U.S. Navy Offers Up to $100,000 for Tips on Middle East Smuggling

The crew of the USS Momsen boards a suspected smuggling vessel in the Gulf of Oman, May 2022 (USN)

Published Jul 6, 2022 3:17 PM by The Maritime Executive

U.S. Naval Forces Central Command has launched a bounty program to reward foreign nationals for tips on illegal maritime activity and the smuggling of illicit cargo in the Middle East. It is the first time that the command has offered a reward for information on maritime crime under the Department of Defense Rewards Program.

“Launching this program represents another example of our commitment to this region and its security,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of NAVCENT, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces (CMF). “This also enhances our vigilance and supports counterterrorism efforts, which are essential to safeguarding the free flow of commerce.”

The program offers a payout of up to $100,000 for information or nonlethal assistance that aids U.S. counterterrorism operations or leads to the seizure of illicit cargo, such as illegal weapons or narcotics. If cash isn't the right inducement for the informant, NAVCENT can also make payment in the form of valuable goods like boats, vehicles, food or equipment.

U.S. citizens are not eligible for rewards under the program. To accommodate informants who do not speak English as their primary language, the tip line is staffed by speakers of regional Middle East languages.

Last year, U.S. and allied multinational forces increased their patrols in the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea, leading to a surge in successful illicit cargo seizures. U.S. 5th Fleet warships seized nearly 9,000 illicit weapons, three times the amount seized in 2020.

In addition, the U.S.-led Combined Maritime Forces - an international coalition centered on maritime security operations - seized illegal drugs worth $500 million in street value. This is a higher value than the seizures carried out in the previous four years combined.

The U.S. 5th Fleet AOR covers about 2.5 million square miles of water in the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. It includes three strategic choke points: the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al-Mandeb. The region is a hub for malign Iranian activity, including weapons smuggling, illegal boardings and vessel seizures, unsafe close approaches, and (periodically) suspected attacks on merchant vessels. 

Tips can be reported to NAVCENT by calling +973 3914-5845, or online at https://dodrewardsprogram.net.