MarineLink has a very interesting post on the often confusing array of US Laws defining Jurisdiction. Worth the read.
This Video does not appear to show the sinking of the fishing vessel. Speckles on the hull of the F/V seen at time 0:20 and 0:50 may be bullet holes. The video does appear to show the participants.
We have reports (here and here) that the Argentine Coast Guard (Prefectura Naval Argentina (PNA)) fired on and sank a Chinese fishing vessel (F/V), the Lu Yan Yuan Yu 010, believed to have been fishing illegally, after the F/V failed to stop after shots were fired across its bow and it allegedly attempted to ram the Coast Guard vessel. The crew reportedly was rescued, without fatalities, four by the Argentine vessel and the rest of the crew by another Chinese F/V.
Photo by Diegoventu: PNA Doctor Manuel Mantilla (GC-24), a sistership of the Argentine vessel involved.
The PNA vessel seen in the video, Prefecto Durbes (GC-28) is one of five offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) built in Spain for Argentina. The Mexican Navy also has six similar vessels with larger flight decks and more powerful engines. In size they slot between the Reliance Class and the Bear Class, being 67 meters (220 feet) overall. Unlike the Reliance class, they have a hangar for their version of the H-65.
In addition to machine guns, these ships are reportedly armed with a Bofors 40mm/70, but looking at the video, the location where the gun was mounted (on the platform forward of the bridge and one deck above the foc’sle) is vacant. This suggest that the damage was probably done by .50 cal. machine guns. We know from our Vietnam experience that .50 cal. can sink fishing vessels, but the ranges are very short. Looking at the video the ships appeared to be no more than 300 yards apart.
It is a bit surprising no casualties were reported, although the reports say no fatalities, they do not say no injuries so that is still a possibility. Did the crew of the OPV order the Chinese crew to abandon before sinking the F/V, or did they perhaps tell them where they were not going to shoot so that the crew could assemble safely? It does not sound like it. We have only this statement from an Argentine representative that after actions by the Chinese vessel, “…the order was given to fire on different sections of the vessel, damaging it,” It is unlikely, but not impossible, the crew helped the ship sink to destroy any evidence of wrong doing.
A great New York Times article , “Palau vs the Poachers,” looking at Palau’s attempts to police their waters as a microcosm of the problems created by poaching and overfishing.
I’ll repeat my oft stated contention that we do not spend nearly enough time in the Western Pacific where the US has a huge chunk of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). There is a new Marine Reserve to protect. Plus we have an obligation to help former US territories that are now independent island nations struggling to effectively protect their own fisheries.
The work of “SkyTruth” and Google in crowd sourcing fisheries intelligence recounted here is encouraging, but there is simply to little enforcement. There were a couple of paragraphs that particularly stood out to me.
The oceans belong to everyone and no one, and the general perception is that they are too big to need protection. We also tend to think of fish as an ever-regenerating crop, there forever for our taking. But roughly 90 percent of the world’s ocean stocks are depleted or overexploited; one study predicts that by 2050, the sea could contain more plastic waste than fish. Though most governments have neither the inclination nor the resources to patrol the oceans, Palau is trying a different approach, and whether it succeeds or fails may have consequences for the entire planet.
In the span of one human lifetime, humankind has become brutally adept at plundering the seas. In the late 1940s, the annual global catch was roughly 16.5 million tons; now, after decades of innovation, this number is about 94 million tons. ‘‘That’s equivalent in weight of the entire human population at the turn of the 20th century, removed from the sea each and every year,’’ Paul Greenberg, an author of books about fish and seafood, told me.
Reading the “National Fleet Plan” prompted some thoughts on where we homeport cutters. What started as a look at homeports then morphed into a look at, if there will be enough large cutters (NSCs and OPCs) in the “program of record” to protect our ports from a terrorist attack. That expanded a bit further. Could we also protect our strategic seaports? The Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) system would after all want to make sure merchant ships were not used to sow mines off our coast.
Warning: This is going to be a rambling post, so let me apologize in advance.
Note, I looked at this from the point of view of making an intercept off shore, so rather than look at specific ports, in some cases, I clustered ports that had a common approach, e.g. Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Newport News all share a common approach so I grouped them together in what I will refer to as the Chesapeake Bay Complex. Other groups were ports around Puget Sound, San Francisco Bay, Galveston Bay, and Sabine Pass. I also disregarded Inland and Great Lakes ports.
The National Fleet Plan included these particular stated intentions for the future.
– Fiscal Year 2015: Submit revised Strategic Laydown (SLD) request and OCR to homeport 3 X FRCs at Naval Base Guam to include Lessons Learned from maturing CG-7/OPNAV N51 MOA.
– Fiscal Year 2015: Process Organization Change Request to homeport 3 X Medium Endurance Cutters at Naval Station Pensacola.
– Support feasibility studies to identify potential homeport locations for West Coast Offshore Patrol Cutters
There are a lot of obvious advantages in homeporting at a Navy Base, particularly if Navy surface vessels are also based there. There are likely to be training, logistics, and maintenance support available on base and probably a shipyard will be nearby, meaning the cutter will not have to be away from homeport for their availabilities. But perhaps Coast Guard needs a wider dispersal of its assets than the Navy does.
Although I have my doubts about how the larger cutters are currently armed, I approached this from what I believe to be the Coast Guard’s view, that if there is an attack by terrorists using a medium to large ship, the most likely unit to counter it is a large cutter. This is implicit in the term “National Security Cutter” and the designations, WMSL for the NSC and WMSM for the Offshore Patrol Cutters, e.g. Maritime Security, Large and Medium. (Why is there never a small–WMSS or WSEC?)
I also made the somewhat plausible assumption, that an intercept is more likely to be successful if the cutter is based in or near the port that is being protected. An intercept requires at least one cycle of the OODA Loop, e.g., Observe (detect), Orient (evaluated), Decide (on a course of action), and Act. It is going to take some time to determine that an intercept is needed, and more time to communicated the decision. If the cutter is in or near the port to be protected, we are more likely to be able to make a successful intercept.
The USN homeports surface combatants in only five distinct geographic areas, the Chesapeake Bay (Norfolk and Little Creek, VA); Mayport, FL, San Diego, CA; Puget Sound (Everett and Bremerton, WA); and Pearl Harbor, HI. The Navy is increasingly concentrated geographically. Navy ships generally are in maintenance, in training, deployed far from the US or are in transit. They no longer routinely patrol US waters. This may not be a problem if you can handle a problem with aircraft, but reaction to a vessel that we suspect may be attempting a terrorist attack will almost certainly require investigation, including, most probably, an attempt to board.
I was actually kind of shocked when I first realized the Navy had no surface combatants in the Atlantic Fleet homeported North of Virginia. We cannot rely on the Navy to do intercepts, with the possible exception of off San Diego and Chesapeake Bay.
The current fleet of approximately 40 NSCs/WHECs/WMECs (it is a moving target) is distributed among 18 homeports in 13 states:
- Kittery, ME: 2x270s, 1×210
- Boston, MA: 3×270
- Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA: 6×270 (Portsmouth), 2×210 (Little Creek)
- Wilmington, NC: 1×210
- Charleston, SC: 2xNSC
- Mayport, FL: 1×210
- Cape Canaveral, FL: 2×210
- Key West, FL: 2×270
- St. Petersburg, FL: 2×210
- Pascagoula, MS: 1×210
- Galveston, TX: 1×210
- San Diego, CA: 2xWHEC
- Alameda, CA: 3xNSC
- Warrenton, OR: 2×210
- Port Angeles, WA: 1×210
- Seattle, WA: 2xWHEC
- Honolulu, HI: 2xWHEC
- Kodiak, AK: 1xWHEC, 1×282 WMEC
The Coast Guard fleet is much more geographically distributed than that of the Navy. The Coast Guard’s average of about two ships per homeport is probably not optimal in terms of maintenance. There are good reasons to group at least three ships of the same type together. This almost guarantees that at least one ship will be in port at all times, permitting shore side support to be usefully employed in continuous support of the ships. Three ships in each homeport also almost guarantees that at least one of the ships is fully operational.
There are several reasons for the choice of homeports.
- Proximity to operating areas, e.g. closer to Alaska for ships that do Alaska Patrol, or closer to the Eastern Pacific transit zones for ships primarily assigned drug enforcement.
- Proximity to supporting facilities, e.g. shipyards, training facilities, assist teams.
- Proximity to potential target ports, if we consider these ships relevant for this mission.
- Perhaps cynically, political support may follow homeporting in a Congressional district or state. Maybe ethically we should not consider this, but unless you get political support you can’t do your job.
Terrorist Target List (Playing Red Cell):
Lets look at what ports need to be protected, based on what characteristics make a port a potential target. I looked at it from the terrorists point of view. “How can I hurt the United States and make the biggest impact?”
Since the terrorists targets are more about psychological impact than economic or military significance, attacking certain cities may be more important than the actual damage done. Cities that likely figure large in their psyches are:
- New York City–symbol of American capitalism
- Washington, DC–for obvious reasons
- Los Angeles (Hollywood)–as exporter of American culture
- San Francisco–as symbol of “alternate lifestyles” that many terrorist groups find abhorrent.
Next, there are symbols of American military power, that terrorist groups would like to show are not invulnerable. Plus, if they could also at least raise the possibility of a spill of radioactive material, so much the better. So nuclear powered ships of any kind are likely targets.
- Aircraft Carriers are homeported in three ports: Norfolk, VA; San Diego, CA; Bremerton, WA
- Ballistic Missile Submarines in two: Kings Bay, GA, Bangor, WA
- SSNs in six: Groton, CT; Norfolk, VA, San Diego, CA; Bremerton, WA; Pearl Harbor; Guam
Attacks on Shipyards that build USN ships might also provide an opportunity to strike at US symbols of power. Notable shipyards are BIW in Bath, Me; Electric Boat in Groton, CT; Newport News in the Chesapeake Bay complex, VA; Austal USA in Mobile, AL; HII in Pascagoula, MS; and NASSCO in San Diego, CA.
Another likely target is a cruise ship. The Top Cruise Ship Ports:
- Miami, FL
- Fort Lauderdale, FL
- Port Canaveral, FL
- New York, NY
- San Juan, PR
- Galveston, TX
- Tampa, FL
- Seattle, WA
- Long Beach, CA
- New Orleans, LA
- Los Angeles, CA
- Baltimore, MD
- Cape Liberty, NJ
- Jacksonville, FL
- Charleston, SC
Large container ports might also be seen as a good way to disrupt the economy. Top Container Ports:
- Los Angeles, CA
- New York, NY/NJ
- Long Beach, CA
- Savannah, GA
- Houston, TX
- Oakland, CA
- Norfolk, VA
- Seattle, WA
- Charleston, SC
- Tacoma, WA
- Miami, FL
- Baltimore, MD
- Port Everglades, FL
- New Orleans, LA
- San Juan, PR
More generally, Top US waterports by tonnage:
- Port of South Lousiana
- Houston, TX
- New York, NY and NJ
- Beaumont, TX
- Long Beach, CA
- New Orleans, LA
- Corpus Christi, TX
- Baton Rouge, LA
- Los Angeles, CA
- Port of Plaquemines, LA
- Lake Charles, LA
- Mobile, AL
- Texas City, TX
- Norfolk Harbor, VA
- Huntington – Tristate
Aside from the military targets listed above MARAD has designated 23 ports for outload of military equipment. These are referred to as “Strategic Seaports”:
- Port of Port Elizabeth, NJ;
- Philadelphia, PA;
- Norfolk, VA
- Newport News, VA
- Morehead City, NC;
- Wilmington, NC;
- Sunny Point, NC
- Charleston, SC
- Savannah, GA
- Jasonville, FL
- Gulfport, MS
- Beaumont, TX
- Port Author, TX
- Corpus Christi, TX
- San Diego, CA;
- Long Beach, CA;
- Hueneme, CA
- Oakland, CA;
- Concord, CA
- Tacoma, WA
- Indian Island, WA
- Ports of Anchorage, AK
Consolidated Target Port List:
Obviously there is some overlap from list to list. Putting them all together and grouping them by district we get these 30 ports:
- Bath, Me–Major Naval shipbuilder
- Groton, CT–Submarine base
- Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ–a major cultural target, #3 US Port by tonnage, #2 Container port, #4 Cruise ship port (NYC) and #13 cruise ship port (Cape Liberty, NJ), Strategic Seaport (Elizabeth)
- Delaware Bay–Strategic Seaport (Philadelphia)
- Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, Major naval shipbuilder, #14 port by tonnage, #7 container port; plus water route to Washington, DC (major cultural target) and Baltimore, MD–#9 port by tonnage, #10 container port, #12 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport (Norfolk and Newport News)
- Morehead City, NC–Strategic Seaport
- Cape Fear River–Strategic Seaport (Sunny Point and Wilmington, NC)
- Charleston, SC–#9 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport
- Savannah, GA–#4 container port Strategic Seaport
- Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport
- Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port
- Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale, FL–#13 container port, #2 Cruise Ship port
- Miami, FL–#11 container port, #1 Cruise Ship port
- San Juan, PR–#5 Cruise Ship port, #15 container port
- Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port
- Mobile, AL–major naval shipbuilder, #12 port by tonnage
- Pascagoula, MS–major naval shipbuilder
- Gulfport, MS–Strategic Seaport
- Mississippi River Complex, LA–#14 container port,#10 Cruise Ship port (NOLA), #1 port by tonnage (South Louisiana), #6 port by tonnage (NOLA), #8 port by tonnage (Baton Rouge), #10 port by tonnage (Port of Plaquemines)
- Lake Charles, LA–#11 port by tonnage
- Sabine Pass complex (Beaumont/Port Author/Orange, TX)–#4 port by tonnage (Beaumont), Strategic Seaport (both Beaumont and Port Author)
- Houston/Galveston/Texas City, TX–#2 port by tonnage (Houston), #13 port by tonnage (Texas City), #5 container port (Houston), #6 Cruise ship port (Galveston)
- Corpus Christi, TX–#7 port by tonnage, Strategic Seaport
- San Diego–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, major naval shipbuilder (NASSCO), Strategic Seaport
- Los Angeles/Long Beach/Port Hueneme, CA–A major cultural target, #5 port by tonnage (Long Beach), #9 port by tonnage (Los Angeles), #1 container port (Los Angeles), #3 container port (Long Beach), #9 cruise Ship port (Long Beach), #11 cruise ship port (Los Angeles), Strategic Seaport (Long Beach and Port Hueneme)
- San Francisco Bay complex–A major cultural target, #6 container port (Oakland), Strategic Seaport (Oakland and Concord)
- Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA–Base for aircraft carriers (Bremerton), SSBNs (Bangor), and submarines, major naval bases, #8 container port (Seattle), #10 container port (Tacoma), #8 Cruise ship port (Seattle), Strategic Seaport (Indian Island and Tacoma, WA)
- Honolulu/Pearl Harbor–Major Naval base, including submarines
- Apra, Guam–Submarine Base, Strategic Seaport
- Anchorage, AK–Strategic Seaport
If we complete the “Program of Record” we will have 33 major cutters, 8 Bertholf class and 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters. The Bertolf class are already planned to go to Charleston, Alameda (San Francisco Bay), and Honolulu, HI, three ports on the target list. The 25 OPCs might best be distributed among eight or nine ports (7 ports with three ships and either one with four or two with two each). That would only cover at most 12 ports.
Looking at it another way, if we assumed that these 33 ships were all successfully using the “crew rotation concept” and were available 225 days a year, that would give us 20.3 ships available on an average day. Certainly, not all of these are going to be available because some will be in Alaska and some will be in the Eastern Pacific. Hopefully the Western Pacific will also be patrolled and some will be in training.
The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) will be based in San Diego and Mayport. Since the new cutters will share systems with the LCS, there will be a strong case for homeporting at least some of the OPCs in San Diego and Mayport.
Even though the Gulf of Mexico ports may appear somewhat protected by the relatively narrow entrances, the proximity of Mexican waters also means that it may be only a relatively short run from Mexican waters to a US port. That cuts the reaction time available to detect an anomaly, decide there is a need for an intercept, and sortie a cutter to intercept it. (We could say the same thing about San Diego and LA/Long Beach.)
Looking at the distribution of ports and the current distribution of cutters, it looks like CGD8 (Gulf of Mexico) needs more than the two 210s currently assigned. The proposal to put three MECs in Panama City looks like a good idea even if Panama City itself doesn’t look like a likely target because of the proximity of Mobile, Pascagoula, Gulfport and the Mississippi Delta. Undoubtedly there are support facilities in the area. Still it is on the Eastern extreme of the District and not centrally located relative to these ports. Mobile or Gulfport are more centrally located.
Another place we might want to put assets is Naval Station Ingleside, next to Corpus Christi. Ingleside is currently the home of all the Navy’s US based Mine-Warfare ships. The port was originally intended to support a carrier battlegroup, but with the reduced size of the navy and with Littoral Combat ships (which will be based in San Diego and Mayport) assuming the Mine Warfare role and replacing the Minesweepers and Minehunters, Ingleside is certain to have unused capacity. It would give the Coast Guard a base in the Western half of the Gulf of Mexico.
There are obvious advantages to basing in San Diego. It is not just a Naval Base, it is one of two US ports where Littoral Combat Ships will be based and LCS share systems with the new cutters. Training, Logistical, and technical support should be excellent. Still of all the US ports, San Diego is the least likely to need additional Coast Guard help in defending the port. We might do better to base ships in LA/Long Beach which is still close enough to enjoy some benefit from the proximity to San Diego.
We could probably say something similar about the Chesapeake Bay Complex. A Coast Guard boarding party delivered by a WPB or riding a Destroyer is probably all the help they will need in defending the port.
Notably, missing from my target ports list are Boston MA; Key West, FL; the Columbia River/Portland, OR, and Kodiak, AK, suggesting, at least from this limited point of view, these may not be the best choices of homeport. These four ports are currently homeport to nine large cutters. Boston surprised me. There are several potential targets of historical significance in Boston that might attract attention, including the USS Constitution.
Only if we stopped doing anything else, could we, perhaps, provide enough large cutters to provide a reasonable assurance of being able to intercept a medium to large ship suspected to having terrorist intentions, on our top 20 ports. Even if we did this, there would still be other targets that would not be protected.
All along, I have been saying our cutter are not adequately armed to have a high probability of being able to stop such a vessel. I think this shows that, in fact, there is a good chance we might not have a major cutter capable of making such an intercept in the first place.
If my arguments are not convincing, it is not necessary to accept my conclusions, test the hypothesis. Form a red cell to conduct a series of random paper exercises against the Maritime Domain Awareness system. For each exercise, have the red cell pick a target and lay out a ship’s track. Note when the track might be detected and the probability of detection, if missed on the first opportunity, when would it have been detected? add how long to evaluate? how long to make a decision? how long to communicate? Note where our potential intercepting vessels are, and how long it would take to assign them the task and how long would it take to intercept. We don’t actually need to move any assets, but after several repetitions, we should have an idea how good our current system actually is.
The WPB/WPC Alternative:
We could solve this problem and obviate the need to even consider maritime security in the basing of large cutters, if we gave the job of intercepting potential terrorist vessel to the WPCs and WPBs and armed them properly for the task.
All the potential target ports have WPBs and/or WPCs either in the port or nearby, and in many cases they have three or more.
The necessary weapons are neither large nor expensive–a couple of light weight torpedoes to stop larger vessels and some Hellfire or Griffin class small anti-surface missiles to deal with small, fast, highly maneuverable threats. There are currently no US made dedicated anti-surface torpedoes, but they would not be hard to make. Meanwhile, it might be possible to use Mk46 or Mk54 torpedoes by selecting the right minimum and maximum search depths, if the right options are available. The smaller cutters might actually have advantages in speed, maneuverability, and shallow draft.
The Aviation Alternative:
There is perhaps an assumption that there are plenty of forces in the US to deal with this problem, so why do we need to beef up the Coast Guard. But utilizing those forces will require changes to the Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Army and the way they work.
Conceivably we could send a Coast Guard helicopter, supported by a DOD aircraft, off shore to tell a suspicious vessel to heave to until we can send a vessel, most probably a WPC or WPB, to board and inspect the vessel. If they refuse to stop, even after using the airborne use of force package to fire across the bow, or if they proved hostile to the boarding party, it could be attacked by DOD aircraft.
Unfortunately it seems the other armed forces do not readily embark on missions that have not been approved, exercised, and briefed well in advance. So far, I have seen no evidence we have been doing exercises that would make this alternative feasible. DOD units in the US are here to rest, train and reequip. Nothing could be more alien to most of them than to attack a merchant vessel of the US coast. We saw this lack of preparedness on 9/11 when two F-16s launched with the intention of ramming one of the hijacked aircraft because they had no weapons. Now there are aircraft prepared for Air-to-Air, but I suspect anti-ship preparedness is much as it was pre-9/11.
The Navy Alternative:
This is really a Navy mission that we have somehow accepted responsibility for, allowing the Navy to base their ships in the most efficient manner, while they show the flag everywhere in the world except in our own waters.
If we cannot do this job, we need to make the Department, the Administration, and the Navy understand that we cannot be held responsible for a task we have not been properly equipped to perform and that while the Coast Guard will assist, this is really not our job, its the Navy’s.
I don’t really think we want to do that. It is giving up. It is repudiating the idea that the Coast Guard is a real armed force, with real military missions.
We really need to start acting like we believe these threats are credible. We need to be brutally honest in appraising the Coast Guard’s current weaknesses, and we need a sense of urgency in addressing those weaknesses.
Giving the Maritime Security job to the WPCs and WPBs and equipping them accordingly is fastest, cheapest route to a credible capability. Otherwise there is a good chance some poor JG, his crew, and his boat, armed with only a couple of .50 cal. may be the only thing standing between a much larger and possibly better armed terrorist controlled ship and its target.
The Jakarta Post reports that the Indonesian government will attempt to use the Automatic Identification System (AIS) to manage their fisheries.
They plan to exploit an open source system called “Global Fishing Watch,” a partnership between SkyTruth, Oceana and Google. There are certainly limitations on the data available from this system. AIS can be turned off or spoofed, but the Global Fishing Watch website has some answers for these limitation, and careful tracking can to some extent mitigate the problems.
More here (pdf).
USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE 1)
|U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Edwardo Proano|
Generally I feel the CG and the US in general is not paying enough attention to the US EEZ in the Western Pacific and to the island nations there, that we have a continuing relationship with. It is good to see some efforts to maintain good governance in these areas. Published below is a Navy news release. As you read it you note that maritime law enforcement efforts in this are a still very thin. Use of an MSC T-AKE for support of CG LEDETs is a welcomed innovation. Still the high sides of a T-AKE can not be the best for boat ops. Would love to see the T-AKE used as mother ship for WPBs or WPCs.
Story Number: NNS151026-13 Release Date: 10/26/2015 3:17:00 PM, By Grady Fontana, Military Sealift Command Far East
PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) — Military Sealift Command’s (MSC) dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE 1) arrived at Tarawa, Republic of Kiribati, Oct. 24, as part of its continuing support of Exercise KOA MOANA (KM) 15-3.
Exercise KM 15-3 is a four-month international exercise allowing participants from the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to work with host nation participants from various countries in the Pacific Island Nations of Oceania.
The first portion of the exercise was in Tahiti, followed by a leg in Fiji, where Marines conducted theater security cooperation (TSC) activities with host nation partners.
After Tarawa, the Lewis and Clark, which is also part of Maritime Prepositioning Ships Squadron (MPSRON) 2, will carry her personnel and cargo to Vanuatu for more TSC events, then finish off the exercise in Timor Leste in November. The Lewis and Clark is scheduled to return to its homeport in early December.
While training in Tarawa, the Marines will conduct military-to-law enforcement activities with local police. Members of the Navy and Coast Guard will participate in Oceanic Maritime Security Initiative (OMSI) operations, as they did in Fiji, in support of maritime law enforcement operations along with partners from the Police Maritime Unit Tarawa.
“While the Marines are training on the island with the host nation military or law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Coast Guard has taken this opportunity to use USNS Lewis and Clark, which is the platform for KOA MOANA 15-3, to conduct OMSI patrols with the nations these TSCs have been scheduled,” said Navy Capt. Paul D. Hugill, commodore, MPSRON-2.
OMSI is a Secretary of Defense program aimed to diminish transnational illegal activity on the high seas in the Pacific Island Nations of Oceania’s exclusive economic zones (EEZ) and enhance regional security and interoperability with partner nations.
The Coast Guard is responsible for patrolling the waters around the numerous islands associated with the U.S. throughout the region. Each of these islands has territorial waters stretching out to 12 miles from shore. Beyond that, stretching out 200 nautical miles are EEZs, an area defined by international law that allows each nation exclusive rights to the exploration and use of marine resources.
During the OMSI portion of KM 15-3, law enforcement agents from the Police Maritime Unit Tarawa, and Navy and Coast Guard personnel, will ride the Lewis and Clark and intercept and board commercial fishing vessels operating inside the Kiribati EEZ. The combined team will be looking for potential violations.
According to Taraa Teekea, vessel monitor system officer for Police Maritime Unit Tarawa, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing has a significant negative effect on Kiribati’s economy.
Outside of KOA MOANA, the Police Maritime Unit Tarawa conducts their own operations about six to eight times a year. Their missions are typically 10 days at-sea, with boarding an average of 30 suspected fishing boats during each operation.
“We are looking for those who are conducting illegal fishing,” said Teekea. “Some of the common violations are invalid fishing license, no license to transit through our EEZ, over-fishing certain types of fish, and vessels with no [EEZ] entry and exit reports.”
The OMSI memorandum of understanding between the Department of Defense (DoD), the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration helps to deter and prevent various threats to maritime security and transnational crime, encourage mutually beneficial partnerships with Pacific Island Nations, promote interoperability, enhance maritime domain awareness and improve economic stability throughout Oceania.
The program leverages DoD assets transiting the region to increase the Coast Guard’s maritime domain awareness, ultimately supporting maritime law enforcement operations in Oceania.
According to USCG Lt. Lisa M. Hatland, OMSI liaison, U.S. Coast Guard District 14 out of Honolulu and on board the Lewis and Clark for KM 15-3, since the Coast Guard doesn’t have all the assets it requires in order to patrol this region as often as they would like or to enact all the bilateral ship rider’s agreements that they have with partner nations, the [memorandum of understanding] (MOU) with the Navy allows them to use naval vessels.
“Through OMSI, the Coast Guard exacts an MOU with the DoD in order to supplement Coast Guard cutter deployments with naval assets that are transiting across Oceania,” the lieutenant added. “The MOU allows us to put Coast Guard boarding teams on board DoD ships to conduct Coast Guard missions, and it also permits us to embark foreign maritime law enforcement agents so they can enforce laws in their own sovereign waters.”
Initiatives like OMSI help the U.S. to project a maritime law enforcement presence beyond what the U.S. Coast Guard can do alone.
KOA MOANA also serves as a test for the Lewis and Clark on how well cargo and ammunition ship platforms will perform in this type of mission. The exercise is the first time a dry cargo and ammunition ship is being used for a Coast Guard mission.
“The Lewis and Clark is performing well. During KOA MOANA, we’re doing everything that a [US combatant ship] can do with regards to command and control,” said Hugill. “The reasons the Lewis and Clark is a good platform are the abundance of space, the capabilities of the deck crew and the ability to carry out around the clock operations.”
Commander, Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadron 2, currently embarked aboard USNS Lewis and Clark and operating in the Southern Eastern Pacific, maintains tactical control of the 10 ships that are forward deployed to Diego Garcia and carrying afloat prepositioned U.S. military cargo for the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force. The squadron’s mission is to enable the force from the sea by providing swift and effective transportation of vital equipment and supplies for designated operations.
MSC operates approximately 115 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at-sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.
Exercise KOA MOANA 15-3 is a Marine Forces Pacific-sponsored exercise designed to enhance senior military leader engagements between allied and partner nations with a collective interest in military-to-military relations, and to discuss key aspects of military operations, capability development and interoperability.
The Vietnamese have not had a coast guard very long, just two years, but it looks like after a recent visit by our Commandant, the US Coast Guard will be working more closely with them. The US had already committed to financing the purchase of US made patrol boats for the Vietnamese Coast Guard to the tune of $18M. We discussed this earlier here and here.
As you probably know, the Vietnamese and Chinese have an ongoing dispute over a large area of the South China Sea. A recent change has authorized the their Coast Guard to use force as necessary to expel those who violate law from Vietnamese waters.