By Adekunle Segun
The USS Hershel “Woody” Williams arrived in Lagos Nigeria on August 7 2021 to further train and increase Nigeria preparedness to combat piracy in the Gulf of Guinea maritime domain. It should be noted that this is not the first time the United States military and government has extended a professional handshake to Nigeria as a country in the Gulf of Guinea. A more recent evidence is the successful procurement, acquisition and delivery of the Super Tucano aircraft to the Nigerian Air Force, which has contributed in no small measure to the fight against insurgency in various parts of Nigeria.
The arrival of the special-purpose vessel, USS Hershel “woody” Williams, is another definitive beacon that Nigeria’s body language in ending piracy, armed robbery and other offshore maritime vices in the Gulf of Guinea is currently attracting the attention of the international community and the major global firepower leaders.
While in Lagos, Nigeria, this vessel will be engaging Nigerian Navy in a real-time practical approach in combating the ever dynamic business of sea pirates in the Gulf of Guinea. The vessel will participate in an intensive 3-day training exercise with various Nigerian offshore patrol vessels. The patrol vessels, which are expected to be manned by navy personnels while the training is underway, will be coordinated by “Woody”; and a typical pirate attack is expected to be simulated while the Navy is expected to respond and tackle such attack professionally.
It is important to note that the pirates are constantly adjusting their attacking tactics and there is need to carry out constant training and retraining to be abreast with these attacks and tactics. The choice of Nigeria and Lagos in undertaking this significant training cannot be overemphasized as Nigeria currently maintains the largest Navy in the Gulf of Guinea region, and this is very important to the security of the region. A secured and readily prepared Nigerian Navy in the Gulf of Guinea is also very significant to the security of Africa as a whole. The members of Ghana Special Boat Squad will equally be participating in this training which will see quite a lot of activities going on within the waters of the various countries along the Gulf of Guinea coast.
Africa as a continent has a very huge maritime potential and assets and this has made her a very attractive conclave for various activities which are illegal and adverse to her position in world affairs. Apart from piracy, which has become a regular lexicon in Africa’s maritime business, there are also cases of (IUU); this is defined as illegal unreported and unregulated fishing. It is a broad term that encapsulates a wide variety of unlawful fishing activities.
Illegal fishing in the Gulf of Guinea drains over $2 billion in annual revenue from the coffers of the countries in this region. It is alleged that illegal fishing trawlers show no regard for the aquatic environment as these aquatic poachers catch their fishes in various species and from the youngest to the oldest .This act is highly inimical to the well-being of the world and African waters in general and the Gulf Of Guinea waters in particular. A Typical fishing trawler can hold huge amount of tonnes in fishes which species may eventually go extinct if these activities are not effectively placed in check or totally obliterated with the kind of training this vessel provides
USS Hershel “Woody” Williams is the first purpose-built warship permanently assigned to the US Africa Command area of responsibility. The United States considers the prosperity of Africa and navigation around the continent very important hence, for over 70 years, the Sixth Fleet that operates the joint naval operations with allied partners in Africa has continued to protect the interests and well-being of African continental waters. The USS Hershel “Woody” Williams is a special-purpose warship in the Lewes B. pillar class. She was launched in 2017 and christened in the same year. She has a length of 239 metres and can carry two naval helicopters while in operation. She also serves as a floating base for various military operations.
Adekunle Segun, ISPS, DPA, MLC, is a maritime industry professional based in Lagos, Nigeria. He can be reached on +2348163769265 (SMS only) or email@example.com