Written by Lt. j.g. Michael Barker.
U.S. and Canadian law enforcement officers move as one unit aboard a Coast Guard vessel as they move alongside a fishing vessel with three people aboard. “We are conducting a boarding to ensure your compliance with all applicable federal laws,” states the Coast Guard officer. The team boards the ship, where the Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers explain to the crew why they are aboard: to check all paperwork, safety of the vessel and all associated equipment.
This boarding, and others like it, is part of an integrated cross-border maritime law enforcement operation known as Shiprider. Coast Guard Station Eastport, located near the Canadian border in northeastern Maine, works with international law enforcement partner The Royal Canadian Mounted Police to conduct these boardings and secure the northern border.
In 2009 the U.S secretary of Homeland Security and the Canadian minister of public safety signed the framework agreement on maritime law enforcement operations between Canada and the United States, which allows the Coast Guard and the RCMP to work side-by-side enforcing laws in U.S. and Canadian waters.
These operations represent a truly cooperative approach to combating cross-border crime on the shared waterways of Canada and the United States. Shiprider removes the international maritime boundary as a barrier to law enforcement by enabling seamless continuity of enforcement and security operations across the border.
The joint operations offer more flexibility to conduct law enforcement operations, creating a significant impact in the area. With this program in place, criminal activities can be reduced significantly allowing more flexibility to board vessels on both sides of the border with qualified personnel.
All the officers designated as Shiprider qualified receive extensive training at the U.S. Coast Guard’s Maritime Law Enforcement Academy in South Carolina. RCMP Officer Denver Beers states, “The training in Charleston was unique in that both sides brought their respective skills to the table, and we learned together, complimenting each other nicely!”
The first Shiprider operations in Station Eastport’s area of responsibility took place in August. In early fall, officers from the Coast Guard and RCMP were back on the water patrolling together, detecting and deterring illegal activity on the St. Croix River and its associated bays.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Felix Bultron stated, “The first operation conducted went very smooth and was a collaborative effort between the USCG and RCMP. The operation allowed specifically trained and cross-designated Canadian and American law enforcement officers to work side by side while under the direct supervision of the host country officer. The teamwork was exceptional and the transition in jurisdiction through the operation was very professional and cooperative.”
The ability for the Coast Guard and Canada to team up is a game changer and significantly increases border protection.
“We make a great team. It seems natural and will only get better, it’s definitely going to impact cross border criminality along our shared waterways,” said RCMP officer Brent Dakai.