Sea search and Rescue (SAR) and the fight against transnational criminal activity, particularly the fight against drug trafficking and small arms smuggling, were at the heart of discussions between Commander of the French forces in the West Indies (FAA), Rear Admiral Jean Hausermann, and Captain (Navy) Executive Director of the Regional Security System (RSS), Errington Shurland.
The meeting took place on September 26 and 27, at the headquarters of the West Indies Armed Forces (FAA) in Martinique, where they discussed a wide range of security issues, including the formation of a regional group for Explosive Ordinance Disposal including Improvised Explosive Devices, to address the terrorist risk in the Caribbean and around the world.
The two military officials reaffirmed their commitment to close coordination between their services and deemed the meeting as part of a more fruitful element of cooperation between the only regional security organization of the Lesser Antilles and the French armed forces in the West Indies.
For many years, the RSS has been cooperating with the French armed forces based in the West Indies, as the two C26 aircrafts of the RSS Air Wing are actively involved in locating drug-trafficking vessels in close coordination with the French Navy’s resources within the FAA. Together, they have conducted 17 operations at sea since 2016.
The C26s play a crucial role in rescue operations at sea and 22 rescues have been carried out using RSS assets since 2016. To this end, the RSS intends to participate in a regional conference on maritime rescue, with special emphasis on cruise ship interventions, to be held in Saint-Martin in 2020 alongside the French, Americans and Dutch. This conference is significant as Martinique alone has welcomed more than 650,000 cruise passengers in 2018, which is almost double the island’s population.
The French forces in the West Indies, with 1,400 civilian and military personnel, located in Martinique and Guadeloupe, constitute the only permanent European military force in the Lesser Antilles. Under the authority of Rear Admiral Jean Hausermann since August 30, 2019, the French Forces in the West Indies have been conducting operations to combat illicit trafficking, respond to natural disasters and assist people at the sea. The French Forces in the West Indies helped to rescue the people of the Bahamas by deploying approximately 50 French soldiers and logistics along with Dutch and German soldiers.