Coast Guard, U.S. Virgin Islands response entities conduct Area Maritime Security Exercise in St. Croix

Coast Guard along with responders from federal, state, local agencies and industry stakeholders conducted an Area Maritime Security Exercise Sept. 2, 2016, in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. (Photo courtesy of Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency)

Coast Guard along with responders from federal, state, local agencies and industry stakeholders conducted an Area Maritime Security Exercise Sept. 2, 2016, in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. (Photo courtesy of Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency)

SAINT CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands — The Coast Guard, in cooperation with responders from federal, state, local agencies and industry stakeholders, conducted an Area Maritime Security Exercise Friday in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

The annual table-top exercise is part of the nationwide Area Maritime Security Training Exercise Program (AMSTEP).

“These exercises are instrumental for federal and local agencies as well as our industry partners to deliver a well coordinated and unified response during a major maritime transportation security incident in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Capt. Robert Warren, Commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan.

This exercise is being conducted to test the effectiveness of the Area Maritime Security Plan drafted by federal, state and local agencies and industry representatives as the framework for how to respond to port-wide security incidents in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Anything can happen at any time, and the territory’s critical infrastructure must remain at a heightened state of readiness to respond to a security breach or incident,” said Denise Lewis, Deputy Director of Operations Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency St. Croix.  “It is extremely important that both the local government and our federal partners consistently exercise and evaluate security plans, and collaborate, to ensure that everyone understands the procedures for response operations so that, if there is a real event, we can protect our facilities and the community.”

Exercise participants gathered at the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) facility in St. Croix to interface and evaluate their ability to respond to a maritime transportation security threat in the area. Agencies focused primarily on their processes to alert, mobilize and coordinate personnel, facilities and resources, which included establishing a Unified Command structure to coordinate interagency response operations.

The Coast Guard recognizes that providing maritime security in the Caribbean region requires the close coordination of area responders. The scenario involved in this table-top exercise challenged participants to identify key resources and organize interagency procedures during a port security incident, and update response plan information that will enhance future readiness coordination.

Participating agencies and industry organizations included Coast Guard Sector San Juan, Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment St. Croix, Boat Forces Detachment St. Croix, Federal Aviation Administration, Virgin Island Port Authority, Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency, Virgin Islands Fusion Center, Virgin Islands Police Department, Virgin Islands Fire Service, Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority, Virgin Islands National Guard, Limetree Bay Terminal Storage Facility, Island Project and Operating Services and Borinken Towing and Salvage.

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