“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.

 

USCGC Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126) arrives in American Samoa on patrol

The crew of USCGC Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126) prepare to moor at the port of Pago Pago, American Samoa, Aug. 3, 2019. They will conduct a joint fisheries patrol with NOAA Fisheries and American Samoa Marine Police members. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir/Released)

Below is a press release from District 14 (Hawaii). It suggest two things.

  • They are paying more attention to the threat of illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing in the Pacific, and
  • They are exploring the limits of recently arrived Webber class “Fast Response Cutters” (FRC).

The Joseph Gerczak is based in Honolulu. The distance from Honolulu to Pago Pago by air is 2259 nautical miles (4184 km). That is less than the nominal 2500 currently being reported as the range for the class and less than the 2950 miles that was claimed for the class earlier, but that appears to leave little in the way of reserve. The nine day transit referred to also exceeds the nominal five day endurance of the FRCs.

The news release also indicates that the USCGC Walnut (WLB-205) is also in the area, so the Walnut may have escorted the FRC and may have refueled and replenished it underway as was done when Walnut provided underway replenishment for Oliver F. Berry (WPC-1124) for a 2200 mile transit to the Marshall Islands.

I would welcome any comments about how the operation was actually done. But could an FRC make the trip unrefueled? As I recall the 2950 nmi range claim was based on a speed of 14 knots. Transiting at a lower speed should increase range. How fast did they go? Nine full days, 216 hours would have averaged about 10.5 knots. Still nine days may have meant a short day at the start and another short day on arrival so it may have been closer to eight 24 hour days or about 192 hours total that would equal an average speed of a little under 12 knots. In any case it is likely the transit could have been made unrefueled with a reasonable reserve. Even if that were the case, CCGD14 probably kept Walnut close in case they ran into trouble. They are pushing the envelope.

America Samoa location. Author: TUBS

The news release (more pictures here):

—-

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa — The Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126) arrived in the Port of Pago Pago, Saturday.

The crew is participating in Operation Aiga to conduct fisheries law enforcement and strengthen partnerships in American Samoa and Samoa throughout August.

“It was a good transit, the longest we’ve conducted yet, nine days at sea and we’re proving the capabilities of these new cutters to operate over the horizon throughout the remote Pacific,” said Lt. James Provost, commanding officer of Joseph Gerczak. “This is the first time a Fast Response Cutter has come to Pago Pago. We’re looking forward to hosting our partners and the public during tours Monday from 1 to 3 p.m. here at the port.”

The U.S. Coast Guard is uniquely positioned to enforce U.S. federal laws and regulations in the territorial waters of American Samoa. Worldwide, tuna is a $7 billion dollar annual industry and roughly 70 percent of that tuna comes from the Western and Central Pacific. These pelagic fish migrate and it is essential the U.S. and its partners protect the resource from illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing. Estimates place the value of IUU fishing around $616 million annually.

“After this port call, we will be working with NOAA fisheries and the American Samoa Marine Police to enforce fisheries regulations in the region while on patrol. Oceania countries adhering to the rule of law deserve and even playing field. Presence, partnerships, and regular enforcement can deter IUU fishing and safeguard these critical fish stocks,” said Provost.

The Coast Guard Cutter Walnut (WLB 205) crew will also be conducting a fisheries mission with shipriders from Samoa aboard to enforce sovereign laws in their EEZ and deter IUU fishing. This effort is being undertaken in coordination with Australia and New Zealand as Samoa transitions their organic patrol assets, upgrading their fleet. Both cutter crews will also respond to any emergent search and rescue needs in the area and seek out opportunities to work with partner nation assets.

The Coast Guard exercises 11 bilateral shiprider agreements with Pacific Island Forum nations to help ensure regional security and maritime sovereignty.

“The U.S. is committed to supporting our allies and neighbors in the Pacific, which is essential to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The Joseph Gerczak is a 154-foot Sentinel-Class Fast Response Cutter homeported in Honolulu. It is one of the newest patrol boats in the fleet, replacing the aging 110-foot Island-Class patrol boats serving the nation admirably since the late 1980s. Three Fast Response Cutters will be homeported in Honolulu, the third arriving in August. Three will also be stationed in Guam and are to begin arriving there in 2020.

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.

“Vietnamese fishing boat sinks during encounter with Indonesian warship” –Baird Maritime

Baird Maritime reports on an incident between Vietnamese and Indonesian fisheries protection vessels that resulted in the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel in a disputed area of the South China Sea.

The Indonesian Corvette, KRI Tjiptadi (381), is a former East German Parchim class corvette like this one. It is about the size of a 210.

The South East Asian countries having disputes about their respective EEZs should really take it to the UN tribunal. The resulting decisions would ensure international recognition of their rights and leave China’s nine dash line claims in the trash bin.

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.”

Once Again Argentine Coast Guard Fires on Chinese F/V

We have multiple reports  (here) (and here) that an Argentine Coast Guard vessel, PNA Doctor Manuel Mantilla, fired several shots into Chinese fishing vessel Hua Xiang 801

This is not the first time a Chinese fishing vessel refused to stop, attempted to ram an Argentine Coast Guard vessel, and was fired into. It happened in Mar. 2016 when the Chinese vessel was sunk. It happened again in Feb. 2018.

Chinese Actions:

The Chinese vessel was reportedly not using an Automatic Identification System (AIS). The vessel refused to stop when directed to do so. Ignored warning shots across the bow, followed by shots in the forward part of the ship. At one point it appeared they attempted to ram the Argentinian vessel.

Media in Argentina have not been able to identify who owns the Hua Xiang 801 and, China’s Fisheries Management Bureau at the Agricultural Ministry, which licenses China’s distant-water fleet, hasn’t divulged the ownership details of the Hua Xiang 801.

The Chinese claim that this was a result of Argentina not providing details of the coordinates for the limits of its EEZ. The fishing vessel was reportedly less than a mile inside the Argentine EEZ, but this sounds to me like an attempt to shift the burden of responsibility to Argentina. 

The Chinese have repeatedly shown a refusal to submit to boarding and seizure (and here).

Argentine Actions:

The Argentines clearly wanted to avoid killing anyone. They warned the Chinese vessel in Spanish, English, and what I presume to be Mandarin, that they would be firing into the vessel and where they intended to hit it. Shots were aimed at the bow and above the waterline.

Why couldn’t the stop this fishing vessel?:

Whatever you may think of the Argentine decision, they attempted to stop a fishing vessel and they failed. The cutter which is similar in size to a 210, is reportedly armed with a 40mm/70 mount like the one illustrated below, and a pair of .50 caliber machine guns.

Bofors SAK-40/L70-315 naval mounting. This was a fully manual mounting intended for light patrol craft. Picture copyrighted by Bofors Defence.

On a video of a ship of this class I observed that their 40mm had been replaced by a Nexter 20mm gun like the one below.

 

If they really needed to stop this fishing vessel they needed to hit it in the engineroom. They might have attempted this after warning the fishing vessel of their intention. Both weapons are probably accurate enough to ensure rounds go where intended if fired in a single shot mode.

Also don’t see why they would not fire at the waterline. Would have probably limited their ability to escape. The new 30 mm swimmer round might have helped in this regard if they had been so equipped.