Written by Pacific Area International Affairs.
The safety and economic security of maritime nations depends substantially upon the secure use of the world’s oceans. By securing our world’s oceans we maintain vibrant maritime commerce and the ability to counter threats from terrorists, transnational criminals and other dangerous elements.
Threats to our nation can originate from abroad, and in many cases use the wide open expanses of the ocean as shelter for illicit and illegal activity. The Pacific is one of these areas, stretching from the coast of Chile to the Arctic, and seaward for hundreds of miles. To combat these threats in the North Pacific, the U.S. Coast Guard partners with maritime nations with mutual interests in keeping our oceans secure with the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum.
The North Pacific Coast Guard Forum brings together six countries – the United States, Canada, The People’s Republic of China, Japan, Republic of Korea and Russia. With the forum, heads of coast guards embrace a common vision focused on practical, operational outcomes.
Numerous bi-lateral and multi-lateral operations and exercises have been conducted focusing on key issues related to maritime security including: piracy and armed robbery against ships, drug interdiction, migrant interdiction, information sharing and marine safety and environmental protection.
Rear Adm. Joseph Castillo, 11th Coast Guard District commander, attended the last experts meeting held in Xiamen, China. At the conclusion, he said: “Our shared interest in maritime safety and security in the Pacific brings these six nations together to accomplish what one singular nation could not on its own; the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum is tremendously effective in this respect.”
An example of a direct result of the relationships developed between the nations was the case of the Bangun Perkasa. In September 2011, the U.S. Coast Guard received a report from Japanese officials stating one of their aircraft had sighted two high seas driftnet vessels engaged in illegal driftnet fishing.
Photographs captured two Indonesian flagged vessels, the Bangun Perkasa and the Shun Li No. 6, actively fishing in a conservation area. In response, Coast Guard Cutter Munro was deployed and boarded the Bangun Perkasa. This was done so under the authority of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Boarding and Inspection scheme as Indonesia is a cooperating non-member and the Bangun Perkasa was in clear violation of conservation and management measures prohibiting large-scale pelagic driftnet fishing.
Munro’s crew also sighted Shun Li No. 6 actively engaged in high seas driftnet fishing, but was unable to intercept and conduct a boarding. However, the interception of the Bangun Perkasa, as well as the detection and deterrence of Shun Li No. 6, demonstrates the increasingly successful communication and interaction between the countries involved with the forum.
Ultimately, the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum is about economy of force and securing cooperation that helps promote collaboration with maritime operations in the vast expanse of the Pacific. Each of these maritime nations benefits from the secure use of the oceans and also bears a common responsibility for maintaining maritime security and countering threats in this region. Success cannot be achieved by any one country acting unilaterally, but requires a coalition of nations maintaining a strong, united international front.