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A U.S. Coast Guard cutter is visiting several West African nations under the U.S. Navy’s continuing Africa Partnership Station in the Gulf of Guinea.

The Dallas arrived Tuesday in Equatorial Guinea for a three-day visit after making a port call to the island-nation of Sao Tome and Principe last week, according to Navy officials.

The mission of the APS, which officially started under that name in November, is to teach West African navies to secure their own coastlines and waterways to counter drug smuggling, illegal human trafficking and illegal fishing, a $1 billion industry. The Navy had periodically sent ships to the gulf over the past few years.

The APS program dovetails with, and will serve as a model for, similar missions to be taken on by U.S. Africa Command when it becomes fully operational in October, command spokesman Vince Crawley said Tuesday.

APS "provides a good example of what the newly established U.S. Africa Command is all about as it relates to helping our partner nations on the continent of Africa build their capacity to better govern their spaces [and] to have more effect in providing the security of their people," AFRICOM leader Gen. William "Kip" Ward said during an October press briefing in Washington.

The U.S. Naval Forces Europe-led APS "folds nicely in the way AFRICOM is developing," Naval Forces Europe spokesman Lt. Brian Badura said. The program is "multilateral, multi-agency and multinational in flavor."

On Wednesday, Naval Forces Europe began a three-day enduring partners conference in Naples, Italy. Representatives of 15 European and African nations will plan for the next large-scale APS mission, slated to begin in January, Badura said.

Representatives will iron out details of missions, port visits, training and the curriculum — giving the participating nations a chance to express their needs "instead of having us come in and tell them what we’re going to do," Badura said.

The APS program officially started in November with the USS Fort McHenry and the High Speed Vessel Swift 2, and other ships that periodically joined while in the region.

Part of the program includes officials from African nations sailing aboard the U.S. ships. In the cutter’s case, two Equatorial Guinea navy officers sailed for a month with the Dallas crew, learning about maritime law-enforcement tactical-team movements, small-boat operations and damage control/fire fighting.

"We are a young Navy, and I believe that the training we’ve received while aboard Dallas will better prepare us for various situations while encountering illegal activities at sea," one of the officers, Lt. Placido Ndong, said in a U.S. Navy press release.

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