Members of the Belgian Navy and U.S. Coast Guard recently completed a week-long maritime law enforcement exercise with partners from the Cabo Verde Coast Guard (CVCG), Maritime Police (CVMP), and Judicial Police (CVJP).
The major participating units in the exercise were the Belgian command and support ship BNS Godetia, the CVCG cutter Guardião, and a multiagency Cabo Verde 10-person boarding team supported by USCG officers from U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF) and USCG Tactical Law Enforcement Team South.
The exercise was the first cooperative event of the Belgian Navy’s Maritime Capacity Building (MCB) 16 deployment, conducted within the framework of Africa Partnership Station (APS), a NAVAF-initiated cooperative program that is celebrating 10 years of international efforts to improve maritime safety and security in Africa.
The exercise took place in the waters around São Vicente and Santo Antão islands, the windward-most islands of Cabo Verde, an archipelagic nation stretching 500 miles from the westernmost point of Africa.
One of the drills included a boarding by the Cabo Verde Boarding Team (CVBT) of the simulated suspected drug smuggling vessel “Stefano”, played by one of the participating warships. After CVCG personnel secured the vessel, CVMP and CVJP agents conducted a comprehensive search. Upon finding irregularities in the ship’s documentation and contraband, “Stefano” was directed to port where it was handed over to Cabo Verde law enforcement authorities.
The exercise included information sharing and vessel tracking between Cabo Verde authorities and counter-narcotics agencies.
Cabo Verde has contributed to APS since the program’s inception 10 years ago and plays an increasingly active role in maritime security in the Eastern Atlantic. The island nation sits astride major trafficking routes to Europe – drug smugglers from South America and human traffickers from mainland Africa attempt to use the islands as a mid-ocean transit point.
MCB 16 will continue until the end of the calendar year, with additional maritime security exercises planned in the Gulf of Guinea with other African and European partners.