Guyana, US Sign Cooperation Agreement

Guyana, US Sign Cooperation Agreement

By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo
January 29, 2021

U.S. Navy Admiral Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), and Brigadier Godfrey Bess, Guyana Defence Force (GDF) chief of Staff, signed the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement at Guyana’s State House, on January 12, 2021. The agreement will facilitate logistics support between both countries in combined exercises, deployment, training, and other cooperation efforts.

“As I stand here alongside Brig. Bess, I am reminded that cooperation is key to success against every single challenge that we face,” Adm. Faller said, after signing the agreement. “The agreement also addresses transnational crime, which includes illicit trafficking in narcotics, small arms, illegal fishing, and trafficking in persons,” Brig. Bess added.

Joint response

The Guyana Defence Force and the U.S. Coast Guard carry out naval exercises to counter illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, on January 9, 2021. (Photo: Guyana Defence Force)

Days prior, on January 9, the GDF and the U.S. Coast Guard carried out a series of maritime operations in Guyana’s waters. Service members executed joint exercises in collaboration with the USCG Cutter Stone, which is currently deployed in the South Atlantic as part of Operation Southern Cross to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The joint operations are part of the Shiprider Agreement, which both countries ratified in September 2020, the GDF said on January 7. The Shiprider Agreement, which empowers law enforcement officials from one country to act legally from other nations’ ships or aircraft, facilitates maritime cooperation between the two nations to intercept illegal activities, such as fishing and drug trafficking, and improves cooperation, coordination, and interoperability, the Guyanese government said on September 27, 2020.

“The U.S. and Guyana governments enacted a bilateral agreement in 2020 and put it into action through training to cooperatively combat illegal marine activity in Guyana’s waters on January 9. The teams shared best practices,” the U.S. Coast Guard said on Twitter. “The multi-month deployment marks the Coast Guard’s first patrol to South America in recent memory and will include partners in Guyana, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Portugal,” the interactive website of maritime professionals gCaptain reported.

Major threat

“IUU fishing remains one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems […]. [It] may sometimes be associated with organized crime,” the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said on its website. “Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing is a pervasive, far-reaching security threat. One in five fish caught worldwide likely originates from IUU fishing,” SOUTHCOM indicated in a January 14 press release.

The maritime cooperation and security efforts yielded results even before the formal start of the operation. On January 7, on its way to Guyana to participate in the joint exercises to combat IUU, the USCG Cutter Stone intercepted a vessel south of the Dominican Republic that was carrying 970 kilograms of cocaine, SOUTHCOM reported on its website on January 14.