The U.S. and Mexico share more than a border; they also share a relationship that crosses the full spectrum of maritime operations. The Coast Guard and Mexican navy, known as Secretaría de Marina, are maritime first responders in areas ranging from interdiction of maritime transnational threats, protection of ports, protection of critical infrastructure and response to natural disasters. This common interest for the U.S. and Mexico is vital to the security of each country and also fortifies global security.
Beyond geographic connections, our nations are intertwined by the global supply chain. Thousands of vessels make their way across the globe and stopover in Mexico before finding their way to America’s port cities. The Coast Guard, SEMAR and Mexican Secretariat for Communications and Transportation mitigate threats by close and proactive collaboration as they improve awareness within ports and harbors. Security for a vessel is important in every port call of a ship’s voyage, and together our countries enhance this security and maritime governance, bolstering the global supply chain.
Eastern Pacific and Western Caribbean waters remain a major shipment zone for narco-trafficking, and operations between the Coast Guard and Mexican navy are used to combat the flow of illicit traffic across maritime borders. These maritime operations occur on either side of the border and entail the Coast Guard working closely with its counterparts in both the U.S. and Mexico to maintain a dynamic presence along the border. These maritime efforts complement international operations along the land border and further deter illicit activity from both countries.
Maintaining security along our shared borders consists of more than stopping narco-traffickers, – it also includes protecting our respective exclusive economic zones from foreign fishing vessel incursions. Particular areas of interest are commercial and recreational fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. Protecting the EEZ of both countries ensures sustainable fish stock, safeguards billions of dollars generated by the industries and preserves thousands of jobs for both U.S. and Mexican citizens.
Sharing hundreds of miles of maritime border in the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, both the U.S. and Mexico constantly work to improve the coordination of search and rescue planning that takes place in international and territorial waters. Having search and rescue plans in place ahead of time, particularly when a case crosses maritime borders, greatly influences the ability for rescue assets to successfully perform their mission.
Search and rescue between the two countries is further enhanced as both the U.S. and Mexico are using similar equipment to accomplish the mission; this interoperability saves lives. The Government of Mexico recently purchased four maritime patrol airplanes, similar to the HC-144A Ocean Sentry airplane used by the Coast Guard; and, in October 2010 the Coast Guard Office of International Acquisition awarded a $157.9 million contract to produce the aircraft through the Foreign Military Sales program. The airplanes are currently scheduled for delivery beginning in November 2011 and continuing through April 2012.
SEMAR also identified a need to expand its capabilities to conduct search and rescue missions and train its personnel, including establishing a search and rescue school. In 2008 the Coast Guard sent a technical assessment team to assist with the installation of search and rescue software, called Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System, or SAROPS. The system went operational at the Regional Coordination Center in Mexico City in September 2009 and Mexico’s first search and rescue school opened in April 2011.
In a world where economics, security and resources become more interconnected every day, the cooperation of U.S. and Mexico on a broad range of missions is essential to our shared safety and prosperity.