Coast Guard, Philadelphia Marine Police: strong partnership, strong results

by Petty Officer 3rd Class Crystalynn A. Kneen

It was a crisp December morning in Philadelphia. A tall man with blue uniformed pants and a floatcoat of a darker shade of blue walked slowly toward the silver, icy gangway down to the concrete pier. As he comfortably advanced to a lustrous silver and black boat he smiled and waved to a younger gentleman with a brilliant orange dry suit who was marching the same way to an orange boat of similar design.

The two men confidently boarded each vessel and thought nothing of the gallant meaning of their purpose. They activated each vessel and both men analyzed every part to verify the proper running of their “office”. After, they walked toward each other, loyally shook hands and began a conversation with smiles and laughs while each waited for their crew to arrive.

When the rest of the assemblage of heroic brothers arrived, they embarked the vessels and began their exercise. The exercise the two crews were conducting was a test of what they do on the dangerous waters of the Delaware River daily. A drill in which two agencies partner together for the same purpose of safety of life at sea and have been for over 150 years.

The two agencies are the U.S. Coast Guard in Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Marine Police Unit who partner together and bind their knowledge and capabilities to conduct security and safety for the Port of Philadelphia.

“The partnership we have with the Coast Guard is absolutely fantastic,” said Lt. Andrew Nopoly, the lieutenant in charge of the Philadelphia Marine Police Unit. “Being on base together gives us a unique opportunity to work together easily.”

The Philadelphia Marine Police Unit and Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay reside together in the same building at One Washington Ave. in Philadelphia.

“Being in the same building helps with a constant communication when situations arise,” said Jim Jonas, a police officer with the Philadelphia Marine Police Unit. “We notify each other and make sure we both are informed of details during cases.”

The situations the Coast Guard and the Philadelphia Marine Police Unit work together on consists of search and rescue cases, port waterway security type missions to include presidential visits and military offloads.

“The Philadelphia Marine Police are very instrumental when the port of Philadelphia off-loads military cargo,” said Lt. Cmdr. Brad Kelly, the enforcement chief at Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay. “Prior to the ship docking, they send divers down and side scan the pier for anything that could be threatening.”

Also, the two agencies work together while their is a search and rescue case within the Delaware River.

“We have worked together in a variety of missing boater and disabled vessels cases,” said Jonas. “It is not uncommon for us to show up on scene together along with a number of different agencies. We share responsibilities and cooperate with each other.”

During these cases, both the Coast Guard and the Philadelphia Marine Police Unit use their response boats to get to a scene quickly to work together.

“Another way we are connected is the 27-foot safe boat we just purchased from the Homeland Security grant we received to improve our capabilities,” said Jonas.

As the Philadelphia Marine Police Unit improve their capabilities, the Coast Guard is assisted by them to improve training.

“When we needed to do tow training, They took their boat underway and helped us get the training completed we needed to,” said Tin Do, a crewmember at Coast Guard Station Philadelphia.

In closing, for many years these two agencies have worked together, from the Civil War when the Philadelphia Marine Police Unit known as the Motor Harbor Police captured a French prototype submarine going to the Confederate Navy, while the Coast Guard known as the Revenue Cutter Service patrolled the Delaware River, to the current War on Terrorism when the building they both reside was scouted for a terrorist attack in 2007, to keeping the port of Philadelphia secure and safe.

“We have a great relationship with each other,” said Kelly. “We both have an open door policy and when we need something we walk down and ask, and the same goes for them. It’s a useful situation for both of us. We deem security and safety issues on the River as a cooperative effort.”

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