U.S. Coast Guard, Sierra Leone Law Enforcement Complete Joint-Maritime Exercise

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone – U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk (WMEC 913), in partnership with a Sierra Leone Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET), completed their African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP) operations August 7, 2010.

AMLEP is designed to build partner nation maritime security capacity and improve management of the maritime environment through combined law enforcement operations.

During this most recent phase of operations, AMLEP supported a seven-man Sierra Leone LEDET including four naval officers, two police officers and a civilian fisheries officer attached to the police.

During Mohawk’s three-week patrol in the territorial waters and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Sierra Leone, Mohawk and the embarked LEDET conducted boardings of vessels suspected of illicit maritime activity. During their deployment Mohawk and the embarked LEDET found no violations.

“Ideally what we want to find when we conduct boardings is compliance,” said Coast Guard Commander Robert T. Hendrickson, Mohawk’s commanding officer. “That is the best measure of a successful enforcement paradigm.”

The primary mission of AMLEP is to conduct counter-narcotic operations.

“Illegal narcotics are a global problem that no one country or military can solve,” said Lieutenant Commander Clinton Carlson, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) counter-narcotics division. “That is why [collaborating] with African partner nations is so important.”

Part of the AMLEP construct is to provide partner nations with a means of developing maritime domain awareness, knowledge of what is happening in their waters far from shore and outside the easy reach of their patrol resources. As part of the operation, Mohawk patrolled Sierra Leone’s EEZ both collecting data on vessels conducting fishing operations and also making a law enforcement presence known.

“Participating in AMLEP allowed us to look at the role we can play when it comes to international law enforcement,” said Josephus Choe Mamie, fisheries officer attached to the LEDET boarding team.

Since 2008 AMLEP has continued to make an impact within the sovereign waters of Western African nations, and Mohawk is one of many ships to conduct AMLEP operations within AFRICOM’s area of responsibility.

In December 2009, USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58), with a Sierra Leone LEDET and U.S. Coast Guard personnel, seized four vessels for violating Sierra Leone fishing laws. These arrests resulted in the violators receiving significant fines to be paid to the Sierra Leone Government. Revenue from illegal fishing fines help provide sustainability for Sierra Leone’s enforcement resources.

“The fact that we didn’t find any violations is proof that AMLEP is a working success,” said Mamie.

Mohawk, homeported in Key West, Florida, is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility.

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