Police Combat Operations in the Waters of Rio de Janeiro

Police Combat Operations in the Waters of Rio de Janeiro

By Dialogo
January 07, 2011

Good Info
Cutting across the waves, the speedboats of the Air and Maritime Group of the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro State continue at high speed through the waters of Guanabara Bay in search of suspicious vessels. Heavily armed, the officers traverse the main locations during lengthy maritime combat patrols. Their actions are carried out unannounced, and the importance of their missions increases every day with the effective fight against crime put into place by the Rio Military Police.

Throughout the year, thousands of vessels pass through Guanabara Bay. The majority of them remain anchored while waiting to dock at the port in the city of Rio de Janeiro. However, some carry illegal cargo, such as drugs, weapons, and ammunition, tossed from the ships to drug dealers and smugglers. It is believed that a significant portion of all illicit goods that reach the slums of Rio de Janeiro comes by sea.

In order to suppress these activities, the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro State have an Air and Maritime Group (GAM) in the city of Niterói. Its maritime policing core has the mission of fighting environmental crimes, drug trafficking, and weapons smuggling and protecting Petrobras’s docked oil platforms and the ships of the Brazilian Navy’s base, preventing sabotage and terrorist attacks, like the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, from happening in Rio de Janeiro.

The GAM operates four cabin speedboats, 43, 36, 32, and 26 feet in length, and six semi-rigid inflatable speedboats. Their crews are armed with FAL 7.62 and M4 5.56 rifles. These missions are very complex and dangerous. “Besides all the risks associated with police work, we also run nautical risks: shipwreck, drowning, ailments caused by exposure to the sun and the sea, accidents with semi-submerged rocks and while diving,” stated Capt. Joelmir dos Santos, head of the Maritime Policing Core.

The ostentatious patrols carried out by the GAM have already engaged in combat innumerable times, as well as conducting maritime pursuit with the assistance of AS350 Squirrel helicopters from the same unit. In their area of activity, the speedboats board suspicious vessels. In Rio de Janeiro there are several roads near the sea, and some slums, such as those on Governador Island. Therefore, patrolling Guanabara Bay is as important as surveillance of the roads that lead to the city.

“The task of policing includes supporting the various agencies and battalions in the coastal areas of Rio de Janeiro State, assisting in the environmental operations of the Forest Police Battalion of the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro State (Polícia Militar do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, PMERJ), the State Environment Secretariat, the Brazilian Environment and Natural Resources Institute (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais, IBAMA), the State Environment Institute (Instituto Estadual do Ambiente, INEA), and the Brazilian Navy,” Joelmir said.

Important liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and various infrastructure under construction are located in Guanabara Bay, all under the responsibility of Petrobrás/Transpetro. This area also houses the anchorage of the Transpetro ships, where the police must keep alert for fishermen who tie up at the ships’ sterns, near the rudder and propeller, posing a risk to the offenders themselves as well as to maritime security.

The GAM’s Maritime Policing Core participates annually in simulations of accidents and sabotage, since it is included in the National Plan for Port Security through the National Commission for Port Public Safety (Comissão Nacional de Segurança Pública dos Portos, COMPORTOS), in which it represents Rio de Janeiro State. With the increase in maritime policing activities, a new base has been set up at Angra dos Reis and will be responsible for all patrolling, inspection, and suppression activities in that area.