“US to base Coast Guard ships in western Pacific to tackle China” –Aljazeera

United States Exclusive Economic Zone – Pacific centered NOAA map

Aljazeera reports that,

The US Coast Guard was “strategically homeporting significantly enhanced Fast Response Cutters … in the western Pacific,” White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said in a statement.

What does that mean? Is this just a reference to the three Webber class WPCs that will be homeported in Guam? Or will we see a replication of PATFORSWA in the Western Pacific? Does “significantly enhanced” mean these FRCs will have improvements to sensors, communications, and/or weapons, or does it just mean they will be better than the two 110 foot WPBs they are replacing?

There is also this interesting tidbit,

O’Brien added that the Coast Guard, which is under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was also studying whether to permanently station several of its patrol ships in the area of American Samoa in the South Pacific.

Thanks to Walter for bringing this to my attention. 

A Reevaluation, Ruminating on Homeports While Playing the Red Cell, Part 2

This is the second part of a reexamination of where critical ports are in the US and where the cutters that might be needed to protect them are homeported.

Consolidated Target and Homeport List:

I have reproduced this listing from part 1. It has been changed slightly to reflect the move of USCGC Seneca from Boston to Portsmouth, VA. Again, we have 31 target ports or port complexes in bold  and 23 current or planned cutter homeports with the cutters in bold. In many cases a critical port is also a homeport for cutter(s).

CCGD1:

  • Bath, Me–Major Naval shipbuilder
  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH –Naval Shipyard: 2×270 (908, 909)
  • Boston, MA: 2×270 (905, 907)
  • Newport, RI Plan to add 2xOPC (919, 920)
  • Groton, CT–Submarine base
  • Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ–a major cultural target, #3 US Port by tonnage, #3 Container port, #4 Cruise ship port (NYC) and #13 cruise ship port (Cape Liberty, NJ)

CCGD5:

  • Delaware Bay/River Complex–Strategic Seaport (Philadelphia), Wilmington DE/Cape May, NJ: 3xFRC (1119, 1120, 1135)
  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, Major naval shipbuilder, Strategic Port, #9 port by tonnage, #5 container port; plus water route to Washington, DC (major cultural target) and Baltimore, MD–#14 port by tonnage, #13 container port, #12 cruise ship port/ 7×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903, 904, 906, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)
  • Morehead City, NC–Strategic Seaport/Atlantic Beach, NC: 2xFRC (1127, 1128)
  • Cape Fear River–Strategic Seaport, Wilmington, NC

CCGD7:

  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA–#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL: 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL: 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale, FL–#11 container port, #2 Cruise Ship port
  • Miami, FL–#12 container port, #1 Cruise Ship port/ 6xFRC (1101 to 1106)
  • Key West, FL: 2×270 (910, 913), 6xFRC (1107 to 1112)
  • San Juan, PR–#5 Cruise Ship port, #15 container port/ 7xFRC (1113 to 1118, 1133)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/
  • St. Petersburg, FL: 2×210 (620, 625)

CCGD8

  • Pensacola, FL–4×210 (615, 616, 624, 629)
  • Mobile, AL–major naval shipbuilder, #11 port by tonnage
  • Pascagoula, MS–major naval shipbuilder/ 2xFRC (1123, 1125)
  • Gulfport, MS–Strategic Seaport
  • Mississippi River Complex, LA–New Orleans #6 port by tonnage, #14 container port, +#10 Cruise Ship port; South Louisiana #1 port by tonnage; Baton Rouge #8 port by tonnage; Port of Plaquemines #13 port by tonnage.
  • Lake Charles, LA–#12 port by tonnage
  • Sabine Pass complex (Beaumont/Port Author/Orange, TX)–#4 port by tonnage (Beaumont), Strategic Seaport (both Beaumont and Port Author), It also has an LNG exporting terminal
  • Houston/Galveston/Texas City, TX–#2 port by tonnage (Houston),  #13 port by tonnage (Texas City), #5 container port (Houston), #6 Cruise ship port (Galveston)/Galveston, TX: 3xFRC (1136, 1137, 1138)
  • Corpus Christi, TX–#7 port by tonnage, Strategic Seaport

CCGD11:

  • San Diego, CA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, major naval shipbuilder (NASSCO), Strategic Seaport
  • Los Angeles/Long Beach/Port Hueneme, CA–A major cultural target, #5 port by tonnage (Long Beach), #9 port by tonnage (Los Angeles), #1 container port (Los Angeles), #3 container port (Long Beach), #9 cruise Ship port (Long Beach), #11 cruise ship port (Los Angeles), Strategic Seaport (Long Beach and Port Hueneme)/San Pedro: 4xFRC (1129 to 1132) Plan to add 2xOPC (915, 916)
  • San Francisco Bay complex,, CA–A major cultural target, #6 container port (Oakland), Strategic Seaport (Oakland and Concord)/Alameda, CA: 4xNSC (750, 751, 752, 755)

CCGD13:

  • Warrenton, OR: 2×210 Plan to add two FRCs (Longview, WA is a significant port, but it is 66 miles up the Columbia River, so unlikely to be a target)
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA–Base for aircraft carriers (Bremerton), SSBNs (Bangor), and submarines, major naval bases, #8 container port (Seattle), #10 container port (Tacoma), #8 Cruise ship port (Seattle), Strategic Seaport (Indian Island and Tacoma, WA)/Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

CCGD14:

  • Honolulu/Pearl Harbor, HI–Major Naval base, including submarines/2xNSC (756, 757), 3xFRC (1124, 1126, 1134)
  • Apra, Guam–Submarine Base, Strategic Seaport/ Plan to add 3xFRC (1139, 1140, 1143)

CCGD17:

  • Ketchikan, AK: 2xFRC (1121, 1122)
  • Kodiak, AK: 1xWHEC, 1×282 WMEC Plan to add 2xOPC (917, 918)
  • Planned to be based in Alaska, ports have not been identified 4xFRC
  • Anchorage, AK–Strategic Seaport

The Present and Future Coast Guard Fleet: 

Bertholf class National Security Cutters: 

These ships are only based in three ports, all three of these are potential target ports.

  • Charleston, SC two NSCs now, three additional planned
  • San Francisco Bay Complex, CA, four NSCs
  • Honolulu, HI, two NSCs

That might suggest that these ports are well protected, but as I have said, these ships don’t spend any time on standby, and when they are in port they are usually down hard.

Honolulu is also a Naval bases and has three Webber class WPCs assigned, so it is about as well protected as any port could be with our current equipment.

The Webber class WPCs:

As I have noted, currently the Webber class are potentially the most important asset for port protection.

Of the 31 potential target ports, these nine have, or we know will have, two or more Webber class cutters assigned.

  • Delaware Bay/River Complex–Strategic Seaport (Philadelphia), Wilmington DE/Cape May, NJ: 3xFRC (1119, 1120, 1135)
  • Morehead City, NC–Strategic Seaport/Atlantic Beach, NC: 2xFRC (1127, 1128)
  • Miami, FL–#12 container port, #1 Cruise Ship port/ 6xFRC (1101 to 1106)
  • San Juan, PR–#5 Cruise Ship port, #15 container port/ 7xFRC (1113 to 1118, 1133)
  • Pascagoula, MS–major naval shipbuilder/ 2xFRC (1123, 1125)
  • Houston/Galveston/Texas City, TX–#2 port by tonnage (Houston),  #13 port by tonnage (Texas City), #5 container port (Houston), #6 Cruise ship port (Galveston)/Galveston, TX: 3xFRC (1136, 1137, 1138)
  • Los Angeles/Long Beach/Port Hueneme, CA–A major cultural target, #5 port by tonnage (Long Beach), #9 port by tonnage (Los Angeles), #1 container port (Los Angeles), #3 container port (Long Beach), #9 cruise Ship port (Long Beach), #11 cruise ship port (Los Angeles), Strategic Seaport (Long Beach and Port Hueneme)/San Pedro: 4xFRC (1129 to 1132) Plan to add 2xOPC (915, 916)
  • Honolulu/Pearl Harbor, HI–Major Naval base, including submarines/2xNSC (756, 757), 3xFRC (1124, 1126, 1134)
  • Apra, Guam–Submarine Base, Strategic Seaport/Plan to add 3xFRC (1139, 1140, 1143)

With four additional FRCs going to Alaska, I have to assume Anchorage, AK will be protected. Its geography protects it to a great extent. It is far up Cook Inlet. Kodiak’s position South of Cook Inlet pushes the US EEZ out, so it is much further than 200 miles from the edge of the EEZ to Anchorage. Homer, at the mouth of Cook Inlet, has been an Island class WPB in the past and may be a Webber class homeport in the future.

These seven potential target ports have, or we know will have, two or more Webber class cutters homeported within 100 nautical miles, offering some degree of protection.

  • Cape Fear River–Strategic Seaport, Wilmington, NC (WPCs from Atlantic Beach)
  • Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale, FL–#11 container port, #2 Cruise Ship port (WPCs from Miami)
  • Mobile, AL–major naval shipbuilder, #11 port by tonnage (WPCs for Pascagoula)
  • Gulfport, MS–Strategic Seaport (WPCs for Pascagoula)
  • Lake Charles, LA–#12 port by tonnage (WPCs from Galveston)
  • Sabine Pass complex (Beaumont/Port Author/Orange, TX)–#4 port by tonnage (Beaumont), Strategic Seaport (both Beaumont and Port Author), It also has an LNG exporting terminal (WPCs from Galveston)
  • San Diego, CA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, major naval shipbuilder (NASSCO), Strategic Seaport (WPCs from San Pedro)

The following 14 potential target ports have no Webber class WPCs assigned or currently planned to be based within 100 nautical miles:

  • Bath, ME, –Major Naval shipbuilder
  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH–Naval Shipyard, currently homeport 2×270(908, 909)
  • Groton, CT–Submarine base
  • Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ–a major cultural target, #3 US Port by tonnage, #3 Container port, #4 Cruise ship port (NYC) and #13 cruise ship port (Cape Liberty, NJ)
  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, Major naval shipbuilder, Strategic Port, #9 port by tonnage, #5 container port; plus water route to Washington, DC (major cultural target) and Baltimore, MD–#14 port by tonnage, #13 container port, #12 cruise ship port/7×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903,904, 906, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)
  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA-#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL currently homeport for 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL: 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/
  • Mississippi River Complex, LA–New Orleans #6 port by tonnage, #14 container port, +#10 Cruise Ship port; South Louisiana #1 port by tonnage; Baton Rouge #8 port by tonnage; Port of Plaquemines #13 port by tonnage.
  • Corpus Christi, TX#7 port by tonnage, Strategic Seaport
  • San Francisco Bay complex,, CA–A major cultural target, #6 container port (Oakland), Strategic Seaport (Oakland and Concord)/Alameda, CA: 4xNSC (750, 751, 752, 755)
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA–Base for aircraft carriers (Bremerton), SSBNs (Bangor), and submarines, major naval bases, #8 container port (Seattle), #10 container port (Tacoma), #8 Cruise ship port (Seattle), Strategic Seaport (Indian Island and Tacoma, WA)/Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

Most likely future Webber Class Homeports: 47 of the planned 64 Webber class cutters have already been paired with their homeports as noted above (including six to go to Bahrain). Of the 17 remaining we know two will go to Astoria OR, and four will go to Alaska.  That leaves eleven to potentially protect other ports. Grouped two or three to a port, that means we will have no more than four or five additional Webber class homeports. In my view, the most likely additional ports are:

  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH (also within 100 nmi of Boston and Bath, ME)
  • New London, CT (to protect sub base at Groton, CT might also protect the Long Island Sound approaches to Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ)
  • Corpus Christi, TX–#7 port by tonnage, Strategic Seaport
  • San Francisco Bay complex,, CA–A major cultural target, #6 container port (Oakland), Strategic Seaport (Oakland and Concord)/Alameda, CA: 4xNSC (750, 751, 752, 755)
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA–Base for aircraft carriers (Bremerton), SSBNs (Bangor), and submarines, major naval bases, #8 container port (Seattle), #10 container port (Tacoma), #8 Cruise ship port (Seattle), Strategic Seaport (Indian Island and Tacoma, WA)/Seattle, WA: 1xWHEC, Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

Where we are naked: Potential target ports that likely will not have a Webber class within 100 nmiles:

  • Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ)
  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, Major naval shipbuilder, Strategic Port, #9 port by tonnage, #5 container port; plus water route to Washington, DC (major cultural target) and Baltimore, MD–#14 port by tonnage, #13 container port, #12 cruise ship port/6×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903,904, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)
  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA-#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL currently homeport for 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/ St. Petersburg, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (620, 625)

The Hudson River Complex is protected to some extent by geography, given the length of its approaches. WPCs at Cape May and New London would provide a degree of protection though both are a bit more than 100 nmi away.

The strong Navy presence in the Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA should provide a degree of protection. 

7th District has 8 of the 31 critical ports and 19 of the 58 Webber class homeported in the US (I understand they will get a 20th), but all are in three ports, Miami, San Juan, and Key West, which is not a critical port. Five ports have no Webber class within 100 nautical miles.

  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA-#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL currently homeport for 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/ St. Petersburg, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (620, 625)

There are of course other considerations, but from the perspective of protecting ports we would be much better off redistributing all but three WPCs in Miami and three in San Juan to Charleston (which would also provide a degree of protection for Savannah), Jacksonville, Port Canaveral, and Tampa/St Pete. This would leave Key West without WPCs, but it does look like a good place for OPCs.

We would also have no Webber class within 100 miles of the Mississippi River Complex.

  • Mississippi River Complex, LA–New Orleans #6 port by tonnage, #14 container port, +#10 Cruise Ship port; South Louisiana #1 port by tonnage; Baton Rouge #8 port by tonnage; Port of Plaquemines #13 port by tonnage.

Fortunately it is protected to some extent by the long and relatively difficult passage up the Mississippi River before these ports can be reached. You are not likely to make it up the Mississippi with a ship without getting a pilot. Also Webber class at Pascagoula are only a little over 100 nautical miles from the mouth of the Mississippi.

HECs and MECs and OPCs, Oh My:

There are currently 29 WHECs/WMECs. They are to be replaced by 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs). Because of the nature of their operations and scheduling, they are unlikely to respond to a threat from their homeport, but they may be employed locally off shore for fisheries, drug, or Alien Migrant enforcement. Where will they be based?

We could say 25 ships divided among eight districts means three ships in seven districts and four in one. That might not be a bad way to start, but in all likelihood the OPCs will be distributed much as the one remaining WHEC and 28 WMECs are now, but some changes are likely because of tendencies observed of late.

  • There will be a tendency to base in groups, so at least two and preferably three or more will be based together.
  • There will be a tendency to move closer to the drug transit zones in order to shorten transit.
  • There may also be a tendency to put some additional emphasis on the Western Pacific.

Breaking it down by district even though they are Area assets, I will note how many in the district and what percentage of the current WHEC/WMEC fleet that constitutes.

CCGD1: 4 or 13.8%

  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH 2×270(908, 909)
  • Boston, MA: 2×270 (905, 907)
  • (Newport, RI Plan to add 2xOPC (919, 920))

CCGD5: 9 or 31%

  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA 7×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903, 904, 906, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)

CCGD7: 7 or 24.1%

  • Jacksonville complex, FL  Mayport, FL: 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL: 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Key West, FL: 2×270 (910, 913)
  • Tampa/St. Petersburg, FL: 2×210 (620, 625)

CCGD8: 4 or 13.8%

  • Pensacola, FL– 4×210 (615, 616, 624, 629)

CCGD13: 3 or 10.3%

  • Warrenton, OR: 2×210
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

CCGD17: 2 or 6.9%

  • Kodiak, AK: 1xWHEC, 1×282 WMEC (Planned homeport for 2xOPC (917, 918))

If we distributed the 25 OPCs in the same proportion we would have:

  • D1: 3
  • D5: 8
  • D7: 6
  • D8: 3
  • D11: 0
  • D13: 3
  • D14: 0
  • D17: 2

But we already know that two OPCs will be based in San Pedro, they probably represent a movement Southward from D13, and there is a good possibility they will be joined by a third OPC.

In the same vain I think we will see one or two fewer OPCs in D5. They might go to D7, but there is also a possibility they could go to PAC Area.

This is what I think we will ultimately see, with destination of three OPCs much less certain. Possible locations for these three are in parenthesis. It is going to be a very long time (Late 2030s) before we see the last three, so much can change.

  • D1: 3 (we already know two are going to Newport, RI. Probably the third as well.)
  • D5: 6 (presumably all in Portsmouth)
  • D7: 6 (+1 or 2) (Most likely in Key West and St. Petersburg, possibly Mayport or Charleston)
  • D8: 3 (presumably in Pensacola)
  • D11: 2 (+1) (We already know two are going to San Pedro, CA. Probably a third as well)
  • D13: 0 (+2) (If it happens, Port Angeles, WA)
  • D14: 0 (+2) (Honolulu)
  • D17: 2 (+1) (We already know two are going to Kodiak. A third is less likely here.)

Historically the Coast Guard has based two thirds of its large cutters in Atlantic Area and one third in the Pacific Area. If that were to be the case, PAC Area should get six OPCs in addition to the six NSCs they have now, and LANT Area should have 19 OPCs in addition to the five NSCs currently planned.

If you look at the distribution of the US EEZ, I think there is a strong case for more ships in the Pacific.

  • Total US EEZ: 11,351,000 km2
  • East Coast EEZ: 915,763 km2
  • Gulf Coast EEZ: 707,832 km2
  • Puerto Rico EEZ: 177,685 km2
  • Total LANT Area EEZ: 1,801,280 km2 15.9%
  • Total PAC Area EEZ: 9,549,720 km 84.1%

With the increased emphasis on IUU and capacity building in the Western Pacific, we may see up to eight OPCs going to PAC AREA.

Alternative Mission Set:

PAC Area has been very aggressive in the use of their resources for drug interdiction, sending FRCs down to the Eastern Pacific transit zones off Central and South America, but PAC AREA could have more cutter time for operations in the Western Pacific, without adding cutters, if LANT AREA took full responsibility for the Eastern Pacific drug interdiction effort. There are good reasons, that might be desirable.

  • East Coast ships, particularly those based in the South East, are generally closer to the drug transit zone than PAC Area ships.
  • Forth Fleet is the Naval component commander for SOUTHCOM. Fourth Fleet is part of LANT Fleet and is headquartered in Mayport, Jacksonville, FL.  SOUTHCOM is located in Doral, FL, part of greater Miami.
  • LANT AREA is the Coast Guard counterpart of LANT Fleet and so should be the primary point of contact between Navy and Coast Guard for the Eastern Pacific drug transit zone.

US Navy Fleet Organization

The Missing Class–Response Boat, Large–the WPB replacement:

All along, I have been saying our cutter are not adequately armed to have a high probability of being able to stop a terrorist controlled vessel. Currently the Webber class WPCs seem to be the most likely craft to be in a position to take on that role, but in many scenarios they simply would not be up to the task. In addition we know that about half the critical ports or port complexes will have no Webber class homeported there so that they might respond most rapidly in the case of an attack.

We still need to replace the 87 foot Marine Protector class WPBs. As we have discussed here and here, properly equipped, a vessel half the size of the Webber class could take on this job.

There were 74 Marine Protector class built. Wikipedia indicates there are 73 currently active and we know there is a proposal to decommission eight in the belief that their missions will be performed by Webber class and response boat, mediums. That would still leave 65.

Assuming we put two WPB replacements in position to protect each of the 31 critical ports, so that we could always have one either on standby or underway near by, it would only require 62. It the Webber class were better armed, and we only needed to protect those critical ports with no Webber class homported there, we would need no more than 34. If we also redistributed the D7 Webber class as suggested we would need only 26.

“Operation Kurukuru: USCGC Washington supports “noble cause” through teamwork” –D14 PAO

Below is a news release, quoted in full. A few points to note.

  • the huge area involved
  • Pacific Islanders need help to make this work
  • involvement of Australia
  • enforcement seems to be having an effect
  • Coast Guard is making a long term commitment

There is also information about the FRCs scheduled to go to Guam.

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 14th District Hawaii and the Pacific
Contact: 14th District Public Affairs
Office: (808) 535-3230
After Hours: (808) 265-7748
14th District online newsroom

Operation Kurukuru: USCGC Washington supports “noble cause” through teamwork

Operation Kurukuru Operation Kurukuru USCGC Washington

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

Scattered clouds stretched across the sky, meeting the vivid blue Palauan waters on the horizon. The maritime law enforcement boarding team completes their final preparations on the fantail of the USCGC Washington (WPB 1331) as the small boat detail lowers the cutter’s ridged inflatable boat (RIB) into the water. Petty Officer 1st Class Ralph Pastore, Washington’s boarding officer, finalizes the details with the RIB’s coxswain, Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Reo and Seaman Duke Joseph of the Palauan Division of Maritime Law Enforcement. Their target is a long-line fishing vessel making way about a half-mile off the cutter’s port bow.

Washington’s crew was patrolling Palau’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as part of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Operation Kurukuru, a coordinated maritime surveillance operation. The operation’s goal is to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Success depends on the ability of partners, like Palau and the United States, to work together.

“This is my second time coming down here and working with a Palauan shiprider,” said Pastore. “Last time I was able to get a good idea of how they work both on land and out here on the ocean so it makes the job easier”

The operation, targeting the multi-million-dollar IUU fishing, was conducted from Oct. 7 to 18, across 8.2 million square miles. To put in perspective, that covers an area the size of Russia, India, and Egypt combined. Assets and crews from multiple counties were involved including the Washington, an HC-130 Hercules airplane and crew from Hawaii temporarily based out of Tonga, and an intelligence specialist working out of the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Center at the FFA headquarters in Honiara, Solomon Islands, where the joint operation was coordinated.

The 12-day operation saw around 132 sea days of active patrolling and 540 flight hours of maritime air surveillance. There were 131 total boardings both at sea and dockside, with only four violations found and no unknown vessels detected.

“The fact there were no unknown fishing vessels found with such thorough air surveillance converge and only four infringements imposed with such a high level of boardings is evidence that current regulations and law enforcement practices are working well with the four FFA operations leading the effort,” said the FFA Surveillance Operations Officer, Cmdr, Robert Lewis, seconded from the Royal Australian navy.

But what do those boardings look like? At sea, the team launches from the Washington and makes its way through the water to the fishing vessel. Upon boarding, the team’s interpreter speaks with the crew to ensure no human rights violations exist while Joesph talks to the master of the ship.

“I was looking for licenses, the fish log and also on deck we are looking for signs of catching sharks, shark fins, any parts of sharks, turtles and steel wires for fishing,” said Joseph after the boarding. “You’re not supposed to use steel wire for fishing.”

Kurukuru is a Japanese term meaning round and round. Fish are migratory animals and they annually travel throughout the Pacific providing an important renewable resource for Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs). As with anything of value, there will always be actors who wish to cut corners and skirt laws. IUU undermines efforts to conserve and manage fish stocks, presenting a dire threat to many PICT’s efforts to protect these vital resources for generations to come.

“I think for us Palauans, our nation is small, and we don’t have enough people and manpower to protect our waters,” said Joseph. “The waters are very big, so with the help of the United States and working together we can protect the waters for the Palauan people for the future.”

Bilateral shiprider agreements are a key tool for the Coast Guard 14th District. The United States maintains 11 of these agreements with Pacific Forum countries. By embarking ship riders, Coast Guard crews are able to support allies in the region and work toward expanded security addressing regional challenges to peace, prosperity, and social inclusion. These agreements also provide a framework to build valuable relationships between Coast Guard and PICT counterparts.

‘We were able to establish a nice camaraderie, especially with the Palauan national living with our crew,” said Pastore. “A shiprider is always a plus to have for us because we are able to sit down and ask questions Coast Guard law enforcement normally won’t be able to.”

Operation Kurukuru is one of Washington’s last operational patrols before being decommissioned in December. A number of the cutter’s crew will transfer to the three new Fast Response Cutters (FRC) scheduled to replace the cutter and its sister ships, Kiska (WPB 1336) and the already decommissioned Assateague (WPB 1337). FRCs are some of the Coast Guard’s newest platforms and are equipped with the latest technologies. The first FRC arriving in Guam will be the Coast Guard Cutter Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1339).

“Having experience in the area of responsibility will be beneficial,” said Lt. j.g. Victor Broskey, the Washington’s executive officer. “There’s quite a few crewmembers slated to be on the commissioning crew who served in Guam before, so I think the Coast Guard has set us up pretty well for the first crew.”

This retention of crewmembers in the area means the lessons learned from joint evolutions such as the one conducted between the Washington’s boarding team and Joseph will carry over to the new FRCs, ensuring the goodwill developed by the crew of the Washington will remain relevant.

With the information Joseph gathered from the boarding, Palauan authorities will be able to inspect the long-line fishing vessel when it pulls back into port. Thus ensuring the master is following the Palauan law by matching his records and his fish hold, contributing to the overall success of the efforts between the United States and its partners in the region to combat IUU.

As is usually the case in the Pacific, a successful operation depends on the teamwork between partners. The crew of the Washington strives to cultivate these critical relationships and lay additional groundwork for future joint activities. The cutter’s motto is “our cause is noble,” and throughout the ongoing efforts, the crew lives up to this saying, ensuring success in the region long after this cutter is replaced by new ships bearing the famous racing stripe and serving Pacific communities.

-USCG-

“USCG’s Schultz on Halifax Forum, Budget, Pacific, Arctic” –Defense and Aerospace Report

Above is a Defense and Aerospace report interview with the Commandant, Adm. Karl Schultz. It is worth a look.

There is a lot here about what is going on in the Western Pacific and our response to China’s changing behavior. There is a lot of discussion about the Philippine Coast Guard which is apparently growing at a tremendous rate. There is also some discussion about other coast guards in South East Asia and the USCG’s place with “The Quad” (US, Australia, New Zealand, and France).

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention. 

Philippines Awards Contract for Upgrade of Former WHECs

BRP Andrés Bonifacio (FF-17), the former USCGC Boutwell.

Updates added below

NavyRecognition is reporting that the Philippines has awarded a PHP1.5 billion ($28.6M) contract to a South Korean firm for upgrades to their Del Pilar Class Frigates. These are the former cutters Hamilton, Boutwell, and Dallas.

“The project has an approved budget of PHP1.5 billion which will be sourced from the Armed Forces of the Philippine Modernization Trust Fund. The upgrade seeks to enhance the ships’ combat management systems, electronic support and sonar capability to make it capable of operating with incoming and more modern naval assets like the two Jose Rizal-class missile frigates being completed by Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea.”

The AN/SPS-40 air search radar, SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare System, 25 mm Mk38 guns, and the Phalanx CIWS were removed before the vessels were transferred to the Philippines.

Presumably in addition to sonar, this upgrade will include torpedo tubes and Korean manufactured torpedoes (Update: apparently not–not included in this contract). The EW system will likely also include countermeasures. An air search capable radar like the Hensoldt TRS-3D Baseline D multi-mode phased array C-band radar being installed on the Jose Rizal-class frigates, to replace the AN/SPS-40 will almost certainly be included (Update: Sea Giraffe multi-role radar had been purchased from the US for this purpose, this is the same radar being purchased for the OPCs). Provision for anti-ship cruise missiles is a possibility, but at this point the full extent of modernization is not clear. I would assume the former WHECs will share some systems with the new frigates. 

“Coast Guard Ramps Up in Hawaii with 2 New Ships” –Military.com

The crew of USCGC Kimball (WMSL 756) arrive in Honolulu for the first time Dec. 22, 2018. Known as the Legend-class, NSCs are designed to be the flagships of the Coast Guard’s fleet, capable of executing the most challenging national security missions, including support to U.S. combatant commanders. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir/Released)

Military.com reports that 14th district is getting a second National Security Cutter, the Future USCGC Midgett arriving on Friday, Aug. 16 (to be commissioned along with Kimball Aug. 24 in a rare dual commissioning) and a third Webber class, the William Hart.

It also discusses the Coast Guard’s increased activity in the Western Pacific and Oceana.

“It’s Time for a ‘Quad’ of Coast Guards” –Real Clear Defense

A Japan Coast Guard helicopter approaches an Indian Coast Guard patrol vessel during a joint exercise off Chennai, India, January 2018 (Photo: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty)

Real Clear Defense has an article which first appeared in the Australian think tank Lowy Institute‘s publication “The Interpreter,” advocating greater cooperation between the Coast Guards of Australia, India, Japan, and the US.

“The so-called Quad group of Indo-Pacific maritime democracies – Australia, India, Japan, and the United States – is a valuable grouping, although it is still under utilized in many ways. One of the most effective ways that these countries could work together to enhance maritime security in the Indo-Pacific would be through coordinating the work of their coast guard agencies.”

While India in particular, is adverse to committing to a military alliance, these nations share a commitment to a rules based international system.

Quadrilateral cooperation through the countries’ coast guards could provide an answer to this political problem. As principally law-enforcement agencies, coast guards can provide many practical benefits in building a stable and secure maritime domain, without the overtones of a military alliance.

Using ship-riders, this sort of cooperation could go beyond capacity building and uphold the norms of international behavior. It might lead to the kind of standing maritime security task force I advocated earlier. When coast guards are in conflict, having multiple coast guards on scene could insure that instead of a “he said, she said” situation, we could have a “he said, we say” situation that would show a united front against bullying.

Given Bertholf and Stratton‘s stay in the Western Pacific and Walnut and Joseph Gerczak‘s support of Samoa, which was coordinated with Australia and New Zealand, it appears we may already be moving in this direction.

 

USCGC Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126) arrives in American Samoa on patrol

The crew of USCGC Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126) prepare to moor at the port of Pago Pago, American Samoa, Aug. 3, 2019. They will conduct a joint fisheries patrol with NOAA Fisheries and American Samoa Marine Police members. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir/Released)

Below is a press release from District 14 (Hawaii). It suggest two things.

  • They are paying more attention to the threat of illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing in the Pacific, and
  • They are exploring the limits of recently arrived Webber class “Fast Response Cutters” (FRC).

The Joseph Gerczak is based in Honolulu. The distance from Honolulu to Pago Pago by air is 2259 nautical miles (4184 km). That is less than the nominal 2500 currently being reported as the range for the class and less than the 2950 miles that was claimed for the class earlier, but that appears to leave little in the way of reserve. The nine day transit referred to also exceeds the nominal five day endurance of the FRCs.

The news release also indicates that the USCGC Walnut (WLB-205) is also in the area, so the Walnut may have escorted the FRC and may have refueled and replenished it underway as was done when Walnut provided underway replenishment for Oliver F. Berry (WPC-1124) for a 2200 mile transit to the Marshall Islands.

I would welcome any comments about how the operation was actually done. But could an FRC make the trip unrefueled? As I recall the 2950 nmi range claim was based on a speed of 14 knots. Transiting at a lower speed should increase range. How fast did they go? Nine full days, 216 hours would have averaged about 10.5 knots. Still nine days may have meant a short day at the start and another short day on arrival so it may have been closer to eight 24 hour days or about 192 hours total that would equal an average speed of a little under 12 knots. In any case it is likely the transit could have been made unrefueled with a reasonable reserve. Even if that were the case, CCGD14 probably kept Walnut close in case they ran into trouble. They are pushing the envelope.

America Samoa location. Author: TUBS

The news release (more pictures here):

—-

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa — The Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126) arrived in the Port of Pago Pago, Saturday.

The crew is participating in Operation Aiga to conduct fisheries law enforcement and strengthen partnerships in American Samoa and Samoa throughout August.

“It was a good transit, the longest we’ve conducted yet, nine days at sea and we’re proving the capabilities of these new cutters to operate over the horizon throughout the remote Pacific,” said Lt. James Provost, commanding officer of Joseph Gerczak. “This is the first time a Fast Response Cutter has come to Pago Pago. We’re looking forward to hosting our partners and the public during tours Monday from 1 to 3 p.m. here at the port.”

The U.S. Coast Guard is uniquely positioned to enforce U.S. federal laws and regulations in the territorial waters of American Samoa. Worldwide, tuna is a $7 billion dollar annual industry and roughly 70 percent of that tuna comes from the Western and Central Pacific. These pelagic fish migrate and it is essential the U.S. and its partners protect the resource from illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing. Estimates place the value of IUU fishing around $616 million annually.

“After this port call, we will be working with NOAA fisheries and the American Samoa Marine Police to enforce fisheries regulations in the region while on patrol. Oceania countries adhering to the rule of law deserve and even playing field. Presence, partnerships, and regular enforcement can deter IUU fishing and safeguard these critical fish stocks,” said Provost.

The Coast Guard Cutter Walnut (WLB 205) crew will also be conducting a fisheries mission with shipriders from Samoa aboard to enforce sovereign laws in their EEZ and deter IUU fishing. This effort is being undertaken in coordination with Australia and New Zealand as Samoa transitions their organic patrol assets, upgrading their fleet. Both cutter crews will also respond to any emergent search and rescue needs in the area and seek out opportunities to work with partner nation assets.

The Coast Guard exercises 11 bilateral shiprider agreements with Pacific Island Forum nations to help ensure regional security and maritime sovereignty.

“The U.S. is committed to supporting our allies and neighbors in the Pacific, which is essential to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The Joseph Gerczak is a 154-foot Sentinel-Class Fast Response Cutter homeported in Honolulu. It is one of the newest patrol boats in the fleet, replacing the aging 110-foot Island-Class patrol boats serving the nation admirably since the late 1980s. Three Fast Response Cutters will be homeported in Honolulu, the third arriving in August. Three will also be stationed in Guam and are to begin arriving there in 2020.

“Schultz: Coast Guard Expanding Western Pacific Operations” –USNI

USCGC Bertholf (WMSL-750) crew members observe the stars from Bertholf’s flight deck as the cutter and crew patrol the South China Sea on April 21, 2019. US Coast Guard Photo

The US Naval Institute News Service is reporting,

KUALA LUMPUR – The U.S. Coast Guard will increase its presence and deployments to Asia – particularly around Oceania and U.S. Pacific territories – and test out a new operational deployment concept in the region, service head Adm. Karl Schultz told reporters on Thursday.

We have been seeing this happening. The Coast Guard has begun spending more time in and around the Western Pacific, particularly around US Western Pacific territories and Oceania.

The reference to use of a buoy tender as a mothership to support patrol craft operations looks like a test to see how useful the proposed basing of three Webber class cutters in Guam might be.

The Commandant suggested that the tender might partner with Australian, New Zealand, or Japanese vessels as well. He promised,

““In the face of coercive and antagonistic behavior, the United States Coast Guard offers transparent engagement and partnership,…”

There is no reason this should not work, hopefully it will lead to similar multi-unit operations in the Eastern Pacific drug transit areas where the Webber class could augment larger cutters.

USCGC Kiska Visits YAP with Navy MkVI Patrol Boats

COLONIA, Yap (July 4, 2019) The U.S. Coast Guard Island-class patrol boat USCGC Kiska and Mark VI patrol boats assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 2, Coastal Riverine Group 1, Detachment Guam, moored in the Micronesia port of Yap. CRG 1, Det. Guam’s visit to Yap, and engagement with the People of Federated States of Micronesia underscores the U.S. Navy’s commitment to partners in the region. The Mark VI patrol boat is an integral part of the expeditionary forces support to 7th Fleet, capability of supporting myriad of missions throughout the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jasen Moreno-Garcia/Released)

Wanted to pass along this photo (along with the Navy’s caption above). The Navy has a news release about the deployment..

Our 110s in Guam are going things that are a bit unusual for the Coast Guard. There are currently two of the Island class stationed in Guam. These are to be replaced by three Webber class WPCs. That should increase the Coast Guard presence in the Western Pacific.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention.