“It’s Time for a ‘Quad’ of Coast Guards” –Real Clear Defense

A Japan Coast Guard helicopter approaches an Indian Coast Guard patrol vessel during a joint exercise off Chennai, India, January 2018 (Photo: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty)

Real Clear Defense has an article which first appeared in the Australian think tank Lowy Institute‘s publication “The Interpreter,” advocating greater cooperation between the Coast Guards of Australia, India, Japan, and the US.

“The so-called Quad group of Indo-Pacific maritime democracies – Australia, India, Japan, and the United States – is a valuable grouping, although it is still under utilized in many ways. One of the most effective ways that these countries could work together to enhance maritime security in the Indo-Pacific would be through coordinating the work of their coast guard agencies.”

While India in particular, is adverse to committing to a military alliance, these nations share a commitment to a rules based international system.

Quadrilateral cooperation through the countries’ coast guards could provide an answer to this political problem. As principally law-enforcement agencies, coast guards can provide many practical benefits in building a stable and secure maritime domain, without the overtones of a military alliance.

Using ship-riders, this sort of cooperation could go beyond capacity building and uphold the norms of international behavior. It might lead to the kind of standing maritime security task force I advocated earlier. When coast guards are in conflict, having multiple coast guards on scene could insure that instead of a “he said, she said” situation, we could have a “he said, we say” situation that would show a united front against bullying.

Given Bertholf and Stratton‘s stay in the Western Pacific and Walnut and Joseph Gerczak‘s support of Samoa, which was coordinated with Australia and New Zealand, it appears we may already be moving in this direction.

 

The Other Prize Winning USNI Coast Guard Essays

At least for a little while, the three prize winning US Naval Institute Coast Guard Essays are available on line, and they are available whether you are a member or not. 

I did a separate post on the First prize winner earlier. The other two are linked below.

    “Rethink Coast Guard Priorities”—2nd Prize, By Lt Noah Miller, USCG
    “Guard the African Coast”—3rd Prize, By LCdr Stuart J. Ambrose, USCGR
Both are thoughtful efforts, well worth the read.
Lt Miller makes the case for devoting more assets to fisheries enforcement even at the expense of decreased drug enforcement. I think he has a point, particularly in regard to the Central and Western Pacific.
“The Western and Central Pacific region is extremely remote, so it is difficult to detect potential incursions and even more difficult to respond in a timely manner. However, tuna fisheries are present in these waters, and they are among the most valuable pelagic fisheries in the world.”
LCdr Ambrose tells us why the Coast Guard should be engaged in Africa.

“Schultz: Coast Guard Expanding Western Pacific Operations” –USNI

USCGC Bertholf (WMSL-750) crew members observe the stars from Bertholf’s flight deck as the cutter and crew patrol the South China Sea on April 21, 2019. US Coast Guard Photo

The US Naval Institute News Service is reporting,

KUALA LUMPUR – The U.S. Coast Guard will increase its presence and deployments to Asia – particularly around Oceania and U.S. Pacific territories – and test out a new operational deployment concept in the region, service head Adm. Karl Schultz told reporters on Thursday.

We have been seeing this happening. The Coast Guard has begun spending more time in and around the Western Pacific, particularly around US Western Pacific territories and Oceania.

The reference to use of a buoy tender as a mothership to support patrol craft operations looks like a test to see how useful the proposed basing of three Webber class cutters in Guam might be.

The Commandant suggested that the tender might partner with Australian, New Zealand, or Japanese vessels as well. He promised,

““In the face of coercive and antagonistic behavior, the United States Coast Guard offers transparent engagement and partnership,…”

There is no reason this should not work, hopefully it will lead to similar multi-unit operations in the Eastern Pacific drug transit areas where the Webber class could augment larger cutters.

“What Is the US Coast Guard’s Role in the Indo-Pacific Strategy?” –The Diplomat

The Coast Guard Cutter Stratton passes underneath San Francisco’s Bay Bridge as Stratton and the crew depart on a months-long deployment to the Western Pacific in support of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, June 12, 2019. Operating under the tactical control of the U.S. 7th Fleet commander, Stratton and crew are scheduled to engage in professional exchanges and capacity-building exercises with partner nations in the Western Pacific and to patrol and operate as directed. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi.The Diplomat reports on rationale for the increasing presence of the US Coast Guard in the Western Pacific. The piece is written by a Philippine Coast Guard Officer and he credits the Japanese with developing the effective use of White Ships to provide influence in this region.

“U.S., Philippine Coast Guards Conduct Joint Search-and-Rescue Exercise” –Seapower

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (left) moves in formation with Philippine coast guard vessels Batangas (center) and Kalanggaman during an exercise on May 14. U.S. Coast Guard/Chief Petty Officer John Masson

The Navy League’s Seapower is reporting that USCGC Bertholf is conducting SAR exercises with the Philippine Coast Guard.

“The crew of Bertholf also will participate in other joint events with members of the Philippine coast guard during the ship’s Manila port call. The events include a series of engagements on operational subjects such as damage control and search and rescue as well as sporting and social events. The activities are designed to improve interoperability and strengthen the ties between the two countries.”

Exercise Obangame Express 2019 –Capacity Building in West Africa

Coast Guardsmen assigned to U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Thetis (WMEC-910) approach a stranded fishing vessel to render assistance in the Gulf of Guinea, March 14, 2019. Thetis, homeported in Key West, Florida, is on its first patrol to support operations with U.S. Africa Command and U.S. 6th Fleet. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally/Released)

Coast Guardsmen assigned to U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Thetis approach a stranded fishing vessel to render assistance in the Gulf of Guinea. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally)

USCGC Thetis (WMEC-910) has been participating in a capacity building exercise in the Gulf of Guinea. I would not have known that except that the cutter rescued a couple of fishermen already given up for dead.

Looking for news of the wrap up, Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples, and commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, did recognize the cutter.

More than 220 U.S. military personnel participated in OE19, including the crew of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Thetis (WMEC 910). Specifically, United States forces conducted training in visit, board, search and seizure, maritime interdiction operations, legal, and surface warfare.

This was a pretty big exercise.

“We brought 33 countries together, [including] 95 ships, 12 high-performance aircraft, 19 maritime operations centers, [all] tied together in Obangame Express, and seven national military command centers for over 80 scenarios and exercises in the last two weeks,” said Foggo.

https://www.stripes.com/news/us-partners-work-to-strengthen-sea-policing-as-piracy-off-west-africa-surges-1.573639

This is the ninth iteration of the exercise.

“Obangame Express has grown in scope from a communications exercise to become what it is now — a comprehensive maritime security event that exercises the full spectrum of activities from command and control, to maritime force responses, and ultimately the handing and transfer of evidence to bring criminals to justice,” said Rear Adm. Heidi Berg. “Today, we face serious challenges at sea such as illegal fishing, trafficking of weapons, narcotics, people, and the ongoing threat of piracy. This illicit activity undermines rule of law, food security, and economic development. Our efforts here will help make the region a safer place for maritime commerce and help increase prosperity throughout the region.”

The 33 nations scheduled to participate include Angola, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Togo, Turkey and the United States, as well as the Economic Community of West African States and the Economic Community of Central African States.

One of the highlights of the event was the opening of a Maritime training school in Nigeria.

As part of the events to open the 2019 Obangame Express, Consul General Bray and Vice Admiral Ibas commissioned the Nigerian Navy’s Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) Training School in Apapa. The training school was built by the Nigerian Navy and equipped by the United States Navy.

 

Gulf of Guinea, from Wikipedia

If you look at the Gulf of Guiana you can see that a fleeing pirate can quickly transit from one jurisdiction to another. They need cooperation between neighboring states.

Obangame Express is part of a comprehensive strategy by U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa to provide collaborative opportunities among African forces and international partners that address maritime security concerns. The Nigerian Navy is hosting the 2019 exercise from March 14 to 22.

The word ‘Obangame’ comes from the Fang language of southern Cameroon and other parts of Central Africa. It means “togetherness.”

This area still needs a lot of help. Five crew members were recently kidnapped off of an Offshore Support Vessel despite protection of an armed Nigerian Navy escort. One Nigerian Navy Guard was killed in the exchange of gun fire.

“According to the International Maritime Bureau, the number of piracy incidents reported in the Gulf of Guineas in 2018 in surged to 201 incidents, including six hijackings, marking a steep rise from 180 incidents in 2017 and 191 in 2016. Among the 201 incidents reported, there were 13 ships were fired upon, 130 hostages taken, and 78 seafarers kidnapped for ransom. To make matters worse, some experts estimate that some 40% of incidents in the region go unreported, so the number of actual incidents is likely much higher. “

They do seem to be making some progress in achieving greater coordination helped by these exercises.

COMMODORE OLISEMENOGOR: “… Within the last three months in Western Naval command areas, I think we have arrested over fifty-something vessels based on this collaboration with other nations.”