Coast Guard completes 25,000 “Rescue 21” case.

gCaptain is reporting the Coast guard has completed its 25,000 rescue mission using “Rescue 21.”

The article also talks about the new Sector San Francisco hosted Interagency Operations Center (IOC) on Yerba Buena Island, in San Francisco Bay.

More info here.

Interagency Operations Centers are another way the Coast Guard is making itself indispensable. The question remains, who provides this sort of facility inland?

(Thanks to Ryan for the heads up.)

First time ever–helicopter to the rescue

On January 18th the Navy celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of Naval Aviation. On the Commander, Naval Air Forces, official web site, among all the pictures of sleek and powerful jets, there is a photo of a crude machine that is nevertheless immediately recognizable as a helicopter sitting on two bulbous pontoons.  This was the Sikorsky HNS-1, it’s pilot was a pioneering Coast Guard aviator named Frank Erickson. He and the HNS-1 made the first helo rescue in history, Jan. 3, 1944. Flying the strange bird through a true “howling gale,” then LCdr., later Captain Erickson, delivered two cases of urgently needed plasma after a series of explosions on the destroyer USS Turner (DD-648) resulted in her capsizing and sinking while anchored off Ambrose Light, taking 138 crewman, about half the crew, with her. The plasma was credited with saving many of the survivors.

Erickson went on to invent many of the devices and techniques we now take for granted.

To all the Coast Guard aviators, thanks for what you do.

Arctic SAR Treaty in the Works

This report in the Canadian press suggests that a SAR treaty, negotiated by the Arctic Council members in December, could be signed when the foreign ministers next meet, beginning May 12th, in Nuuk, Greenland. It also gives a glimpse into the challenges the Canadians are facing in getting forces in the area.

Members of the Arctic Council include Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the US.

It will be interesting to see where they draw the sector lines since there is still some disagreement between the parties as to where the national boundaries lie.

Russian SAR in Trouble?

The US Coast Guard apparently isn’t the only SAR organization whose ships have been run down. Sounds like the Russians may be considering a reorganization.

Seventy per cent of Russian Navy’s search-and-rescue vessels are in need of repair, said Vice Premier Sergei Ivanov.

“‘Vessels of different search-and-rescue (SR) services are in critical condition; lifetime of 80 per cent SR ships have been expired, seventy per cent of them need either yard repair or modernization’, said Ivanov appearing at the session of maritime committee at Russian government.

“According to him, there are still segmented “departmental” approaches in the area of search-and-rescue at sea which lead to duplication of functions, scattering of funds, and dilution of responsibility.”

A Very Different Coast Guard

In Science Fiction, an “alternate reality” is a common plot device. It allows you to think “outside the box” and sidestep some of your preconceptions. A recent post, “Maritime Security Operations and the ‘Myth’ of Piracy,” allowed me to look at how Coast Guard missions are done in an alternate reality, the UK. I’d like to recommend it, not because I agree with the conclusions, but because they are so different.

What would be Coast Guard missions in the US, are fractured among several agencies in the UK. Many are done by the Royal Navy and fixed wing Maritime SAR has been done by RAF Nimrod ASW aircraft (Just as it is done by CP-140 Auroras in Canada). Deep defense cuts in the wake of a defense review, are taking away many of the resources that have done these missions. The RN is loosing many of its older smaller frigates that have done law enforcement. Towing vessels are being discarded. The new generation of Nimrods, now almost finished at great expense, are to be discarded. This raises the question, how will these missions be done in the future?

They have a Maritime and Coast Guard Agency, but it is very small, unarmed, civilian, and relies heavily on volunteers. They do SAR with surface assets, Merchant Vessel safety, and marine pollution prevention, but no drug or fisheries enforcement and no buoy tending (this seems to be handled locally although there seems to be a bill to establish nationwide funding and oversight). They have a UK Border Agency (analogous to Immigration Customs Enforcement) that works with police to do drug and migrant interdiction, and they have more than one fisheries enforcement agency including a separate one for Scotland. None of these agencies appear to operate aircraft.

Among the comments were calls for an American style Coast Guard, but the post proposes something the author considers less radical, using the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA, a rough equivalent of the Military Sealift Command, MSC) to man ships and put them under the authority of the Coast Guard, Customs, and Fisheries Agencies, “In UK waters Fisheries officers could be carried, and Customers officers in the same way.  In the Caribbean or off Somalia I would suggest the boarding parties should be made up of Royal Marines.

And rather than use small Offshore Patrol Vessels, he proposes using Naval Auxiliaries, “I am not a big fan of smaller less flexible vessels, so lets go to the other extreme and examine the use of really big RFA’s for these maritime security operations.

“As the RN surface fleet has shrunk, RFA tankers and the auxiliary landing ships of the Bay Class have been used on the Windies Guard Ship’ and other duties. While some have questioned the veracity of using a tanker to do anti-drug runner ops’ I say “so what?” – it’s a flexible asset, use it for whatever you can.

That is a very different view. There has been a lively response to the post with over 90 replies. We have had our own experiment with manning ships for other agencies. Depending on the National Science Foundation to fund the Icebreaker program is what got us in the current situation.  The poster never addressed who he expected to do air ops for his coast guard.

Looking at this alternate reality makes me appreciate what we have in terms of the opportunities for synergy, flexibility, coordination, and efficiency.