On August 6, 2018, the Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese) launched the South-Southeastern Naval Patrol Group to increase surveillance of Brazilian waters along the coasts of the states of São Paulo and Paraná. The objective is to guarantee protection of oil platforms on the Santos Basin, increase security at the Port of Santos, the largest in Latin America, maximize search-and-rescue missions at sea, and safeguard maritime traffic rules.
“The group was mainly created to increase MB’s presence in the region, given the economic relevance of the Port of Santos, responsible for 25 percent of Brazil’s foreign trade,” said MB Commander Carlos Marden Soares Pereira da Silva, commander of the South-Southeastern Naval Patrol Group. “The subsequent increase in maritime activities and the proximity to oil industry activities in the Santos Basin are also important.”
To carry out surveillance operations, the military unit has at its disposal the recently refurbished patrol ship Guajará, which has a 10-day range at sea and the capacity to operate out to 200 nautical miles. The unit’s fleet also includes two updated patrol boats, the AviPa Barracuda and P8003 Espadarte, and an armored speedboat valued at $360,500.
Their own resources
A total of 80 service members, including six officers and 42 noncommissioned officers, in addition to the ships’ crews, comprise the unit. The group is based at MB’s dock, by the Santos docking complex, where the São Paulo Captaincy of Ports is located. The new group and the captaincy, under the Eighth Naval District Command (Com8ºDN, in Portuguese), will work independently yet complement each other. Com8ºDN’s range extends to the states of São Paulo, Paraná, and Minas Gerais, in the east of Brazil, as well as parts of Mato Grosso do Sul and Goiás, in the midwest.
Service members attached to the group will quarter at Santos Air Base, in Guarujá, on the coast of São Paulo. A unit deployed in 2015 previously carried out patrols in the region.
“Naval and air naval resources from the First Naval District Command and, eventually, resources from Navy Fleet Command, carried out naval patrol services in Com8ºDN’s maritime area of jurisdiction. With the group’s activation, Com8ºDN’s own naval resources will carry out naval patrol services,” Cmdr. Marden said.
Aside from naval inspection duties, the unit’s ships must guarantee security to oil operations in the Santos Basin pre-salt region. The military unit will patrol close to platforms, extending beyond the 500-meter safety zones. “Resources will be allocated to naval operations, such as naval patrol, search and rescue, port and restricted maritime areas defense—including terminals and oil platforms in the pre-salt region—and navigation security services,” Cmdr. Marden said.
Fishing activities near platforms will be among issues patrols can discourage. Exploration equipment at times release organic matter at sea that attracts fish and, naturally, fishermen.
According to Cmdr. Marden, the unit’s operations at port support the Federal Police, the Department of Federal Revenue, and state forces, and contribute to the fight against transnational drug trafficking, boat thefts, and other potential issues at port. “[The unit] will also conduct preventive and punitive activities against cross-border and environmental crimes, alone or jointly with public security agencies at the federal, state, and municipal levels. In addition, the group will enforce the law and regulations of maritime authorities in those areas.”
On August 13th, less than a week after its activation, the new group was put to the test when armed men attacked the Italian vessel Grande Francia, as it arrived at the Port of Santos. The criminals escaped, and units aboard the AviPa Barracuda escorted the ship to the dock. Police investigation centers on a fake robbery as a cover to board 1.2 tons of cocaine in containers that the crew would have unknowingly transported to Europe.
In August, the Port of Santos, with the support of the Federal Revenue Department and MB’s naval patrols, broke record numbers of cocaine seizures. In four operations, authorities seized 3.5 tons of cocaine, according to the Federal Revenue Department’s Customs Office.