The Webber class WMECs

Since the Coast Guard chose to base six Webber class in each of three different ports (18 total in Miami, Key West, and San Juan), it has seemed apparent that the Webber class were more than “fast response cutters,” sitting in port waiting for an alarm to ring sending them rushing off to a SAR case. It seemed likely these little ships, more than twice as large as the Island class 110 foot WPBs, would be used for offshore patrols much like an MEC.

This is perhaps colored by my recollection of WMECs (and even WHECs) that had no helicopter facilities. There were at one time 165, 143, and even 125 foot WMECs.

Coast Guard Compass brings us confirmation of the offshore capability of these vessels. USCGC Oliver F. Berry (WPC-1124) has completed a mission to conduct operations in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, 2,200 miles from her homeport. She conducted fisheries enforcement and capacity building, and laid the foundations for future missions to the Central Pacific.

Coast Guard cutter crews visit and work in the exclusive economic zone of partner nations throughout the year to help exercise bilateral agreements protecting sovereignty and resources in the Pacific. The ability of the FRCs to patrol this region increases the number of Coast Guard assets capable of operating in the area. About 66 percent of the world’s tuna comes from the Western and Central Pacific according to the National Fisheries Institute and fisheries are the primary economic driver in the Pacific, especially for small Pacific Island Nations. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing results in losses of more than an estimated 21 to 46 percent of catch representing a $1.5 billion revenue loss in the region according to the Marine Resource Assessment Group. This loss can have a direct effect on peace, governance and a continued American presence as transnational crime may supplant traditional fishing to fill voids created by economic declines. This threat is why a robust multilateral enforcement presence is crucial.

This is an area that has been seldom patrolled in the past. China is interested in replacing American influence with their own. It is an area we should not ignore. (see also)

Republic of the Marshall Island. Illustration by TUBS from Wikipedia

Beyond our obligation to other Pacific Island nations, 29.3% of the US EEZ is around Pacific islands beyond Alaska and Hawaii,  including the Pacific Remote Islands Marine Monument which is larger than the entire Atlantic coast EEZ.

The eight day transit to and from the Marshall Islands was facilitated by USCGC Walnut (WLB-205) which transferred 8,000 gallons of fuel during two underway replenishments.

CCGD14 was in deed thinking outside the box, but maybe it will lead to other things. Webber class are already doing drug enforcement missions far South into the Caribbean. It appears, with a little support from larger vessels, the 18 District Seven Webber class ought to be able to continuously provide three FRCs in the Eastern Pacific.

Incidentally I am not suggesting a designation change. The WPC designation for the Webber class is the only one we have done since the start of the “Deepwater” program that makes any sense

 

 

Combined Maritime Security Task Force Pacific

Republic of Korea Coast Guard vessel #3006 in company with U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Boutwell (WHEC-719) during the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum in August 2007. This forum was created to increase international maritime safety and security in the Northern Pacific Ocean and its borders. The Boutwell worked with the Korean coast guard while on their way to Yokosuka, Japan. The Japanese coast guard is one of the six nations involved in the forum.

War on the Rocks offers a suggestion as to how to build greater cooperation and trust and support international norms in the Western Pacific.

“…establishment of a Combined Maritime Task Force Pacific that would be modeled off the Standing Naval Forces Atlantic construct that NATO operated in the 1970s and 1980s… It included 6-10 surface ships (destroyers, cruisers, frigates and support ships) that attached to the squadron for up to six months at a time…the real utility was that its permanent and consistent nature allowed contributing navies to work together to build interoperability during peacetime…it was always signaling contributing navies’ growing alignment and desire to work together.”

This seems like a pretty good idea, but I would suggest one change. Make the purpose of the force Law Enforcement (particularly fisheries), SAR, and Disaster Relief/Humanitarian Assistance and use primarily Offshore Patrol Vessels instead of conventional warships.

Signaling a shared belief in the norms of international behavior, and a determination to uphold those norms, would be the primary objective.

There are lots of potential participants beside the USCG, they might include navies or coast guards of Vietnam, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, Australia, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, S. Korea, and the Philippines. COM7thFleet has already asked for a USCG presence, but this would not be under the COCOM. It would be a cooperative enterprise between participating nations, in most cases, coast guard to coast guard.

Vietnamese Coast Guard Damen 9014 Offshore Patrol Vessel. Photo: lancercell.com

All the vessels involved could host ship riders from the nation(s) where the force is operating.

We already plan to have most of the Bertholf class cutters in the Pacific, and putting three OPCs in Guam could further facilitate the arrangement.

This avoids the complications of a military alliance, but strengthens the hand of SE Asian nations that might otherwise be intimidated by China.

Photographs taken during day 3 of the Royal Australian Navy International Fleet Review 2013. The Bruneian patrol vessel Darulaman moored in Sydney Harbour. Australia is building 12 similar ships. Photo by Saberwyn.

 

Indonesia Uses Google to Stop Fish Pirates

The Indonesian Navy and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries blow up an illegal fishing vessel near Tanjung Batumandi, Pangandaran, West Java, on March 14, 2016. Photo credit: REUTERS/Adeng Bustomi/Antara Foto

gCaptain reports Indonesia has had great success in using Google to crack down on Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

“After hunting down violators and blowing up their boats in public spectacles, Pudjiastuti’s approach has become more sophisticated. In a global first, the minister has teamed up with Google to use satellites to spot illegal fishermen from space. It’s paying off: Indonesia’s fish stocks have more than doubled in two years, and an industry plundered by foreigners for decades is once again contributing to economic growth, which Widodo has pledged to boost to 7 percent.

“See Also: Scientists Use AIS Data to Map Global Fishing Activity in Extraordinary Detail

“In a sprawling archipelago of 17,000 islands, the potential is vast. While fishing currently accounts for just 2.6 percent of Indonesia’s gross domestic product, that portion has grown about 40 percent since Pudjiastuti started her role. At that time, there were some 10,000 foreign vessels fishing illegally in Indonesia’s territory. She says they’re now all but gone.

Here is an earlier post on the Google system.

“Small Dots, Large Strategic Areas: US Interests in the South Pacific”

The Commandant talks about how the Coast Guard goes to areas the DOD tends to overlook, the Eastern Pacific and the Arctic. There is another area that the US seems to have taken for granted, These are the island nations of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau joined with the U.S. in “Compacts of Free Association.”

The Lowy Institute has a reminder of how important these little “dots” on the map are and what we have to loose if we don’t pay attention.

The Coast Guard is uniquely qualified to provide the help these nations need in terms of capacity building for policing their fisheries resources.

 

Japan Coast Guard expands Liquid-Robotics’ Wave Glider Fleet–NavyRecognition

We have discussed the Liquid Robotics Wave Glider before, as a way to improve Maritime Domain Awareness, noting it is being used by the Brits for fisheries monitoring and by Boeing in support of the US Navy.

Now NavyRecognition brings us a report that the Japanese are using it to monitor the environment providing real time information

Certainly better information about surface currents could help us in search planning.

EU Charters Fisheries Enforcement Vessel

MarineLink reports the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) has chartered a 61 meter (200 foot) multi-role emergency response and rescue vessel to perform fisheries enforcement.

“It is possible that Lundy Sentinel will also be used for other operations besides fisheries control, in the framework of the European coastguard cooperation, including search and rescue, border control, disruption of trafficking routes, detection of criminal activities and enforcement of EU and national legislations.”