The Dallas at anchor off São Tomé and Príncipe. Although the ship has a white hull and the benign-sounding title of ‘Coast Guard Cutter’, it is a small warship with a 76mm main gun battery.
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The Dallas crew wait on the heli-deck for their daily briefing. The ship’s full complement is about 170 personnel.
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Second Class Petty Officer Ansel Jones battles with a yellowfin tuna he has hooked from the stern of the Dallas during a rare spell of free time.
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São Tomé Coast Guard Lieutenant Jimmy Tiny practises unarmed combat with his Dallas trainers. The trainers use a handout that describes levels of aggression up to “lethal force”, although not all techniques are taught to all visiting foreign military officers.
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Sergeant Vitalina Lopes of the São Tomé Coast Guard watches ship movements along the west African coast. The radar tracking facility - like São Tomé’s deepwater harbour – is being developed with US support. Information from the monitoring station is shared with the US military.
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The one that – eventually – got away. São Tomé’s waters are rich in fish such as the yellowfin tuna depicted, marlin, and barracuda, but illegal fishing is a problem.
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Seaman Clifton Chang patrols the heli-deck at sundown off the coast of Port-Gentil, oil capital of Gabon.
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The Dallas mid-tour in the Gulf of Guinea. The ship and the fast small boats it carries more often see actions in drugs busts in the Caribbean.
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Second lieutenant Ramoon Nascimento (left) and Aspirant Jimmy Tiny of the São Tomé coastguards receive mementoes of their stay on the Dallas from Captain Robert Wagner. US vessels have hosted military officers and coastguards from all over the Gulf of Guinea as part of Washington’s Africa Partnership Station mission.
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A fisherman holds up an octopus he caught with his bare hands off a quay in the port of São Tomé, the capital.
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São Tomé’s main port sees few big ships and is light on security.
You can read Michael Peel’s account of his journey, with the crew of the US Coast Guard Cutter Dallas, across the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea here.
Michael Peel is a Financial Times journalist and former west Africa correspondent of the paper. His book A Swamp Full of Dollars: Paramilitaries and Pipelines at Nigeria’s Oil Frontier was published in June 2009.
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