US Navy Ship Deployed to Piracy Hot Spot for Training

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The USS Hershel “Woody” Williams, a US Navy expeditionary mobile base, was deployed to the Gulf of Guinea in September to serving as the training platform for the exercise Operation Guinex.

The military exercise, which ran through the end of September, focused on U.S. and Brazil’s “shared interest in maritime safety and freedom of commerce across the southern Atlantic,” according to U.S. Naval Forces Africa.

The operation was one of several maritime training missions scheduled for Operation Guinex, the first U.S.-Brazil joint training to be held off Africa’s Atlantic coast.

In recent years, the Gulf of Guinea has been the global leader in piracy that’s becoming more violent than what was seen years earlier off Somalia and in southeast Asia.

Somali piracy was “a high-end, somewhat sophisticated operating model” while in southeast Asia “a lot of piracy was more hit-and-run style,” Joshua Tallis, a research scientist with US-based nonprofit research and analysis organization CNA, said in a recent U.S. Naval Institute report.

In the Gulf of Guinea, “we see the dominance of a new trend or a new model in piracy, which is the kidnap-and-ransom approach, where pirates will attack a vessel, take members of the crew off the vessel and back into strongholds on land and hold them for ransom there,” Tallis said, per the USNI. “So it presents novel challenges both for U.S. allies and partners in the Gulf of Guinea, and also for the U.S. in terms of trying to adapt to generate new types of capacity building to address that change in approach.”

Operation Guinex was also aimed at improving interoperability between U.S. naval platforms and local partners — including data links with tracking information on commercial shipping.

“The drills we performed with the Brazilians during Operation Guinex increase our awareness of the best ways to counteract piracy and illicit fisheries operations in the region,” Capt. Chad Graham, commanding officer, USS Hershel “Woody” Williams was quoted as saying in a Navy press release.