Benin Navy (Forces Navales Beninois)
Benin's coastline is only 125 km long, but the piracy threat, at sea and in port, is particularly acute in Benin. Its Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) is about 46,000 square kilometers. This area constitutes a national endowment and is of vital importance for Beninís national economic and social development. Benin lacks any real ability to patrol its EEZ to protect against illegal fishing, or to defend the offshore oil industry.
The income generated by the seaport of Cotonou is considerable, accounting for 70% of Beninís Gross Domestic Product, 80% of its national tax revenue and 90% of its foreign exchange. Benin focused U.S. assistance toward enhancing the capability of the seaport of Cotonou through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) program during George W. Bushís presidency. The first part of this project took into account the domains of justice, land management and seaport infrastructure. The second part, signed in 2012, focused on the goals of the Benin government to modernize Cotonouís seaport infrastructure, cargo handling capabilities, doubling the length of the portís sand-stopping barrier and enhancing overall port security.
Because Cotonou is the main source of revenue for the Government, piracy is a critical threat to the existence of the state. Benin is unique in the region because the State does not gain revenue from oil exploitation and is threatened by pirate activities which are scaring shipping away from the port of Cotonou on which the countryís revenues depend.
Consequently, it is in Beninís strategic interest to fight piracy in order to preserve its survival as a state. In various forums, Beninís Government has repeatedly stressed the need for a regional leadership and has called for international assistance from countries that are able to provide effective responses to piracy.
According to the Navy Chief in Cotonou, there was a 70% decrease in maritime traffic to the port in the third quarter of 2011 because of the higher insurance costs triggered by piracy. 23 The costs of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea region from stolen cargos, higher insurance premiums and security costs are estimated to reach $2 billion each year, compared with $7 billion from Somali piracy. Consequently, the economy, the security and the social environment of Benin are at risk.
What is called piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is very different from piracy off the East African coast. In many cases piracy in the Gulf of Guinea centers around illegal oil industry activities in collusion with non-state actors, such as ship owners, insurance companies and pirates. Thus, the kind of international naval deployment used against Somali pirates is unlikely to help. Bergen Risks Solutions, a Norway-based consultancy, reported that ďour investigations indicate that the organized group responsible is based in Nigeria and has high-level patronage in that country.Ē
Benin organized a joint patrol with Nigerian Naval Forces58 in Beninís national waters and conducted joint exercises through AFRICOMís African Partnership Station (APS) initiative with other regional armies in the Gulf of Guinea. However, Beninís armed forces lack the operational capacity and financial resources to engage in a persistent planned campaign for maritime security.
Benin's Navy was formed in 1978, and soon thereafter four Zhuk-class patrol craft were acquired from the Soviet Union. A single French-built 70-ton patrol craft was acquired in 1988. By 2000 all these units were believed to be inoperative, and in that year a pair of 25-meter patrol craft armed with machine guns were donated by China. These boats can patrol the entire 120 km coastline in about two hours.
According Beninís Minister of Defense, the government of Benin expended more than $1 billion of its national treasury to fight piracy in 2011. The funds mainly paid for infrastructure and equipment, but also included the purchase of three new OCEA-Built 32m coastal patrol craft.
Maximizing this capability requires a combination of Inshore Patrol Craft, Seaward Defense Boats, Corvettes, Maritime Patrol Aircraft and Helicopters. These forces will maintain a dissuasive, preventive and persistent engagement in Beninís territorial waters.
US Naval Forces Europe, US European Command, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies and the Department of State sponsored a Gulf of Guinea maritime safety and security conference in Cotonou, Benin, Nov. 13-15, 2006. The ministerial-level conference, which was conducted at the request of West and Central African partners, had a goal to adopt a practical, comprehensive and sustainable strategy to address maritime safety and security challenges.
Several factors contribute to regional instability including, but not limited to, illegal fishing costing countries millions annually; criminal activity which is rife throughout coastal waters; oil theft plaguing petroleum producing nations; inadequate safety that undermines trade and pollution and abuse adversely impacting the environment.
US Marines and US Embassy Benin officials met with Beninís Minister of Interior Placide Azande 28 Aug. 2015, to discuss the partner-nation training that will take place between U.S. Marines and sailors and policemen with Benin's National Surveillance Police.
The Benin Navy partnered with the U.S. Marine Corps to conduct Non-Commissioned Officer development and general maintenance management training at Benin Naval Forces Headquarters, Cotonou, Benin, October 17-28, 2016.
During the first week of training, U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa taught general leadership practices essential in developing NCOs in the Marine Corps. By reviewing the leadership traits and principles, the Marines passed along proven values that have served to strengthen the NCO corps. The second week of training was spent teaching general maintenance techniques to help pass along useful practices in storing, maintaining, tracking, inspecting and repairing gear.
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