Japan Fisheries Enforcement Vessel Encounters, Collides With, Sinks N. Korean F/V

Recently a drama played out between a Japanese fisheries agency ship and a North Korean fishing vessel and its crew. According to the text accompanying the YouTube,

“On October 7, a North Korean fishing boat sank after colliding with a Fisheries Agency patrol boat in the favorable fishing grounds near the Yamatotai area of Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Sea of Japan.

“On October 18, the Fisheries Agency released the video recorded on the patrol boat, finally showing the sequence of events prior to and after the accident.

“The accident took place about 350 kilometers northwest of Ishikawa Prefecture’s Noto Peninsula in Japan’s EEZ. Judging the fishing boat to be operating illegally, the patrol boat began to issue warnings for the fishing vessel to leave the area at around 8:50 A.M. on October 7. When the vessel did not leave, the patrol boat started spraying the vessel with water cannons at 9:04 A.M.

“The vessel made a sudden sharp turn, and at 9:07 A.M. collided with the patrol boat. The patrol boat had taken up position on the left side of the fishing boat and had been issuing audio warnings from a distance of about 200 meters.”

The fishing vessel subsequently sank. The crew took to the water. The Japanese vessel had its boat tow liferafts over to the people in the water. Ultimately another North Korean came over and picked up the people in the water.

Since the Coast Guard is now operating in these waters, the actions of the N. Korean fishing vessel, that to our eyes are irrational, are of more than academic interest.

We can’t really know what was going through the mind of the master of the N. Korean vessel.

  • Has propaganda infused so much hate for the Japanese that the N. Koreans would strike out at them in any way they can?
  • Did they think the Japanese vessel would back down?
  • Do they even know about the concept of an Exclusive Economic Zone?
  • Or, did the helmsman just slip on the wet deck and spin the wheel left in an attempt to regain his balance?

The Japanese behavior also suggests they are wary of the N. Koreans.

  • They did not attempt to board
  • While they provided liferafts, they did not attempt to pick up survivors

“Coast Guard Cutter conducts DPRK sanctions patrol” –News Release

A small unmanned aircraft system operator recovers an sUAS (Scan Eagle–Chuck) after a flight from Coast Guard Cutter Stratton in the South China Sea Sept. 16, 2019. The sUAS is capable of flying for more than 20 hours and has a maximum speed of about 60 mph. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Nate Littlejohn.

Below is a news release regarding USCGC Stratton’s recent activities including those in support of UN sanctions against North Korea. For some time, I thought we might have a role in this. Apparently we still have not done an at sea boarding to enforce sanctions. Boardings have been authorized by the UN. That may be the next step. I have linked some previous posts for background.

In two of the photos below, the Stratton is being shadowed by China Coast Guard vessels. The one seen on the left, in the picture with Stratton’s 11 meter boat is one of the new Type 818 cutters are based on the Type 054 frigates, this class cutter is also discussed here. The China CG cutter seen in the photo right center is, I believe, one of their 12,000 ton cutters, the largest in the world. This class is discussed here, with updates in the comments. It appears to be missing the twin 76mm gun seen earlier on this class.

united states coast guard

News Release

Oct. 24, 2019
U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area
Contact: Coast Guard Pacific Area Public Affairs
Office: (510) 437-3319
After Hours: (510) 333-6297
D11-DG-M-PACAREA-PA@uscg.mil
Pacific Area online newsroom

Coast Guard Cutter conducts DPRK sanctions patrol

Coast Guard Cutter Stratton arrives in Philippines after Yellow Sea UNSCR enforcement patrol
Coast Guard Cutter Stratton conducts Yellow Sea UNSCR enforcement patrol Coast Guard Cutter Stratton conducts Yellow Sea UNSCR enforcement patrol Coast Guard Cutter Stratton conducts Yellow Sea UNSCR enforcement patrol
Coast Guard Cutter Stratton crew conducts operations in South China Sea Coast Guard Cutter Stratton crew conducts operations in South China Sea Coast Guard Cutter Stratton conducts Yellow Sea UNSCR enforcement patrol
Coast Guard Cutter Stratton conducts Yellow Sea UNSCR enforcement patrol Coast Guard Cutter Stratton crew conducts operations in South China Sea Coast Guard Cutter Stratton crew conducts operations in South China Sea

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

PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines —The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 752) pulled into Puerto Princesa October 14, for Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Sama Sama following operations in the Yellow Sea where the crew supported United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) enforcement against illicit ship-to-ship transfers that violate sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

The operations are a part of the United States’ ongoing contribution to international efforts in combatting DPRK’s maritime sanctions evasion activity. Ship-to-ship transfers of fuel and goods, like coal, going to and from DPRK are prohibited under the UNSCR.

Stratton personnel captured imagery of suspected illicit ship-to-ship transfers and conducted routine activities to detect, deter, and disrupt activities in violation of UNSCR.

Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Sama Sama is a maritime exercise designed to promote regional security cooperation, maintain, and strengthen maritime partnerships and enhance maritime interoperability. This is the first year the Japanese Maritime Defense Force will participate alongside U.S. and Philippine navy counterparts.

The exercise will consist of both shore-based and at-sea activities designed to allow participating navies to advance the complex maritime training utilizing diverse naval platforms and operating areas.

The U.S. Coast Guard has an enduring role in the Indo-Pacific, going back over 150 years. The service’s ongoing deployment of resources to the region directly supports U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives in the Indo-Pacific Strategy and the National Security Strategy.

As both a federal law enforcement agency and an armed force, the U.S. Coast Guard is uniquely positioned to support combatant commanders on all seven continents. The service routinely provides forces in joint military operations worldwide, including the deployment of cutters, boats, aircraft and deployable specialized forces.

“All of Stratton’s operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” said Capt. Bob Little, Stratton’s commanding officer. “That is as true in the South and East China Seas, as in other places around the globe. Our efforts in support of enforcing U.N. Security Council Resolutions in the Yellow Sea demonstrate that commitment.”

-USCG-

“North Korean Vessel Attacks Russian Patrol Boat, Wounding Three” –Maritime-Executive

Russian Maritime Border Guard patrol vessel. Photo: Alex (Florstein) Fedorov

Maritime Executive passes along a TASS report of the latest round of conflicts over fisheries between Russia and North Korea. A bit more information on an earlier incident referred to in the Maritime Executive report here.

I have to think, the three Russian Coast Guardsmen were injured in a North Korean attempt to thwart a boarding.

We really have no confirmation that the vessel pictured above and in the Maritime Executive article, was the cutter or even the type involved. We do know at least one of the class is in the Pacific, and probably more. If it was this class the North Korean action was certainly foolhardy.

The Russians are planning on building 30 of these though 2020, and the program is now more than half complete. We did discuss these back in 2011 and updates were included in the comments. They are about the size of a 210, but much faster and better armed, and in some respects better equipped. Speed is reported to be 30 knots using four diesels totaling 15,440HP. They have an AK630 six barreled 30 mm gatling gun with radar and optronic fire control They also can handle a helicopter and a Russian version of the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 UAV. More on these impressive little ships here.


Rubin-class patrol boat (Project 22460) Korall of the Russian Coast Guard

In any case this is a reminder that when we go into the Western Pacific, this is a very rough neighborhood, and that they take their fishing very seriously.

 

Japan Builds More XXLarge CG Cutters

Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel PLH32 Akitsushima. Photo by Kaidai

NavyRecognition is reporting that the Japanese Coast Guard is once again building very large coast guard cutters with the launch of Reimei (PLH 33).

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) recently launched a brand new patrol vessel for the Japan Coast Guard (JCG). This vessel is a variant of the Shikishima-class, with two previous vessels built in 1992 and 2013. Two more vessels are also scheduled to be built in the future (emphasis applied–Chuck).

This class is going to be something of an oddity, because it looks like there will be at least 30 years between the commissioning of the first ship and the fifth. In fact the Japanese may be planning to replace the first ship of the class with the fifth (that is only speculation on my part, but the Japanese do not keep there ships nearly as long as the USCG. Referencing my Combat Fleets of the World from 2013, the Japan Coast Guard had no ships older than 35 years).

Before the Chinese built their very large Coast Guard cutters, the two earlier ships of this class, Shikishima (commissioned 1992) and her sister ship, Akitsushima (commissioned 2013), were largest cutters in the world, at 150.0m (492 ft), 9300 ton (full load), twice as large as Bertholf class cutters.

The South Koreans have also built some exceptionally large cutters. None of these ships have particularly large crews. Crews are about the same size or smaller than the crews of the Bertholf class. All seem to be good for about 25 knots and have facilities for two helicopters.

Armament:

The first two Japanese ships don’t have the 76mm guns found on the extremely large Chinese and South Korean cutters, but they are well armed for cutters with four gun mounts on each ship. There does seem to be some variation in the way the Japanese ships are armed–not too surprising considering the first two ships were commissioned 21 years apart, and seven years will separate this third ship from the second of the class.

20mm-76_Gatling_pic

Japanese 20 mm/76 Gatling Gun. Note the camera for remote targeting. JMSDF Photograph.

Just about all Japan Coast Guard cutters have the 20mm Sea Vulcan, which uses the same 20mm guns as those in the Phalanx Close in Weapon System (CIWS) but in a simpler mount. They have a 3000 round per minute rate of fire and a reported effective range of 1,625 yards (1,490 m). The first ships of the class had two mounts forward of the bridge at the O-2 deck level.

The first two ships have two mounts for the Oerlikon 35mm. These guns have a 550 round per minute rate of fire per gun and a reported effective range against surface targets of 8,700 yards (8,000 m). The first ship has two twin mounts, but it appears the second has two simplified single mounts. If the third ship follows typical Japan Coast Guard practice, the larger mounts will continue to be in the 30 to 40mm range. If on the other hand, they mount something larger, it will mark a departure for the JCG, I would assume, in response to the increased militancy of the China Coast Guard.

In the world of Asian Coast Guards, it may simply be that their large size is their primary armament. These nations seem to regularly engage in shoving matches. In at least one case, the China Coast Guard reportedly sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel by ramming.

“Coast Guard enforces North Korea sanctions in the East China Sea” –CoastGuardNews

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL 750) is on patrol of the Western Pacific Ocean Jan. 22, 2019. The crew aims to improve regional governance and security and enhance partner nations’ maritime capabilities. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer John Masson

Photo: The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL 750) on patrol in the Western Pacific Ocean Jan. 22, 2019.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer John Masson

Coast Guard News reports,

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf pulled into Sasebo March 3 following a deployment in the East China Sea where the crew assisted in United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) enforcement against illicit ship-to-ship transfers that violate North Korea sanctions.

Thought something unusual was going on when Bertholf departed. Plus we have the Commandant’s Thursday State of the Coast Guard address is to include, “Coast Guard deployments to the western Pacific Ocean in support of U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives.”

Thought we might get into this. 

Note, Bertholf was enforcing sanctions in the East China Sea. It may have been less upsetting to China that this was being done by a white hull, than by a gray hull with a Coast Guard detachment on board. Probably the same would be true about upsetting the Russians on the Eastern side of the Peninsula.

249 Warning Shots

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.

The Independent reports a South Korean Coast Guard vessel fired 249 warning shots when it was reportedly swarmed by 44 Chinese fishing vessels fortified with iron bars and steel mesh.