efforts in Benin, the neighboring country to the west of Nigeria, to support the country’s maritime capabilities.
United States Africa Command, working with the U.S. Embassy in Benin, is delivering a new patrol vessel, associated maintenance and launch facilities, and specialized training to the Beninese Special River and Maritime Police Unit, which is responsible for maritime policing in Beninese waters in the Gulf of Guinea. It is an ongoing effort that has provided support for the past few years to develop the country’s capabilities.
“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 program, the maritime police had little capacity to patrol or interdict,” said Deputy Political-Military Affairs Officer Matthew Briggs from the U.S. Embassy in the Beninese economic capital of Cotonou. “These efforts substantially increase the maritime policing capacities for patrolling within the territorial waters of Benin.”
The latest element and a key part of the strategy was the delivery of a new, 33-foot patrol boat. The boat will expand the capabilities of the force known as USPFM (l'Unité Spéciale de Police Fluviale et Maritime) to patrol the country’s coastal waters.
In addition to the new patrol boat, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District, managed the construction of an improved boat 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 the COVID pandemic and the USPFM have been using those facilities to support their regular operations and maintenance.
The new launch was completed earlier this year, replacing what had been a simple gravel ramp that was not capable of handling the 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.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District Project Engineer Chris De Pooter noted that in addition to the creation of the new resources, the effort also educated and provided resources to the people of Benin. They employed a local contractor and helped to teach them construction methods. He noted that a lot of training in trades took place on-site, with Beninese workers learning earthwork, horizontal and vertical concrete work, electric, plumbing, carpentry, and more.
The United States is working to expand maritime security across the broad reaches of the African continent. In southeast Africa, the U.S. recently delivered another 33-foot patrol boat to Mozambique to also be used for interdictions and maritime boarding operations. The donation is part of a U.S.-led security assistance program designed to enhance the resilience of the Mozambican Navy in fighting terrorism and transnational organized crime in the Mozambique Channel.