The Seychelles Defence Forces (SDF) and the French Armed Forces in the Southern Indian Ocean Zone (FAZSOI) will continue close collaboration in the battle against the trafficking of illicit drugs in the region, they reaffirmed on Friday.
The continued collaboration was part of discussions held onboard the French vessel Champlain where Seychelles’ President Wavel Ramkalawan met French officers involved in an enormous drug bust in the Indian Ocean.
Ramkalawan and the French Ambassador to Seychelles, Olivia Berkeley-Christmann, visited the vessel to thank and congratulate the team for the work currently being done in the region.
Around 1 tonne of heroin was seized on March 9 onboard an Iranian dhow, the Al Balal, on the high seas after the Champlain officers carried out an inspection. The dhow had been monitored for several days after its presence had been confirmed by a Seychelles Air Force Dornier flight operation.
“It was a highly successful operation, although it is not the first time that the BSAOM Champlain has helped Seychelles,” said President Ramkalawan in his speech to thank the officers.
The last time the vessel came to the small Island State’s aid was when there were tropical cyclones going through Aldabra Atoll, a Seychelles’ UNESCO World Heritage site, and Assumption, the island nearest to it.
“Had there been a need, BSAOM Champlain would have been the first vessel to assist us,” he explained.
The BSAOM Champlain is an offshore support vessel inspired by the platform supply vessel format, with a large loading capacity on deck and in the hold. It is 65m long, and displacing up to 2300 tonnes in weight, it is manned by two crews of 24 sailors, who change every four months.
Recently commissioned, Seychelles Coast Guard officer, Marlon Noel spent time on BSAOM Champlain.
President with Seychelles Coast Guard officer, Marlon Noel. (Rassin Vannier, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
“It was a successful mission, with the sophisticated equipment on board the vessel. Everything was done according to our SOPs [standard operating procedures]. I have seen how the French forces collaborated with Seychelles and how they worked to intercept the threats in the region,” he told reporters.
He also explained that while this is not the first time he has taken part in such an operation as he has done so locally but it is the first time he has done so with an international team.
FAZSOI, which is a permanent military presence based in Reunion and Mayotte, regularly holds such operations to combat drug trafficking in the region.
Seychelles, an archipelago in the Western Indian Ocean, has an Exclusive Economic Zone of 1.4 million square kilometres which makes surveillance of illegal maritime activities a challenge.
The island nation has stepped up efforts to combat illicit drug trafficking and illegal fishing in its waters. Part of the measures is that SDF assets are continuously involved in regional operations with partner countries and organisations.