“Navy, Coast Guard Begin Oceania Maritime Security Initiative Patrol” –DVIDS

USS Mobile (LCS 26), an Independence-class littoral combat ship, was commissioned in 2021 and is homeported in San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo by Eric Parsons/Released)

Below is a press release from the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS). This may not be much different from the previous times Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments (LEDETs) were assigned to Navy units transiting to the Western Pacific. It is not at all clear how long they will be doing IUU fisheries enforcement.

SAN DIEGO— The U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard began their joint patrol in the Western Pacific under the Oceania Maritime Security Initiative (OMSI) to reduce and eliminate illegal, unregulated, unreported fishing, combat transnational crimes, and enhance regional security, March 20.

“OMSI is imperative to ensure that the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Convention (WCPFC) agreement is upheld within the Indo-Pacific region,” said Cmdr. Richard Skinnell, commanding officer of the Navy’s primary participating unit, the Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Mobile (LCD 26). “This initiative allows us the opportunity to work jointly with other branches of the military as well as our allies and partners.”

OMSI, a Secretary of Defense program, improves maritime security and domain awareness by enabling Coast Guard law enforcement personnel to conduct maritime law enforcement operations from Navy ships. These joint and combined operations ensure the U.S. military honors its security commitments to allies, partners, and friends.
“Collaborating with our partners throughout Oceania is essential in ensuring a free and open Blue Pacific,” said Cmdr. Jeff Bryant, chief of enforcement, U.S. Coast Guard District Fourteen. It is a privilege and we are proud to support the Federated States of Micronesia through dedicated partnership in the effort to maintain maritime governance and preserve maritime sovereignty.”

The WCPFC international fisheries agreement prioritizes the long-term conservation and sustainable use of highly migratory fish stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

“The U.S. Coast Guard is always ready and looking forward to executing the OMSI mission alongside our U.S. Navy partners,” said Bryant.

Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Mobile (LCS 26), with an embarked Coast Guard law enforcement detachment from the Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team, supports maritime law with partner nations by enforcing the WCPFC agreement and by suppressing illicit activities. Independence-variant LCS is the platform of choice for this mission due to its fast and agile maneuvering capabilities, large flight deck with manned and unmanned aviation assets and surface warfare mission set.

An integral part of U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. 3rd Fleet operates naval forces in the Indo-Pacific and provides the realistic, relevant training necessary to flawlessly execute our Navy’s role across the full spectrum of military operations–from combat operations to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. U.S. 3rd Fleet works together with our allies and partners to advance freedom of navigation, the rule of law, and other principles that underpin security for the Indo-Pacific region.

I only saw this press release because this was buried in this US Naval Institute News Service article, “Makin Island ARG Docks in Busan, 3 LCS Now Underway in Indo- PACOM,”

“Meanwhile, a third U.S. Littoral Combat Ship, USS Mobile (LCS-26), is now deployed to the Indo-Pacific, joining USS Charleston (LCS-18) and USS Oakland (LCS-24), according to a 3rd Fleet release on Thursday.

The LCSs are taking part in U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard joint patrol in the Western Pacific under the Oceania Maritime Security Initiative (OMSI) to reduce and eliminate illegal, unregulated, unreported fishing, combat transnational crimes and enhance regional security with the patrol being conducted by Mobile with an embarked Coast Guard law enforcement detachment from the Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team. Charleston is currently operating around the Indian Ocean while Oakland is around the South China Sea.”

The USNI article may give the impression that all three LCS have Coast Guard LEDETs aboard and that all three are countering IUU, but the referenced news release only mentions USS Mobile. 

It may be significant that USS Mobile is conducting these operations under 3rd Fleet rather than 7th Fleet. Recently 3rd Fleet, which previously was primarily a training and readiness organization, has been taking on more operational responsibility. We may start seeing more of this kind of activity. 

“U.S. Coast Guard delivers 4,500 lbs of supplies to Federated States of Micronesia atolls” –U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam

Ulithi Atoll north anchorage and Sorlen Island, late 1944.

Coast Guard out there doing good work. I added the photo above to show how important Ulithi was as an advanced base during WWII.

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam

U.S. Coast Guard delivers 4,500 lbs of supplies to Federated States of Micronesia atolls

The crew of USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) loads more than 4,500 pounds of donations from the Ayuda Foundation bound for Yap State The crew of USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) loads more than 4,500 pounds of donations from the Ayuda Foundation bound for Yap State Petty Officer 1st Class Ikaia Ruiz looks out to Falalop Island, Woleai, on the small boat’s first approach
USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) crew offload donated supplies in Falalop Island, Ulithi Petty Officer 2nd Class Van Dinter-Frydemberg troubleshooting a faulty marine radio in Falalop Island, Woleai, Prospective U.S. Coast Guard recruits on Falalop Island, Ulithi,

Editor’s Note: Click on the images above to view more or download high-resolution versions.

SANTA RITA, Guam — The crew of USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) returned to Guam on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, following a week-long deployment to the Federated States of Micronesia countering illegal fishing and strengthening partnerships with the local island communities of several Yap outer island atolls, part of the ongoing Operation Rematau.

During the patrol, the crew supported partners in the Federated States of Micronesia, completing four port calls and four community relations events. They also provided underway training opportunities for eight members assigned to temporary duty on the ship. They enhanced the ongoing U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy partnership, embarking two medical personnel from U.S. Naval Hospital Guam.

Partnering with the Ayuda Foundation, the Oliver Henry crew onloaded more than 4,500 lbs. of supplies generously donated by local businesses and community members in Guam for future transport to remote islands in Ulithi and Woleai atolls. Donated supplies included educational material, clothing, kitchenware, fishing gear, toys, shelf-stable meals, interior paint, marine-grade orange paint, marine fiberglass repair kits, and water pumps. Water pumps were specifically requested to divert standing water from the airfield on Falalop Island, Woleai, to nearby taro fields to facilitate uninterrupted flight services from mainland Yap.

Oliver Henry’s first stop was Ulithi Atoll, the second time a fast response cutter visited the atoll. Ulithi was a central U.S. staging area during World War II, and home to a U.S. Coast Guard Loran-C communications station from 1944 to 1965 before operations relocated to Yap and ultimately shuttered in 1987. During the visit, the Oliver Henry crew met with community members on the islands of Mogmog and Falalop and participated in a friendly basketball game with Outer Islands High School students in Falalop, Ulithi.

Their second stop was Woleai Atoll, which marked the first-ever visit by a fast response cutter to this remote atoll. Ten five-gallon buckets of orange paint were delivered to Woleai and will be further distributed to the outer islands for use on skiffs and small vessels. The Orange Paint Initiative seeks to improve the visibility of small vessels by making their hulls more visible, which is vital to responders in search and rescue instances. In addition to offloading donated supplies and meeting with community members, the Oliver Henry crew also rendered assistance by troubleshooting issues with a solar power supply unit and marine radio communications equipment. Further, the Oliver Henry crew also deployed an aerial drone to capture imagery of infrastructure on the principal island of Falalop, Woleai.

“Nothing is more heartwarming for the crew than to experience what we just completed during our visits to Ulithi and Woleai. It was evident the island communities reciprocated these feelings,” said Lt. Freddy Hofschneider, commanding officer of Oliver Henry. “They welcomed us with smiles, flower leis, and open arms, and we truly enjoyed their hospitality. Transporting supplies to these remote atolls is nothing new for the Coast Guard, and we are honored to join in on the tradition spanning several decades for Guam-based Coast Guard cutter crews. We thank the Ayuda Foundation for spearheading donation collection efforts and look forward to continued opportunities to strengthen relationships with our brothers and sisters across Micronesia in a manner that supports their way of life.”

The Oliver Henry is the 40th 154-foot Sentinel-class fast response cutter named for Oliver T. Henry, Jr., an enlisted African American Coast Guard member first to break the color barrier of a then-segregated Service. During World War II, Henry served under Lt. Cmdr. Carlton Skinner. The latter became the first civilian Governor of Guam and played a critical role in developing the Organic Act in 1950. Henry blazed a trail for minorities in the U.S. military as he climbed from enlisted ranks while serving on ten Coast Guard cutters, finally retiring as a chief warrant officer in 1966.

Operation Rematau is how U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam supports the overarching Coast Guard endeavor Operation Blue Pacific to promote security, safety, sovereignty, and economic prosperity in Oceania. Rematau means people of the deep sea. It recognizes the wisdom of the Pacific Island Forum leaders in that securing the future requires long-term vision and a carefully considered regional strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. Op Rematau reinforces U.S. commitment to working together to advance Pacific regionalism based on the Blue Pacific narrative. This action supports U.S. national security objectives, bolstering regional maritime governance and security.

For more U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam news, visit us on DVIDS or subscribe! You can also visit us on Facebook or Instagram at @USCGForcesMicronesia or Twitter @USCGFMSG. 

A New Kind of Shiprider Agreement–Virtual / “U.S., Federated States of Micronesia sign expanded shiprider agreement”

U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia Sector Guam Commander Capt. Nicholas R. Simmons and the Honorable Joses R. Gallen, Secretary of Justice, Federated States of Micronesia, signed an expanded shiprider agreement allowing remote coordination of authorities, the first of its kind aboard the USCGC Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139) in Guam, on Oct. 13, 2022. The agreement will enable to U.S to act on behalf of the FSM to combat illicit maritime activity and to strengthen international security operations. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Sara Muir)

This is a lot more of a leap than it might seem from the news release. It is a huge vote of confidence from the Federated States of Micronesia.

More specifically, the agreement provides a coordinating mechanism and process for U.S. law enforcement personnel to work with the FSM National Police through command centers to receive approval from the FSM to act.

In all previous shiprider agreements, the Coast Guard team enforced the laws of the assisted nation under the authority of an agent of that nation, that accompanied the ship. What we have here is a virtual shiprider (my choice of words). Not only is it easier logistically, it means the decision by the nation assisted is probably being made at a higher level than would have been the case with a dedicated on-scene shiprider.

It also means that a cutter can begin acting on behalf of the Federated States of Micronesia as soon as the cutter enters their EEZ, rather than having to wait until the shiprider comes aboard. The cutter will also not have to drop the shiprider off before departing the area, or arrange other transportation that might delay the agent’s return to duty. It is a win-win.


News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam

U.S., Federated States of Micronesia sign expanded shiprider agreement

U.S., Federated States of Micronesia sign expanded shiprider agreement U.S., Federated States of Micronesia sign expanded shiprider agreement
U.S., Federated States of Micronesia sign expanded shiprider agreement U.S., Federated States of Micronesia sign expanded shiprider agreement

Editor’s Note: Click on the images above to view or download more.

SANTA RITA, Guam — To overcome complex challenges to maritime enforcement in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), a nation with over six hundred islands, representatives of the United States and the FSM signed a remote shiprider agreement on Oct. 13, 2022, during a Joint Committee Meeting hosted by Joint Region Marianas.

Through remote coordination, this agreement, the first of its kind, will enable the U.S. to act on behalf of the country to combat illicit maritime activity when an FSM law enforcement officer is not present. More specifically, the agreement provides a coordinating mechanism and process for U.S. law enforcement personnel to work with the FSM National Police through command centers to receive approval from the FSM to act.

Shiprider agreements allow maritime law enforcement officers to observe, board, and search vessels suspected of violating laws or regulations within a designated exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or on the high seas. These law enforcement activities bolster maritime law enforcement operations and maritime domain awareness and provide a mechanism to conduct integrated operations within the Pacific.

“We’re thrilled to cooperate with our Federated States of Micronesia partners on this initiative that will reap benefits for FSM’s economic, environmental, and national security in the maritime domain,” said Alissa Bibb, Chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Kolonia.

The dynamic nature of detecting, deterring, and suppressing illegal activity in the Pacific, like fisheries offenses and illicit maritime drug trafficking, requires creative and collaborative solutions. This agreement builds on the enduring partnership and long-standing shiprider agreement between the two nations by providing a new framework to conduct maritime operations and relies on the professionalism and expertise of U.S. and FSM maritime law enforcement officers.

The U.S. Coast Guard regularly exercises 13 bilateral fisheries law enforcement agreements with countries throughout the Pacific islands. These agreements enable U.S. Coast Guard personnel and U. S. Navy vessels with embarked U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement personnel to work with host nations to protect critical regional resources. Shiprider efforts greatly enhance host-nation sovereignty by enabling Pacific Island Nation partners to enforce their laws and regulations using U.S. assets.

The U.S. Coast Guard maintains strong partnerships with the maritime forces in the region through extensive training and subject matter expert exchanges. FSM, also known as the Big Ocean State, has one of the world’s largest EEZs, with waters rich in sea life. FSM consists of four states — Pohnpei, Chuuk, Yap, and Kosrae — each with a mix of unique peoples, languages, and cultures. FSM is a signatory to a Compact of Free Association with the United States. They are also a Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Association member and a party to the South Pacific Tuna Treaty.

“This historic agreement significantly strengthens presence and enforcement options to counter illicit maritime activity in the region. It is only made possible by the deep and abiding relationships and respect between the Coast Guard and our FSM partners, “Capt. Nick Simmons, Commander of U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia. “FSM has the 14th largest EEZ in the world and only two patrol boats. Our crews spend ample time within the region but getting a shiprider aboard our vessels can be a real logistical challenge. This agreement dramatically increases the capacity of available resources to act on FSM’s behalf to protect their living marine resources and sovereignty. We appreciate their continued trust and confidence as we work together.”

The USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) hosted Chargé d’affaires Bibb and her team aboard in Pohnpei in September. They met with several key officials, and members of the cutter’s engineering team conducted a subject matter exchange with the crew of FSS Palikir, the last active Pacific-class patrol boat, on shipboard repairs and assisting with preventative maintenance.

In May, USCGC Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139) made a contactless crew rest and re-fueling stop in FSM during their expeditionary patrol across Oceania. In December 2021, USCGC Sequoia (WLB 215), working alongside the Navy’s Underwater Construction Team Two (UCT-2), conducted operations to widen the channel at Kapingamarangi Atoll. U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam also provides search and rescue support to FSM, with several successful cases in the last year, resulting in ten lives saved.

The shiprider program supports regional coordination and aligns with the National Security Strategy, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command efforts, and the U.S. Coast Guard’s Operation Blue Pacific. The bilateral agreements enacted in the Pacific are the bedrock of regional maritime law enforcement partnership. They convey the United States’ ongoing investment in protecting shared resources and interest in maritime safety and security, including fair and reciprocal trade, while standing against a current of aggressive and coercive influence in the region.

The U.S. is devoted to ensuring greater unity and a free and open Indo-Pacific for all nations who observe the rule of law. The U.S. Coast Guard continues to demonstrate our enduring presence in the Pacific and help facilitate increased regional stability, security, and resilience for U.S. partners.

For more U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam news, visit us on DVIDS or subscribe! You can also visit us on Facebook or Instagram at @USCGForcesMicronesia.

“The Pacific Islands” –Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report

Estimated exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs). The EEZs of countries that are the Parties to the Nauru Agreement are shown in darker blue. Note that not all EEZs of PICTs have been officially delineated under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Source: Patrick Lehodey

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has published a two page “IN FOCUS” brief on “The Pacific Islands” of Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia. Like all my links to CRS reports, this link will always take you to the latest version. It has already been updated at least once, 17 August, 2022.

Given the increased Coast Guard activity in the region, the report may provide useful background. The topics discussed are:

  • Overview
  • Geopolitical Context
  • The United States and the Region
  • The Freely Associated States
  • International Assistance
  • China’s Influence
  • Security Challenges
  • Self Determination

A New Coast Guard Base In the Western Pacific?

Estimated exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs). The EEZs of countries that are the Parties to the Nauru Agreement are shown in darker blue. Note that not all EEZs of PICTs have been officially delineated under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Source: Patrick Lehodey

Recently there has been indicators that there may be more Coasties deployed to the Western Pacific, including perhaps a desire to replicate PATFORSWA somewhere in the Western Pacific in support of USINDOPACOM. There have also been suggestions that the Coast Guard should be based in Palau and in American Samoa

South and West of Hawaii, Why a New Base?

The US has a huge EEZ in the areas South and West of Hawaii. This area constitutes more than 29% of the entire US EEZ. By comparison the entire EEZ in Atlantic Area only constitutes a little over 16% of the total US EEZ. Despite the distortion of the map below, this Area is nearly as large as the US EEZ surrounding Alaska, and certainly larger than the parts of the Alaska EEZ we actually patrol with any regularity.

In the past this area has been given essentially only benign neglect, but things have changed. There has been the explosion of Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) fishing, primarily, but not exclusively by China. In addition to fishing in US waters, these activities undermine the economies of the three Pacific Island nations of the Compact of Free Association: the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), and the Republic of Palau, to whom we have treaty obligations, as well as other Pacific Island nations including the Solomon Islands

Following on the heels of their fishing fleet, China seems to be seeking strategic basing in this area in the guise of loans and other forms of economic aid made necessary in part, at least, due to the devastation of local fishing. This has given rise to a general suspicion about Chinese intentions in the area.

Fortunately, the Coast Guard is generally seen as a welcomed partner in capacity building by many Pacific Island nations

In spite of the “tyranny of distance” in the Pacific, the only patrol assets we have in this area are three, relatively small Webber class patrol craft in Guam. There is not a single Coast Guard aircraft stationed in the area. In Guam a Navy helicopter squadron is used to provide SAR Response. From Guam, the nearest Coast Guard Airstation is 3440 nautical miles (6370 kM) away. It is over 2230 nmi (4129 kM) from Hawaii to American Samoa.

What Kind of Base?

Most of the talk has been about basing ships but there is also a need for supporting air reconnaissance. Air support might not require a full time Coast Guard Air Station, but a forward based rotating detachment might be appropriate. A mobile land based medium altitude long endurance unmanned air system might also serve us well. Even to base surface assets, we would need not only a port, but also a nearby airfield to provide access and support, so we will talk about airports. 

The Coast Guard is not going to want to spend a huge amount of money to create facilities where none currently exist, so there is probably no point in looking at locations that do not already have at least basic port or airport facilities. 

Since this is an attempt to help the local population, it makes sense to go where there is a local population. Happily, the people are where the sea and airports are.

These considerations limit the choices, eliminating places that might be good geographically, but don’t have even basic infrastructure. We are probably not going to establish a base on an uninhabited island. 

DOD is also interested in establishing additional bases to allow greater distribution of their assets, and we might ride their coattails. If the DOD base is on foreign soil, including a Coast Guard presence might be seen by the locals as sweetening the deal.

The Coast Guard would probably prefer to have the base on US territory, but if that were not to be the case, then proximity to currently under-served US territories, including uninhabited islands, would be a plus.

So Where?

As can be seen in the first chart, the area of the EEZs surrounding the various islands in the Pacific are very large. To give an idea of how large they are, I will use the area of the Atlantic Area EEZ (East Coast, Gulf Coast, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands, 1,835,024 sq kilometers) as a benchmark. I will note percentage of Atlantic Area Exclusive Economic Zone (% AA EEZ)

US Territories

According to Wikipedia, the US has the following territory South and West of the Hawaiian Islands, their associated EEZ in square kilometers and EEZ size compared to that of Atlantic Area are in parenthesis: 

  • Northern Marianas Islands (749,268, 40.8% AA EEZ)
  • Johnston Atoll (442,635, 24.1% AA EEZ)
  • Howland and Baker Islands (434,921, 23.7% AAEEZ) 
  • Wake Island (407,241, 22.2% AA EEZ)
  • American Samoa (404,391, 22.0% AA EEZ)
  • Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef (352,300, 19.2% AA EEZ)
  • Jarvis Island (316,665, 17.3% AA EEZ)
  • Guam (221,504, 12.1% AA EEZ)

The total EEZ of these small islands is more than 81% greater that of the entire Atlantic Area EEZ. 

Pacific Remote IslandsBaker IslandHowland IslandJarvis IslandJohnston AtollKingman ReefPalmyra Atoll, and Wake Island are all included in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, managed by the US Fish and Wildlife service and NOAA. These islands extend 717 to 2,298 nautical miles South and West from Honolulu. None of these islands has a permanent resident population. 

Johnston Atoll does have an airport and pier space. Palmyra has only an unpaved airstrip left over from WWII. Wake Island is administered by the USAF and has a 9,800-foot (3,000 m) runway used for refueling and emergency landings, “The island’s only harbor between Wilkes and Wake is too narrow and shallow for sea-going vessels to enter.”

None of the “Pacific Remote Islands” sound promising. That leaves only

  • American Samoa (404,391)
  • Guam (221,504)
  • Northern Marianas Islands (749,268)

Guam: Guam is 6,126 kilometers or 3,308 nautical miles West of Honolulu. We already have a Coast Guard presence in Guam. It is homeport to a buoy tender and three Webber class WPCs. There is, however, no Coast Guard air station closer than Honolulu. A Navy Helicopter squadron provides SAR response. 

American Samoa: “American Samoa consists of five main islands and two coral atolls. The largest and most populous island is Tutuila.” It has 95% of the population of American Samoa, 56,000 inhabitants, and includes a large natural harbor and airport as part of the capital, Pago Pago. Pago Pago is 4,179 kilometers or 2,256 nautical miles South of Honolulu.

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI): “The CNMI includes the 14 northernmost islands in the Mariana Archipelago; the southernmost island, Guam, is a separate U.S. territory.” Of the approximately 53,883 people living there (2010 census), about 47,565 (2017 estimate) live in Saipan. Recently it was announced that an expeditionary sea base, USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5), would be homeported in Saipan. This may offer an interesting option for collaboration in capacity building. Saipan is only 217 kilometers or 117 nautical miles from Guam, so what might have been potential base seems less likely; however, it does offer an alternative for replenishment while operating in the Northern Marianas. 

Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. The previous (2011) boundaries of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument are outlined in light blue.

Members of the Compacts of Free Association

Foreign Policy recently published a proposal for “After the Debacle: Six Concrete Steps to Restore U.S. Credibility.” The article claimed there was bipartisan support for each step. Perhaps surprisingly three of the proposed steps involved the Coast Guard. They included:

  •  Open embassies in the Pacific island nations of Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvalu and provide each with a Navy or Coast Guard attaché.
  • A permanent Coast Guard presence at Pago Pago in American Samoa.
  • Basing an icebreaker in Sydney or Hobart, Australia.

That does not constitute US policy but clearly there is pressure to put more Coast Guard West of Hawaii both to protect the huge US EEZ in the Western Pacific and to do capacity building and work with Pacific island nations, particularly those who are Compact of Free Association members (the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), and the Republic of Palau).

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency – Federated States of Micronesia (Political) 1999 from Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection: Federated States of Micronesia Maps

Federated States of Micronesia (FSM, 163.3% AA EEZ)

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) consist of “around 607 islands (a combined land area of approximately 702 km2 or 271 sq mi) that cover a longitudinal distance of almost 2,700 km (1,678 mi) just north of the equator.”

The island of Pohnpei is the most developed in the FSM and has a population of 36,832 (2020) out of a total population of 104,468 (2019 estimate). It includes the capital Palikir. It is 1635 kilometers / 883 nautical miles SE of Guam. The most Easterly FSM State, Kosrae, lies 2186 kilometers / 1180 nautical miles from Guam. 

The possibility of a Coast Guard base in the Federated States of Micronesia has gotten a bit more likely. According to MSN and the Pacific Island Times,

“The United States and the Federated States of Micronesia have agreed on a plan to build a military base in the Pacific Island nation, in line with the Pentagon’s strategic ambition to increase its footprint in the Indo-Pacific region and keep China at bay.”

In all probability the “base” will be a port and an airfield, both dual-purpose, used for both commercial and military purposes. I would not expect DOD ships or aircraft to be based there permanently. There probably will be a small cadre of support personnel.

Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI, 108.5% AA EEZ)

The 2020 population was projected to be 59,190. Total land area is only 70.05 square miles. The capital is on the atoll of Majuro, population 27,797 (2011). Majuro’s airport is 2984 kilometers / 1611 nautical miles ESE of Guam’s, and 1443 kilometers / 779 nautical miles East of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia.

Sunset in Majuro, over Delap-Uliga-Darrit in the Marshall Islands from a drone. Jamison Logan photo.

At one point during WWII Majuro was the busiest port in the world. “Majuro Lagoon is…one of the busiest tuna transshipment ports in the world, with 306,796 tons of tuna being moved from purse seine vessels to carrier vessels in 2018.”

The U.S. fleet at Majuro Atoll in 1944. Visible (among many other ships) are three Independence-class light carriers, four Essex-class carriers, USS Enterprise (CV-6, right front), a South Dakota-class battleship, and two Iowa-class battleships. U.S. Navy photo 80-G-225251


Koror City is the largest city and its commercial center in Palau, home to about half of the country’s population, about 14,000 in the metropolitan area. It is served by an airport about four miles away. Koror, Palau is 704 nautical miles (1,304 kM) from Guam

Non-US, Non-Compact of Free Association Island Nations. 

There are eleven other small Island nations in the area.

  1. Kiribati (187.6% AA EEZ)
  2. Papua New Guinea (130.9% AA EEZ)
  3. Cook Islands (106.8% AA EEZ)
  4. Solomon Islands ((86.6% AA EEZ)
  5. Fiji (69.9% AA EEZ) 
  6. Tuvalu (40.9 % AA EEZ) 
  7. Vanuatu (36.1% AA EEZ) 
  8. Tonga (35.9% AA EEZ) 
  9. Niue (17.3% AA EEZ) 
  10. Nauru (16.8% AA EEZ) 
  11. Samoa (7.0% AA EEZ) 

These eleven have a combined EEZ more than 7.3 times that of the Atlantic Area EEZ. 

What I Think We Will Do

Putting two or three Webber class at Pago Pago appears likely. It would require we add to the currently planned and funded fleet of 64 Webber class FRCs. 

If the Navy does establish a base in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), then the Coast Guard might well provide a small support and advisory detachment to assist the local maritime authorities. Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia looks like it might be a good central location to operate Fixed Wing aircraft from. They have a 6,000 foot (1829 meter) runway

What We Should Do

If we have bases in Honolulu, Guam and American Samoa, they form the corners of a triangle that encloses most of the area of interest, but those bases are near the extremes. American Samoa is well South and East but it is at least surrounded by island nations. Guam is near the Western edge. Honolulu is in the Northeast corner. 

Another possible complementary, more central location is Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. Manus is 1,737.88 km (938 nautical miles) SSE of Guam. The population is reported to be 50,351 (2011). The US and Australia both see Manus as strategically significant

Current discussion seems to concentrate on where we might put additional cutters. This has gained a sense of urgency because we are at a decision point with regard to the Webber class FRC program and these little ships are seen as the likely assets to provide a Coast Guard presence in this underserved area. Will we let the program die at the currently planned 64 vessels or will we exercise all or part of an existing option for 12 more cutters that will expire in May 2023? 

This is prompted in part by the House Armed Services Committee’s report (H.Rept. 117-118 of September 10, 2021) on H.R. 4350 which states in part:

Given the successes of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter in support of the Navy’s Fifth Fleet as a part of Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, the committee believes there are similar roles for Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters in other areas of responsibility. Therefore, the committee directs the Secretary of the Navy to submit a report to the congressional defense committees not later than February 1, 2022, that details the current mission sets and operating requirements for the Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter and expands on how successes in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility would translate to other regions, including the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. Further, the committee directs the Secretary of the Navy to assess the requisite upgrades to the Sentinel class Fast Response Cutter required to meet Navy standards and evaluate the concept of operations for employing these vessels in Southeast Asia. This report should be unclassified but may include a classified annex. (Page 21)

In addition to placing two or better yet three FRCs in American Samoa, it might be wise to also increase the number of FRC in Guam to emulate the success of PATFORSWA. This would allow two boats to be away from base almost continuously. This could allow significantly better coverage particularly in Palau and the Northern Marianas. 

Ideally these island nations should have their own enforcement mechanisms, capable of patrolling their own waters, but comprehensive coverage is probably beyond their means. It seems they all have some basic capabilities. We should complement rather than replace existing capability.  Local forces should be the point of the spear. To this end we can provide training and donate assets including perhaps excess 87 foot Marine Protector class patrol boats. 

Given the huge area, surface units are not enough. Satellites can help. but air surveillance is also required. The increased range of the “J” model C-130s will certainly help, but to provide any degree of persistence we will probably at least need to rotate crews and aircraft out of an advanced base. 

Our efforts should be coordinated with the already significant efforts of our allies Australia, New Zealand, and France, are doing in the area. 

The distances are great. The areas of concern are huge. The Coast Guard, our allies, and the Island nations themselves don’t have enough assets to patrol these waters effectively. In addition to patrol vessels and aircraft we need better Maritime Domain Awareness including use of satellites and artificial intelligence to cue the limited enforcement assets. 

A cooperative multi-national law enforcement intelligence exchange might be the most important addition we could make. 

USCGC Oliver Berry (WPC-1124), 45 Days Away from Homeport, 9,300 Nautical Mile Patrol, Hawaii to Guam and Return

The crew of the Oliver Berry (WPC-1124) travel in a round-trip patrol from Sept. 12 to Oct. 27, 2020, from Hawaii to Guam, covering a distance of approximately 9,300 miles during their journey. The crew sought to combat illegal fishing and other maritime threats across the Pacific to protect the United States and our partner’s resource security and sovereignty. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of the CGC Oliver Berry)

Below is a District 14 News Release. Not your typical WPC operation. 9300 nautical miles and 45 days away from home port. I was a bit surprised that it sounds like they did not board any of the fishing vessels they encountered, “We executed 19 observation reports on fishing vessels, 6 of which had not been previously contacted by the Coast Guard.” Perhaps there were no ship-riders aboard from the nations in whose waters they were sighted. 

This might also have served as a dry run for the three Webber class WPCs that will be transiting to Guam. Presumably they took the opportunity to introduce this new type asset to representatives of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia and perhaps to the supporting Coast Guard staff in Guam. Notably there is no mention of transiting in company with a larger ship as happened in previous long range operations.

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 14th District Hawaii and the Pacific
Contact: 14th District Public Affairs
Office: (808) 535-3230
After Hours: HawaiiPacific@uscg.mil
14th District online newsroom

Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry returns to homeport after a 6 week patrol in Pacific


Editors’ Note: Click on images to download a high-resolution version.

HONOLULU — The Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry (WPC 1124) returns to homeport in Honolulu after a mission in the Pacific to curtail illegal fishing and increase maritime law enforcement self-sufficiency with international partners. 

The crew of the Oliver Berry traveled in a first-of-its-kind round-trip patrol spanning from Sept. 12 to Oct. 27, 2020, from Hawaii to Guam, covering a distance of approximately 9,300 miles during their journey. 

“Traveling just under 10,000 nautical miles, we (CGC Oliver Berry) operated further from our homeport than any other FRC to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in portions of Oceania,” said Ensign Michael Meisenger, weapons officer on the Oliver Berry.

The Oliver Berry collaborated with the governments of Republic of the Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia strengthening maritime domain awareness and resource security within their Exclusive Economic Zones. An EEZ is an area of coastal water within a certain distance of a country’s coastline for which the country claims exclusive rights for drilling, fishing, and other economic ventures.

The Oliver Berry aided international enforcement efforts by sending observational reports and imagery to the Maritime Security Advisors and the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency, Regional Fisheries Surveillance Center, thereby increasing mission success and showcasing the Coast Guard’s unwavering commitment to partner nations during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We worked to increase awareness of unlawful fishing operations in remote portions of the United States, Republic of Marshall Islands, and Federated States of Micronesia’s EEZs, and on the high seas,” said Meisenger. “We executed 19 observation reports on fishing vessels, 6 of which had not been previously contacted by the Coast Guard.” 

Fast Response Cutters are equipped with new advanced command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems and boast greater range and endurance compared to their predecessor, the 110 foot Island-class patrol boats. 

The FRCs represent the Coast Guard’s commitment to modernizing service assets and maintaining a strong presence and support for a free and open Indo-Pacific. Oceania covers an area of 3.3 million square miles and has a population of approximately 40 million people. Its melting pot of cultures depends on the living marine resources and maritime commerce to allow their people to thrive. 

The Coast Guard combats illegal fishing and other maritime threats across the Pacific to protect their resource security and sovereignty. Combating illegal fishing is part of promoting maritime governance and a rules-based international order that is essential to a free and open Oceania. 

“We made great contributions to our partnerships and increasing maritime domain awareness,” said Meisenger. “As a crew, we could not be happier to be back home after a highly successful and trailblazing patrol.”