“Coast Guard Struggling with Southern California ‘Coastal Awareness Gap’ as Maritime Smuggling Rises” –USNI

Aerial view of the Port of San Diego with two aircraft carriers moored at North Island and three cruise ships in Port, from Oct. 4, 2012. Port of San Diego photo

US Naval Institute reports the Coast Guard is looking for ways to deal with a problem unique to Sector San Diego, a combination of proximity of Mexico and heavy offshore traffic.

“We’ve faced a major increase in smuggling,” Capt. Tim Barelli, commander of Sector San Diego, told an audience on the first day of WEST, a three-day defense industry conference hosted by USNI and Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. Incidents of smuggling have doubled, year over year, in the past three years, “and I’m doing that with the same amount of people, same amount of helicopters and same amount of small boats. So that is my biggest challenge.”

They are hoping technology can help.

I would point, out this is not just a drug or human trafficking problem. Terrorists could use the same confusing conditions to cover a maritime attack on this major US port city and naval base.


Taj Mahal Palace hotel, Mumbai Terrorist Attack,

In the US the date 9/11 has special meaning, but in India it is November 26, which they refer to as 26/11.

The 2008 Mumbai attacks (also referred to as 26/11) were a series of terrorist attacks that took place in November 2008, when 10 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamist terrorist organisation from Pakistan, carried out 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks lasting four days across Mumbai. The attacks, which drew widespread global condemnation, began on Wednesday 26 November and lasted until Saturday 29 November 2008. A total of 175 people died, including nine attackers, and more than 300 were wounded.

Nearly all the killing and all the television coverage was on land, but it should not be forgotten, the terror came by boat.

“Ohio River Bomb Spree Shows Need For New Coast Guard Waterways Commerce Cutters” –Forbes

USCGC Smilax (WLIC-315)

Craig Hooper has another pro-Coast Guard post in Forbes.

It talks about a domestic terrorism incident as a justification for the Waterways Commerce Cutter program.

The program already seems to be progressing well with essentially no opposition.

The article goes a bit beyond advocating for the program as it exists now.

“—the emerging threat of domestic terrorism suggests that these vessels may need to enhance their disaster response capabilities faster than the Coast Guard expects. Better communications, better situational awareness resources and better resources to keep crew safe may be quite useful over the three or four decades. Fittings for chemical sensors, extra protective gear storage, unmanned platform capabilities, and better decontamination resources all ensure these Cutters will be viable over the long-term.”

Take a look. I am not enthusiastic about Hooper’s suggested upgrades, but I have a lot of respect for his opinion, so would not dismiss them out of hand.

9/11 Twenty Years Ago

Below is the Commandant’s message marking the 20th Anniversary of this attack, that so changed the Nation and the Coast Guard.

Frankly, I do not see that the Coast Guard is really prepared to counter a well planned terrorist attack conducted from the sea. A tiny fraction of the money spent in Afghanistan and Iraq could close this gap. We need to be better armed and more capable of stopping an attack, regardless of the size of the attacking vessel, using forces regularly assigned in each port.

Let the Coast Guard response be, “Never again, Not on our watch.”

united states coast guard

R 101030Z SEP 21
ALCOAST 324/21
SSIC 5700
1. On the morning of 11 September 2001, nineteen terrorists took
control of four cross-country commercial aircraft, weaponizing the
planes and steering them into the World Trade Center Twin Towers
in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. On the fourth
plane, believed to be headed toward the U.S. Capitol or the White
House, a brave band of passengers and crew attempted to regain
control and downed the plane near Shanksville, Pennsylvania in the
2. Living up to our motto of Semper Paratus, Coast Guard personnel
sprang into action to save lives and provided security for that
day’s survivors.
3. Almost immediately following the attacks, all bridges and
tunnels in Manhattan were closed leaving hundreds of thousands of
people stranded, with no way to return safely home. Coast Guard
personnel directed the safe evacuation of more than 500,000 people
from the island with the assistance of hundreds of local ferries,
as well as commercial and private craft. This, the largest maritime
evacuation in recorded history, was conducted in less than 8 hours.
4. In and around Ground Zero, after the collapse of the World Trade
Center Towers, the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Strike Team worked in
close cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency to
monitor air quality for first responders in the rescue and recovery
5. At the Pentagon, the Navy Command Center sustained a direct hit
from the crash of Flight #77, resulting in the loss of 42
personnel. From a secondary office at Coast Guard Headquarters,
Coast Guard RADM Jeffrey Hathaway, the Director of the Navy Command
Center, fortuitously away from the Pentagon that morning,
established personal security detachments to protect Senior Navy
Leadership in the aftermath of the attack, and supported the
planning and policies of the coming war on terrorism.
6. By October 2001, U.S. Military forces had deployed to
Afghanistan to execute Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Coast
Guard personnel served in support of OEF through units such as the
Redeployment Assistance and Inspection Detachment (RAID Team),
inspecting shipments of hazardous materials and facilitating
container movements in support of the Global War on Terror.
7. In support of Operation Noble Eagle, thousands of Coast Guard
Active Duty, Reservists, and Auxiliarists mobilized to assist the
direct defense of the continental U.S., protecting military outload
operations, ensuring the safety of maritime commerce and port
facility operations, search and rescue, and other vital operations.
8. The attacks of September 11th made it clear that our national
security starts well beyond our borders. In response, President
George W. Bush signed the Maritime Transportation Security Act
(MTSA) of 2002 to protect the Nation’s ports and waterways from
terrorist attacks. The U.S. Coast Guard proceeded on the greatest
organizational transformation since World War II and expanded our
capabilities and mission sets. This included the establishment of
Maritime Security Response Teams (MSRT) and Maritime Safety and
Security Teams (MSST). By March 1, 2003, the Department of Homeland
Security was established with the U.S. Coast Guard serving as the
lead federal agency for maritime homeland security. Our efforts
throughout the U.S. Marine Transportation System (MTS) and across
the globe continue to actively counter and deter terrorism threats
in the maritime domain.
9. As an organization, we have made tectonic changes these past
twenty years and continually strive to refine and improve our
operations and mission support delivery, but we must never become
complacent. As technology rapidly advances and threatscapes become
increasingly complex, we too must advance and adapt. We, the U.S.
Coast Guard, are the eyes and ears for safety, security, and
environmental stewardship on our federal waters, and purveyors of
our national maritime interests across the globe. Keep your eyes
and ears wide open; prepare and adapt always; be ready and never
forget the lessons we learned on September 11th.
10. Thank you for your service, and Semper Paratus!
11. ADM K. L. Schultz, Commandant (CCG), sends.
12. Internet release is authorized.

“The Coast Guard and American Maritime: A Vital Post-9/11 Partnership” –Seapower

NEW YORK, New York (Sept. 11)–A Coast Guard rescue team from Sandy Hook, NJ, races to the scene of the World Trade Center terrorist attack. USCG photo by PA2 Tom Sperduto

Seapower brings us a short post from Former Commandant James Loy and president and CEO of The American Waterways Operators, Jennifer Carpenter.

It is a reminder of the response to 9/11, a different justification for the Jones Act, and a warning about the potential of cyber attack.

“The Pentagon isn’t the only one with special operators. Here are the 5 most elite forces outside the Defense Department” –Business Insider

Business Insider brings us a look at five “Special Operations” forces employed by non-DOD organizations.

  • FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team
  • Coast Guard’s Maritime Security Response Teams
  • DEA’s Special Response Teams
  • Dept. of Energy’s Special Response Teams
  • CIA’s Special Operations Group

What I noticed in the descriptions of these groups, is that the Coast Guard’s qualification process is the longest, “almost 18 months,” while the other four groups seem to rely heavily on recruiting former military special operations force members. DEA’s course is only two weeks in addition to prior training.

“This Is The Elite Unit That Raided The Tanker Threatened By Stowaways Off The UK Coast” –The Drive


The Drive reports on the recapture of the 42,000-gross-tonnage Liberian-registered tanker Nave Andromeda.

While this incident did not involve terrorists that might have had weapons capable of bringing down a helicopter, in this and a previous incident the Royal Navy’s Special Boat Service used not one, but four helicopters to land a team on the ship. Apparently the team, probably consisting of 16 members, was transported on two Merlin helicopters while Wildcat helicopters provided over-watch.

Merlin MK3 Helicopters ( 846 Naval Air Sqdn) Commando Helicopter Force (pics)

Explosive Boats –In Yemen, and a Look Back

Naval News reports on the continued threat of remotely controlled explosive motor boats to vessel traffic around Yemen. We have talked about this before, here, here, and here. Historically explosive boats have had some success even against heavily armed opponents.

Heavy Cruiser, HMS York, run aground by her own crew to prevent her sinking, after being struck by two explosive motor boats (Italian: barchini esplosivi) of the Italian Regia Marina assault Flotilla, Decima Flottiglia MAS, Souda Bay, Crete, 26 March, 1941.

There was, of course, the suicide attack on USS Cole.

The semi-submersible ship M/V Blue Marlin carrying damaged USS Cole. 31 October 2000. U.S. Navy photo by PH2 Leland Comer.

As I have noted before, remote controlled attacks could be planned and carried out relatively easily using readily available remote control devices and remote viewing systems in wide spread use.

Will we see these threats emerge in the US, or perhaps in the Persian Gulf where they might be encountered by PATFORSWA?

Any number of platforms might be used as the basis for this type of threat from shrimp boats to jet skis. It would be advantageous to the attacker, if they could blend in with local traffic.

Off shore, in SW Asia, the Houthi typically control the attack boat from another boat, within line of sight radio range of the remote controlled boat, but in a US harbor it might be controlled from shore.

If the threat is against a moving target, soft kill systems designed to counter Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) should be equally effective, but they might not work against a threat targeting a fixed point like a moored vessel. Hard kill systems might work as a defense, but it raises the question, how close do you want to get, since the operator could presumably detonate the charge at any time? Success with a 7.62mm machine gun might require a lucky shot to take out a critical component.

Explosive motor boat of the type used by the Israeli Navy in the Independence War, in the Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum, Haifa, Israel. Possibly an Italian MTM (Motoscafo da Turismo Modificato). Photo from Wikipedia Commons. User:Bukvoed.

How to handle this sort of threat is squarely in the Coast Guard’s “Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security” mission wheelhouse. Hopefully we are putting some thought into it.

“Militias: US sailors in Bahrain ‘legitimate targets’ after Soleimani slaying” –Navy Times

The current crisis in SW Asia of course brings to mind the Coast Guard members in that area, PATFORSWA, based in Bahrain.

NavyTimes has an assessment of the risks that Iranian backed militias in Bahrain might retaliate against US service members in Bahrain or their families.

Assignment to PATFORSWA is an unaccompanied tour, but apparently members are berthed off base in leased housing.

Generally the assessment is that Bahrain’s internal security forces are very good, but there are militants there and that 100% security is impossible.

Apparently the head of a Bahrain Shia militia was one of the victims of the US attack that killed Soleimani, so they might have additional motivation for an attack.

If any of our PATFORSWA personnel are looking in on the blog. Take care.

Maritime Domain Awareness–Indian Style

Display of maritime traffic provided by AIS. Only vessels equipped with AIS are displayed, which excludes most fishing boats, pleasure craft, inland navigation and vessels less than 300 tons. Location: Dover Straits/English Channel. Author: fr:User:Pline

NavyRecognition provides some information on what India is doing to maintain Maritime Domain Awareness.

Since the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, they have made a strong effort to monitor marine traffic. An earlier discussion and links to related topics here.