APIA: TUESDAY 13 NOVEMBER 2012: The first Samoan “shipriders” travel aboard U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kukui to patrol the Samoan Exclusive Economic Zone [EEZ] have returned home.
Following on the signing of their Mutual Law Enforcement Agreement last June, the United States and Samoa concluded a joint maritime law enforcement patrol of the Samoan EEZ on Tuesday. Commonly referred to as the “Shiprider” program, the patrol involved two Samoan law enforcement officers riding aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kukui to enforce Samoan fisheries and other maritime laws.
Samoan Fisheries Officer Apelu Isaia and Senior Constable of the Samoan Maritime Police Fa’afou Saumani were on board the Kukui for the week long patrol.
According to Samoan officials the patrol comes at a crucial time as Samoa’s patrol boat, the MV Nafanua, is currently dry docked in Australia for repairs.
While onboard the Kukui and under the Shiprider Agreement, Apelu and Fa’afou were given the authority to direct the interdiction, arrest, and fining of foreign vessels engaged in illegal commercial fishing, trafficking in persons, and trafficking in prohibited substances within Samoa’s EEZ.
The two are Samoa’s first shipriders since the signing of the bilateral agreement between the United States Ambassador David Huebner and Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi. The agreement was signed aboard the USS Chafee in June this year, during Samoa’s 50th Anniversary of Independence celebrations. The ultimate goal of the agreement is to make the seas safer for legitimate maritime traffic and fisheries activity and to conserve fisheries and other resources.
Today Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi welcomed the shipriders home from sea and thanked the U.S. Government for its commitment to the Mutual Law Enforcement Agreement and assisting in the enforcement of Samoa’s maritime laws.
USCGC Kukui’s Commanding Officer Steven Ramassini says he was pleased to take on board Samoa’s first shipriders and that working together with the Samoan officers was a positive learning experience for his crew. “It is great to be able to cooperate in this way to protect the ocean environment and the resources that are so important to the people of the Pacific.”
Both nations look forward to continued cooperation in the future.