U.S. Coast Guard arrives in Apia ahead of joint patrols

The U.S. Coast Guard has arrived in Samoa ahead of a planned mission to jointly patrol Samoan waters to enforce fisheries regulations this month.

The arrival of the Coast Guard in Samoa is also the first step in a broader plan, known as Operation Aiga, to enhance American relationships in the Pacific.

The United States Embassy in Samoa and New Zealand announced the arrival of the Coast Guard ship Cutter Walnut on Monday afternoon. 

Another vessel, the Cutter Joseph Gerczak, is currently in American Samoa but plans to sail for Apia next week with a community outreach event expected next Monday. 

The vessels will be in Samoa as part of a mission to jointly enforce maritime laws inside Samoa's Exclusive Economic Zone in August.   

Samoan shipriders will join the Coast Guard on patrol with a focus on identifying and deterring illegal, unreported and unregulated shipping and respond to the increasing threat posed by drug trafficking. 

"Oceania countries adhering to the rule of law deserve an even playing field [on fisheries law]," said Lt. James Provost, the Commanding Officer of Cutter Joseph Gerczak.

"Presence, partnerships, and regular enforcement can deter [illegal] fishing and safeguard these critical fish stocks."

Australia and New Zealand will join the patrols, which will also respond to any emerging search and rescue needs in the region while they are deployed. 

The ships are arriving as part of Operation Aiga (family) an operation dedicated to strengthening Coast Guard partnerships with governments in the Pacific which will be rolled out to other countries in the region if successful here. 

“My vision for the Coast Guard is to expand our permanent presence and effectiveness in the region through expeditionary capabilities, which is why we are doubling down in Oceania," Admiral Karl Schultz told media last month when announcing the rollout of Operation Aiga. 

"Our increased capability and capacity will allow for more frequent and longer patrols to protect the Exclusive Economic Zone from illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and the threats that those activities bring, and against increasing drug trafficking threats to the region."

The shiprider programme is one of several training opportunities that have been provided by the U.S. Coast Guard to Samoa. 

Last July police and maritime officers completed a two-week course with the Coast Guard that included training on conducting search and rescue operations and ship boarding at sea. 

The shiprider programme is an American government initiative that gives Samoan officers the chance to jointly patrol waters with the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard exercises 11 bilateral shiprider agreements with Pacific Island Forum nations with exercises focused on promotion regional security.

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