“U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stone (WMSL 758) completes Operation Southern Cross” –Press Release

Guyana coast guard small boats patrol alongside the USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) off Guyana’s coast on Jan. 9, 2021. The U.S. and Guyana governments enacted a bilateral agreement on Sep. 18, 2020, to cooperatively combat illegal marine activity in Guyana’s waters. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hightower)

STONE has ended her highly unusual deployment to the South Atlantic. She still has not been commissioned yet. Almost five months away from their families. This crew deserves some time off.

We talked about the Brazilian OPV, hull number P120, seen in one of the photos over ten years ago. “Possible New Ships at a Bargain Price”. The British have built five improved versions of the class and Thailand has built a couple of the class with heavier armament.

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area
Contact: Coast Guard Atlantic Area Public Affairs
Contact: LANTPAO@uscg.mil
Atlantic Area online newsroom

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stone (WMSL 758) completes Operation Southern Cross

Stone and Guyana defense force Stone and Brazil navy Stone in Montevideo
Stone observes foreign fishing vessel Stone departs Mississippi Stone Guyana coast guard joint exercise

Editors’ Note: to view more or download imagery, please click here or the images above.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) crew arrived in their homeport of North Charleston, S.C., Monday, following the conclusion of the Operation Southern Cross, a patrol to the South Atlantic in support of counter illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

Taking the newly-accepted cutter on its shakedown cruise, Stone’s crew covered over 21,000 miles (18,250 nautical miles) over 68 days. A mutual interest in combating IUUF activities offered an opportunity to collaborate for Stone’s crew. They interacted with partners in Guyana, Brazil, Uruguay, and Portugal, strengthening relationships and laying the foundation for increased partnerships to counter illicit maritime activity.

“I could not be more proud of this crew. It was no easy feat to assemble a crew and ready a cutter for sea, but to do so in a COVID-19 environment followed by a two-month patrol is truly quite amazing. While at sea, we completed all patrol objectives and strategic engagements with like-minded partners. Our crew training was balanced with shining a big spotlight on illegal fishing practices in the South Atlantic. We arrived at our homeport on Monday after nearly five months away from families and will now receive some well-deserved rest,” said Capt. Adam Morrison, the Stone’s commanding officer.

Even before leaving the pier, the Stone set milestones. They are the first U.S. Coast Guard cutter with a Portuguese navy member to serve aboard. Lt. Miguel Dias Pinheiro, a Portuguese navy helicopter pilot, joined the Stone’s crew for the entirety of their first patrol.

Pinheiro served as both an observer and a linguist for daily operations. Further, he lent shipboard aviation experience. On this patrol, Stone certified their flight deck for aviation operations and embarked an aviation detachment from Air Station Houston. His participation in the patrol has already led to reciprocal activity with Portugal.

“Working with our partner nations has not only strengthened our working relationships but has allowed the crew of the Stone to conduct training evolutions that we don’t often get to do,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jason McCarthey, the Stone’s operations officer.

While in transit to conduct joint operations off Guyana’s coast, Stone encountered and interdicted a suspected narcotic trafficking vessel south of the Dominican Republic. Having stopped the illicit activity, Stone handed off the case to the USCGC Raymond Evans (WPC 1110), a fast response cutter from Key West, Florida, and continued their patrol south.

Stone’s team practiced communications with the Guyana Defense Force during a fast-paced interdiction scenario. This evolution required focus and attention on both sides of the radio.

In Brazil, the crew practiced communications and steaming in close formation, an essential skill for joint and combined operations. Stone’s team also gave presentations to the Brazil navy members on maritime law enforcement practices and tactics.

“Having the opportunity to work together and exchange ideas helps us all become more proficient in achieving our shared goals,” said McCarthey.

Stone was the first U.S. Coast Guard cutter to call in Uruguay in over a decade. Stone’s crew familiarized their hosts on the Coast Guard’s full range of mission and operations, answering technical questions and sharing best practices. Uruguay expressed further interest in additional professional exchange opportunities and joint operations in the future. 

The Stone crew were given a unique opportunity to forge new bonds and strengthen the foundations of previous alliances in the face of a global crisis and did so through in-person and virtual engagement, conscious of the risks involved.

“We are very keen to not only negotiate international agreements to address IUU fishing, as we did with the Port State Measures Agreement. We’re also very supportive of the work Coast Guard is doing to build relationships and strengthen the operational effectiveness of all of the coastal states to combat IUU fishing,” said David Hogan, acting director of The Office of Marine Conservation, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, U.S. Department of State.

Operation Southern Cross promises to expand U.S. relationships with these partner governments. Beyond Operation Southern Cross’s immediacy, the U.S. government intends these collaborations to promote long-term regional stability, security, and economic prosperity.

Stone’s crew now prepares for their commissioning on March 19.

The cutter’s namesake is the late Cmdr. Elmer “Archie” Fowler Stone, who in 1917 became the Coast Guard’s first aviator and, two years later, was one of two pilots to successfully make a transatlantic flight in a Navy seaplane landing in Portugal. 

“EVOLUTION OF THE FLEET: A CLOSER LOOK AT THE CHINESE FISHING VESSELS OFF THE GALAPAGOS” –CIMSEC

Chinese fishing vessel fleet (Photo: The Maritime Executive)

Somehow I missed this post when it was published, 19 Oct. 2020, but it was recently recognized as one of CIMSEC’s the top ten posts for 2020.

This only looks at fishing off the Galapagos, but pretty sure this is happen elsewhere as well. The post reports the Chinese government is paying massive subsidizes and suggests that it seems to be attempting to establish a sort of lien on the world’s fisheries stocks, e. g. “we have historically taken the majority of the high sea’s catch so we should be allowed to continue to do so in perpetuity.”

It also looks at indicators of Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) fishing.

USCGC Stone off Guyana, Plus a Drug Interdiction

Some photographs from USCGC Stone’s deployment to the Atlantic Coast of South America. Keep in mind, this is really a shakedown cruise. She still has not been commissioned.

Guyana coast guard small boats patrol alongside the USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) off Guyana’s coast on Jan. 9, 2021. The U.S. and Guyana governments enacted a bilateral agreement on Sep. 18, 2020, to cooperatively combat illegal marine activity in Guyana’s waters. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hightower)

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Jason McCarthey, operations officer of the USCGC Stone (WMSL 758), bumps elbows, as a COVID mitigation, with a member of the Guyana coast guard off the coast of Guyana on Jan. 9, 2021, to celebrate the joint exercise. The U.S. Coast Guard and Guyana coast guard completed their first cooperative exercise in training to combat illicit marine traffic since the enactment of a bilateral agreement between the two on Sep. 18, 2020. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hightower)

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. j. g. John Cardinal supervises Petty Officer 1st Class Pamala Jensen as she coordinates helicopter operations from the aviation tower of the USCGC Stone (WSML 758) in the Caribbean Sea on Jan. 7, 2021. Since the Stone began its first patrol on Dec 22, 2020, many of its crew trained in their new positions for the first time to become fully qualified. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hightower)

U.S. Coast Guard small boats from the USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) and small boats from the Guyana coast guard patrol off the coast of Guyana on Jan. 9, 2021.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hightower)

Along the way, Stone managed to conduct a drug interdiction operation as well. LANT Area news release below:

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area
Contact: Coast Guard Atlantic Area Public Affairs
Office: (757) 398-6521
After Hours: uscglantarea@gmail.com
Atlantic Area online newsroom

On maiden voyage, USCGC Stone crew interdict narcotics in Caribbean

Stone launches small boat Stone stops suspect vessel

Editor’s Note: to view larger or download high-resolution images, click on the item above. 

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — While in transit to conduct joint operations off the coast of Guyana as part of Operation Southern Cross, USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) encountered and interdicted a suspected narcotic trafficking vessel south of the Dominican Republic Thursday.  
 
Having stopped the illicit activity, Stone handed off the case to the USCGC Raymond Evans (WPC 1110), a fast response cutter from Key West, Florida, and continued their patrol south. 
 
Early Thursday, acting on information from a maritime patrol aircraft, the Stone crew approached the vessel of interest and exercised U.S. Coast Guard authorities to stop their transit and interdict illicit maritime trade. 
 
The USCGC Raymond Evans arrived on the scene shortly after. A Coast Guard boarding team from the Raymond Evans conducted a law enforcement boarding, testing packages found aboard the vessel, revealing bales of cocaine estimated at 2,148.5 lbs (970 kgs) total.

Stone’s crew remained on scene during the search of the vessel to assist if need. Following the boarding, the Raymond Evans crew took possession of the contraband and detained the four suspected narcotics trafficking vessel members. They are working with the U.S. Coast Guard 7th District and Department of Justice on the next steps. 
 
Quotes 
“USCGC Stone is a highly-capable multipurpose platform and ready to conduct missions to save lives, support lawful activities on the high seas, and highlight and build Coast Guard partnerships with other nations.  I am not surprised that Stone interdicted drug smugglers – it is what the Captain, crew, and every U.S. Coast Guard member is prepared to do every day underway.  Stone’s crew is exhibiting the highest professional competence, reinforcing that Stone is well-suited to help our partners in the South Atlantic expose and address illicit activities in the maritime domain. These transnational criminal activities – be it illegal fishing or the trafficking of people, drugs, money, etc.  – challenge global security, and only together can we combat these threats.”
– Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area
 
 “I’m very proud of the crew for completing this evolution safely and making an immediate impact on our first patrol. This case illustrates that Stone is a competent partner, and our crew is ready for the front-lines. We look forward to our upcoming engagements, first with Guyana.”
– Capt. Adam Morrison, commanding officer of USCGC Stone (WMSL 758)

“Our teammates aboard USCGC Stone are helping keep our shared neighborhood – the Western Hemisphere- safe, successfully stopping illicit narcotics smuggling, while continuing their equally important mission to counter predatory and irresponsible IUU fishing, a growing threat to our partner nations’ sovereignty and our collective regional security.”

- Rear Adm. Andrew J. Tiongson, director of operations, U.S. Southern Command

 Quick Facts
 Mission
– Operation Southern Cross is a multi-month deployment to the South Atlantic countering illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing while strengthening relationships for maritime sovereignty and security throughout the region.

– Stone’s patrol demonstrates the U.S. commitment to the established rules-based order while addressing illegal activity wherever a U.S. Coast Guard cutter is deployed.”

– Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing is a pervasive, far-reaching security threat. One in five fish caught worldwide likely originate from IUU fishing. 
 
 – Healthy fish stocks underpin the food security of coastal communities, maritime regions, and entire nation-states. 
 
 – The U.S. Coast Guard has been the lead agency in the United States for at-sea enforcement of living marine resource laws for more than 150 years. 

– The U.S. Coast Guard is uniquely positioned to combat IUU fishing and uphold the rule of law at sea. The Service is keen to share knowledge and partner with like-minded nations. 
 
 – The U.S. Coast Guard is recognized worldwide for our ability to perform diverse maritime missions over vast geographic areas. The U.S. Coast Guard’s value to the Nation resides in its enduring commitment to protect those on the sea, protect the United States from threats delivered by the sea, and protect the sea itself.

– As a military, law enforcement, regulatory, and humanitarian service, the U.S. Coast Guard relies upon various authorities and partnerships to enhance our capability and capacity throughout the maritime domain.
  
– Patrols like Stone’s support U.S. initiatives to strengthen and fortify effective governance and cooperation with our partner nations to address destabilizing influences – illegal narcotics and fishing that are high on that list. 
 
 USCGC Stone
 – The ship, one of the Legend-class, is named for the U.S. Coast Guard’s first aviator, Cmdr. Elmer “Archie” Fowler Stone.
 
 – Stone is the ninth National Security Cutter. They are a multi-mission platform — 418 feet (127 meters) long with a 54-foot beam and displace 4,500 tons with a full load. They have a top speed of 28 knots, a range of 12,000 miles, an endurance of 60 days, and a crew of around 120.

“Fresh from Shipyard and Quarantine, Coast Guard Cutter Stone Heads Out for Southern Atlantic Patrol” USNI

Ingalls Shipbuilding successfully completed acceptance trials for the Coast Guard’s ninth national security cutter (NSC), Stone, in October 2020. NSC Stone was accepted Nov. 9, 2020, by the Coast Guard in a socially distanced ceremony. Photo by Lance Davis of Huntington Ingalls Industries.

The US Naval Institute News Service reports that USCGC Stone is being sent on an unusual Latin American South Atlantic patrol, even before she is commissioned. To make a patrol of this length prior to commissioning is almost unheard of, and the location is also something we have not done in a very long time, outside of the UNITAS exercise format.

The inaugural deployment is “a multi-month deployment to the South Atlantic countering illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing while strengthening relationships for maritime sovereignty and security throughout the region,” according to a Coast Guard news release. “This the service’s first patrol to South America in recent memory, engaging partners including Guyana, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Portugal.” An observer from the Portuguese navy embarked the cutter for the duration of Operation Southern Cross in the U.S. Southern Command region.

Certainly not the Coast Guard’s “first patrol to South America in recent memory,” but to this part of South America, perhaps.

“Biggest Iranian flotilla yet en route to Venezuela with fuel” –Stars and Stripes

The Iranian-flagged oil tanker Fortune is docked at the El Palito refinery after its arrival to Puerto Cabello in the northern state of Carabobo, Venezuela, on May 25, 2020.
AFP/GETTY IMAGES/TNS

Stars and Stripes reports,

“(Tribune News Service) — Iran is sending its biggest fleet yet of tankers to Venezuela in defiance of U.S. sanctions to help the isolated nation weather a crippling fuel shortage, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Some of the flotilla of about 10 Iranian vessels will also help export Venezuelan crude after discharging fuel, the people said, asking not to be named because the transaction is not public.”

Given the US previous seizure of tankers employed in the trade, it would not be surprising to see the US move against them. Coast Guard involvement possible.

UNITAS LXI Concludes

USCGC Legare in the foreground. Directly behind her is the Peruvian Italian built Lupo class frigate BAP Bolognesi (FM-57). To the right is a Colombian Fassmer designed 80 meter OPV (see links on photo below). To the left is an Italian built Ecuadorian Esmeraldas class corvette. US Navy photo by Naval Aircrewman 2nd Class Joseph Aubrey

We noted USCGC Legare’s participation in the 61st UNITAS exercise earlier. The exercise concluded Nov. 11. Below is a news release.

I am really surprised that I have not seen any Coast Guard public affairs information about this.

The exercise included a SINKEX. Would really like to know how that went. Did the Legare shot? Visible damage?

There is no specific mention of submarines in the news release, but it did say there were ASW exercises. Several of the participating nations have subs. Bet, somewhere there is a photo of Legare in the cross hairs of a periscope.


UNITAS LXI, the world’s longest running multinational maritime exercise concluded with a closing ceremony in Manta, Ecuador, Nov. 11.

For this year’s iteration of UNITAS, Ecuador served as the host nation, joined by forces from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Peru, Uruguay, and the United States.

Partner nations used 13 warships and 12 aircraft to conduct scenario-driven joint and combined operations and training to enhance interoperability, flexibility, and increase maritime, air, and ground-domain awareness in the Western Hemisphere.

Events included: surface tactical maneuvers, a sinking exercise (SINKEX), a live-fire exercise, a replenishment-at-sea, search and rescue exercises, anti-submarine warfare exercises, air defense exercises, amphibious landing, reconnaissance, assault, security, and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief response training.

The at-sea phase culminated in a multi-threat, multi-day scenario that allowed participants to work together, further increasing preparedness for real-world crises that would require a multi-national force response effort.

Additionally, U.S. Marine Corps Forces South hosted partner-nations at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to integrate with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command and conducted further interoperability training for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief situations.

“Congratulations to all participants on the successful execution of UNITAS LXI,” said Brig. Gen. Phillip Frietze, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South. “Your efforts and performance have contributed to building the capacity and strength of our nations to rise together and achieve common goals.”

Peru will host UNITAS LXII next year to celebrate the bicentennial of the country and the Peruvian navy.

For 61 years, the United States has built upon commonalities and increased capabilities within the Western Hemisphere through exercise UNITAS. Different countries host the exercise each year, facilitating the opportunity to gain experience leading a multinational force through complex joint and combined maritime warfare scenarios and exercises.

UNITAS, Latin for “unity,” was conceived in 1959, first executed in 1960 and has been held every year since. This year marks the 61st iteration of UNITAS. The exercise continues to develop and sustain relationships that improve the capacity of our emerging and enduring partners’ joint and combined maritime forces to achieve common desired effects and fosters friendly cooperation and understanding between participating military forces.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet is responsible for U.S. Naval forces in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility, including the Caribbean, Central and South America.

For more information and news from U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/cusns/, https://www.facebook.com/NAVSOUS4THFLT, and https://twitter.com/NAVSOUS4THFLT.

201104-N-N3674-011 MANTA, Ecuador (November 4, 2020) Naval ships from Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and the United States conduct naval formations during a training exercise for UNITAS LXI (U.S. Navy photo by Damage Controlman Fireman Isaiah Libunao/Released) The two ships leading are Columbian. The ship in the foreground right is a FASSMER designed 80 meter OPV ARC 7 de Agosto (PZE-47)

USCGC Legare Participates in UNITAS LXI

USCG LEGARE (WMEC 912) passing by pier No. 9 at the Norfolk Naval Base. Returning to port after the passage of Hurricane Floyd up the east coast. Location: HAMPTON ROADSTEAD, VA, Photo credit: Don S. Montgomery, USN (RET)

UPI is reporting that, beginning this week, USCGC Legare (WMEC-912) will be participating in this year’s UNITAS exercise along with USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10), USNS Burlington (T-EPF-10), Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23 Detachment 9 (which flies MH-60S and MQ-8B drones), Patrol Squadron 9, Patrol Squadron 26 (both VP-9 and VP-26 fly the P-8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft) and the U.S. Army Vessel Chickahominy (LCU-2011).

Other participants include representatives form Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay for a total of 13 ships.

Freedom of Navigation off Venezuela

Orthographic map of Venezuela centered on Caracas
Controlled territory in dark green.
Claimed territory in light green.
From Wikipedia, Author: Addicted04

Perhaps significantly for the Coast Guard’s drug interdiction efforts in the Caribbean, Navy Times is reporting that the Navy has been conducting Freedom of Navigation Operations off the Venezuelan coast in response to excessive claims not in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

A command official said the mission was undertaken “to challenge Venezuela’s excessive maritime claim of security jurisdiction from 12 to 15 nautical miles along its coastline and prior permission requirement for military operations within the Exclusive Economic Zone, which are contrary to international law.”

These are waters where Coast Guard cutters conduct law enforcement operations. If Venezuela wants to make a show of opposing US operations in these waters, it would be a lot easier for them to take on a 210 that a DDG or even an LCS.

“The Coast Guard Should Helm SouthCom” –US Naval Institute Proceedings

Source: UNrefugees.com

The US Naval Institute has published a feature article by two USCG Lieutenant Commanders, Krystyn Pecora and Piero Pecora, suggesting that perhaps a Coast Guard flag Officer should command SouthCom.

This would certainly put the US military presence in Latin America in a different light, after a history of US meddling in Latin American internal affairs.

“Safety, stability, and economic prosperity in this region will help allay the continuing migration crisis, lay the groundwork for disaster-resilient communities, and prevent a Chinese foothold in the Western Hemisphere. The traditional DoD approach of building partner-nation military capabilities through training and access to U.S. equipment in trade for forward-deployed staging access will not suffice to achieve these goals. It will require a focus on building local civil, law enforcement, and military authorities capable of rooting out TCOs—a mission tailor-made for the Coast Guard. “

While being a Combatant Commander would certainly be a change from the Coast Guard’s normal supporting role, it might not be too much of a stretch. After all, we are not engaged in actual combat in Latin America. Generally Coast Guard forces make up most of SouthCom’s operational units,

and other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) assets make up much of the rest.

Coast Guard leadership in SouthCom is a natural fit. Coast Guard officers have led SouthCom’s J-3 directorate for nearly a decade, and its primary component command, Joint Interagency Task Force–South, for nearly three decades. SouthCom’s lines of effort—building relationships, countering threat networks, and enabling rapid response—all align with the Coast Guard’s statutory missions.

Looking at the humanitarian crisis that is driving the illegal immigration at the border, DHS might see DHS coordination of the US response, in the form of a Coast Guard SouthCom, as the best hope for a long term solution.

Something is Happening in Venezuela

Orthographic map of Venezuela centered on Caracas. Controlled territory in dark green. Claimed territory in light green. From Wikipedia, author: Addicted04

Venezuela is in an area vital to the Coast Guard’s drug interdiction effort.

CBS is reporting,

President Trump recognized the chief opposition leader in Venezuela, National Assembly President Juan Guaido, as the country’s legitimate interim president. The rare move by the White House comes as large anti-government protests erupted across the South American nation on Wednesday.

The Organization of American States (OAS) recently passed a resolution agreeing not to recognize the legitimacy of Maduro’s new term, which began on January 10.

What happens next is anybody’s guess. Civil war is possible, and it already looks like a humanitarian crisis. That our cutters may become involved in some way is not out of the question.

Thanks to Andres for bringing this to my attention.