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.”

U.S., Canada conduct fisheries enforcement with partner nations in South Pacific

The following is a Fourteenth District new release. This is a follow up to an earlier post/news release. Since Nov. 2018 we have had Munro, Bertholf, and Mellon in the Western Pacific. Really looks like it is becoming routine, now with help from Canadian maritime patrol aircraft.

united states coast guard 
Fri, Feb 15, 2019 6:25 pm
Coast Guard Fourteenth District Hawaii and the Pacific News (coastguardfourteenthdistrict@service.govdelivery.co
 

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 14th District Hawaii and the Pacific
Contact: 14th District Public Affairs
Office: (808) 535-3230
After Hours: (808) 341-9849
14th District online newsroom

Imagery Available: U.S., Canada conduct fisheries enforcement with partner nations in South Pacific

Joint boardings Mellon and CP-140 Boarding team

Editors’ Note: Click on images to view more and download high-resolution versions.

HONOLULU — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Mellon (WHEC 717) continues their patrol of the South Pacific with partners from several nations in January and into February.



“The U.S. is advancing a vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific that excludes no nation. We are redoubling our commitment to establish alliances and partnerships while expanding and deepening relationships with new partners that share respect for sovereignty, fair and reciprocal trade, and the rule of law,” said Capt. Robert Hendrickson, chief of response for Coast Guard 14th District. “We rely on partners, allies, and like-minded nations to achieve our missions.”

Following their first leg, the crew embarked ship riders from Fiji and Tuvalu to enforce Fisheries laws in each partner nations’ respective exclusive economic zones (EEZ). The Mellon’s boarding teams and the fisheries officers conducted a professional exchange and law enforcement training, sharing tactics and best practices. This effort was coordinated with significant support from Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing deprives the international economy of billions of dollars and undermines the livelihoods of legitimate fishers from all nations. It impacts food security, affecting millions of people, including many vulnerable coastal communities. It is estimated that IUU fishing accounts for about 30 percent of all fishing activity worldwide, representing up to 26 million tons of fish caught annually, valued at between $10 to $23 billion.

“Coast Guard 14th District personnel began partnering with Canada’s DFO in July when two DFO officers joined U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sequoia (WLB 215) for a 23-day patrol on high seas west of Guam,” said Hendrickson. “Sequoia’s deployment was incredibly successful, resulting in 15 suspected violations of Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s conservation and management measures while completing 11 foreign vessel inspections. The important trip helped to cement the Coast Guard and DFO’s growing partnership for enforcement in Oceania.”

Two DFO officers joined Mellon’s crew for the transit from Hawaii to Fiji after attending the Coast Guard’s Pacific Regional Fisheries Training Center course for Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) enforcement. They conducted high seas boardings along the way. Canada’s Air Force committed a CP-140 Aurora fixed-wing aircraft to provide maritime domain awareness for Mellon over two weeks, as well as delivering fishery enforcement operations for several regional Pacific Island countries. The DFO deployed two of their officers with the Aurora, and the Coast Guard sent a specialized fisheries training officer from the Regional Training Center to assist the aircrew with specific fisheries details and information for the crew. Working with Canada’s Department of National Defence and the U.S. Coast Guard, they patrolled around Fiji and the island nations of Kiribati, Tokelau, Vanuatu, and Tuvalu. IUU fishing is of particular concern in this area as several small island developing states have some of the most vulnerable waters for IUU fishing and need support from other nations.

Throughout the patrol, fishery officers were part of seven reconnaissance flights by the Aurora, to provide a visible surveillance presence and to help enforce WCPFC conservation measures. The Aurora detected and documented 101 fishing vessels during the mission, providing critical data to the U.S. Coast Guard patrol and the Forum Fisheries Agency, which coordinates enforcement amongst the island nations. The Canadian aircraft also patrolled the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, a UNESCO world heritage site where fishing is banned. The Aurora was able to ensure the area was clear of fishing activity during its patrol. 

“The U.S. Coast Guard and the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans have a long history of working together to ensure the viability of fish stocks off North America. Working with experts from Canada and regional leaders like Fiji is vital to ensuring food security and the rule of law in Oceania. Working together we are helping to ensure a more secure, free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Hendrickson.

Fishery officers aboard the cutter Mellon patrolled over 1,786 square miles (2,875 square kilometers) within the WCPFC convention area. They were also part of the enforcement team that boarded two boats: one fishing vessel and one fuel supply ship known as a bunkering vessel. The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating two potential violations of transshipment rules and vessel identification requirements aboard the vessels inspected during the mission.

These recent patrols were part of Canada’s international commitment to support fisheries on the high seas and tackle IUU fishing, which is a significant contributor to declining fish stocks and marine habitat destruction around the world.

“Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing threatens food security, impacts the sustainability of fisheries, and causes irreparable damage to marine and freshwater ecosystems across the globe. Partnerships, like this one with Canada’s Department of National Defence and the United States Coast Guard, are the key to tackling IUU fishing that threatens many vulnerable coastal communities. We will continue to work with other countries and assist small island developing states in combating IUU fishing to increase security and protect the health of fish stocks around the world,” said the Honorable Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

 

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.

Maritime Futures and the Bering Strait Region–CSIS

Above is a video of a symposium conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, November 29, 2017, with Rear Admiral Michael F. McAlister, Commander, 17th Coast Guard District, as the speaker. He talked about:

  • The Arctic as he sees it now and his concerns for the future.
  • Working relationship with counterparts in Russia, China, Canada, and other Artic nations.
  • Some of the topics were a traffic management scheme jointly proposed with Russia for the area around the Bering Strait.
  • Prospect of increased Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported Fishing in the Arctic.
  • Differences in pollution response regulations and planning compared to how it is done in the lower 48.
  • Improved communications among Arctic Coast Guard Forum nations.
  • Extending Maritime Domain Awareness to include groups outside the Coast Guard such as environmental groups and native villages.
As an aside he also mentioned a program I was not aware of, that the Coast Guard seconds officers to think-tanks like CSIS.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention.

Video–“Coast Guard Readiness: How Far Can We Stretch Our Nation’s Only Multi-Mission, Military Force?”

Above is the video of the Senate Subcommittee hearing for which I provided the Commandant’s prepared remarks earlier.

Participating Senators I noted were:

  • Dan Sullivan, Sub-Committee chair (R, Alaska)(Lt.Col., US Marine Corps Reserve)
  • Gary Peters, ranking member (D, Michigan)(LCdr. US Navy Reserve, Supply Corps)
  • Bill Nelson, ranking member of the Commerce Committee (D, Florida)(Capt. US Army Reserve)(NASA Scuttle payload specialist)
  • Roger Wicker, Chairman of the Seapower sub-committee (R, Mississippi)(Lt.Col. ret. USAF reserve)
  • Richard Blumenthal (D, Connecticut) (USMC Reserve 1970 to 1976 discharges as Sargent)
  • Brian Schatz (D, Hawaii)
  • Ed Markey (D, Mass.) (Spec4, US Army Reserve, 1968-73)
  • Jim Inhofe (R, Oklahoma) (Spec4, US Army, 1956-1958)
  • Maria Cantwell (D, Washington)

You can also check out the original post from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. (Same video is available there, but the meeting does not actually start on that version of the video until minute 36.) There you can also find the written statements of the other three witness who constituted the second panel. The Commandant was the sole witness on the first panel.

This was something of a love fest for the Coast Guard with repeated praise for the people and actions of the Coast Guard.

This hearing was reputedly about how the Coast Guard had been impacted by the unusually severe Hurricane season. There is not a lot new here but there were some interesting remarks.

Polar Icebreaker Contracts

The intention is to Contract for the first Icebreaker and then employ block buy for the next two (28m). To me this seems to negate most of the advantage of a block buy. I don’t believe we will or should buy one and then wait until we have tried it out before contracting for the next two. That would necessitate a delay of at least five years during which we would still have the nightmare scenario of our only heavy icebreaker having no rescue if it should break down in the ice–certainly not an impossibility even with a new ship. If we are going to contract for the remaining two before testing the first, we might as well block buy all three.

First of class is always the most expensive. If the shipyard gets a block buy they know that initial improvements in productivity can be amortized over the entire block buy quantity. In some cases, in order to win the whole project, the shipyard will cut the price of the first ship substantially knowing they will make a profit over the entire project.

If we buy one and then block buy the second and third, we have paid for improvements to the winning yard with the first contract and minimized the chances for a competitive bid for numbers two and three.

Legislation has capped DOD participation in icebreaker procurement, so the bulk of icebreaker procurement costs will come out of the Coast Guard budget.

Authorization

There was a lot of discussion about the need to have the Coast Guard Authorization Bill signed into law, still not approved. You can see it here.

Other topics

There was a discussion of the high cost of the Coast Guard response to the recent series of Hurricanes.

Representative Sullivan spent a lot of time, discussing and advocating for an eleven mile road from King Cove  (population estimate–989) to Cold Bay, Alaska (population estimate–122) which has an all-weather airport with two runways, one 10,180 feet and one 6285 feet in length. The Coast Guard connection is that the road would minimize or eliminate the necessity for the Coast Guard to Medivac emergencies from King Cove by helicopter, which is frequently hazardous. It is a Federal issue, because the road would run through a Federal reserve. The Commandant fully supported the desirability of completing the proposed single lane gravel road as a means of minimizing the requirement for helicopter medivac.

Video Breakdown

28m Domestic icebreakers–Design work on new domestic icebreakers is expected to start in 2030. That sounds a bit late to me. Mackinaw was commissioned in 2006 so if that is what he is really talking about, that makes sense, but the 140 foot icebreaking tugs are a different story. The first for of these will be 51 years old in 2030. More than  half of them have already completed in-service which was expected to add 15 years to their service life. Morro Bay, at least, is expected to reach the end of her service life in 2030, and considering how long it takes us to build a ship we really need to start the process not later than 2025.

45m Western Pacific Fisheries Protection–They have not seen much risk of Illegal, Unregulated, or Unreported fishing. 

51m Inland River Tenders

56m We may need to replace the 52 ft MLBs with something larger than the 47 foot MLB sometime in the future, but their end of life is not yet apparent

58m Coast Guard Museum in New London

60m Sexual Assault in the CG

1h02m Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands continuing commitment and its effects on drug seizures and alien migrant interdiction.

1h05m Vessel homeporting

1h08 CG center of expertise, particularly in regard to clean up spills in ice and fresh water

1h16m Army Corp of Engineers dredging backlog.

1h17m  Second Panel begins.

1h19m Medivac from King Cove

1h31m Mr Smithson regarding Deepwater Horizon experience, unified approach, investment in mitigation.

 

More Than One Way to Crack Down On IUU Fishing

Navigateum.com reports that more than twenty insurance companies have responded to a UN request.

They agreed to “not knowingly insure or facilitate the insuring of vessels that have been officially blacklisted for their involvement in IUU (Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported–Chuck) fishing.”

gCaptain reports

“Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen…will spend $40 million to develop a system that uses satellite imagery and data-analysis software to help countries spot and catch unlicensed fishing boats.

“Illegal fishing accounts for about 20 percent of the world’s catch, costing up to $23.5 billion a year, according to the World Wildlife Foundation, … the risk of hunger and joblessness in an industry that provides employment for more than 1 in 10 of the world’s people..”

About 90 percent of the world’s fishing grounds are being harvested at or beyond sustainable limits. Some species, such as the southern bluefin tuna, are threatened with extinction. Shrinking supplies off the central and western coast of Africa have raised concerns about future food shortages there. In the Mediterranean and Black seas, catches have fallen by a third since 2007.
SkyLight, which will be broadly available in the first half of next year, takes multiple data sources from satellite images, to shipping records to information manually collected by officials standing on docks, and uses machine learning software to track and predict which vessels might be operating illegally.
The service is cloud-based and will enable different countries to communicate and share information as boats move from one country’s waters to the next, a challenge currently.

Sounds like SkyLight could be very useful to the Coast Guard, particularly in the Western Pacific where the US has a huge part of its Exclusive Economic Zone, but very few Coast Guard resources.