A hole left in the fleet of the Samoan Coast Guard has been filled by the U.S. after one of its patrol boats hit a reef and was taken to Australia for repairs.

The Coast Guard cutter Oliver Berry patrolled Samoan waters over the course of September, policing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing while the South Pacific nation’s Nafanua II was out of service.

The approximately $12 million Samoan vessel, donated by Australia and commissioned in 2019, became stranded on a reef off the southeastern coast of Savai’i island in Samoa in early August. The Guardian-class boat was transporting police to Savai’i to keep the peace at a Human Rights Protection Party protest.

USCGC Oliver Berry traveling to its homeport Honolulu in 2017. DVIDS/Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Wyrick

In the patrol vessel’s absence, the U.S offered to assist in security operations in Samoan waters.

Cmdr. Jeff Bryant, the 14th District’s chief of enforcement, said it was “a pleasure” to help Samoa to continue enforcing its laws to protect fisheries and natural resources in its waters.

The Oliver Berry did not dock in Samoa, nor were any Samoan officials welcomed aboard due to Covid-19 protocols. Outside the pandemic, host nation representatives would typically be on board for U.S. Coast Guard operations in their waters.

“The Oliver Berry’s patrol operations highlighted the close U.S.-Samoa partnership and our shared commitment to ensuring security and freedom of navigation in the Pacific,” said U.S. acting chargé d’affaires Mark Hitchcock in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Samoan Government and Coast Guard to facilitate additional patrols in the near future.”

Nafanua II was stranded for just over a month before it was loaded onto a barge and taken to Australia on an approximately three-week journey where it would undergo repairs.  The officer in charge of the boat when it became stranded faced five disciplinary charges and was suspended from service.

In July this year, the U.S. commissioned three new Fast Response Cutters in Guam to up its coverage of the Pacific, amid increasing concerns of overfishing and competition for influence with China.

The U.S. holds 11 agreements with Pacific Island Forum nations, including Samoa and nations in Micronesia, which enable cooperation between the U.S. and the various nations in protecting their waters.

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