Navy, Coast Guard Join Forces to Combat Piracy

AT SEA ABOARD USS SAN ANTONIO – Navy and Coast Guard boarding teams are working together to ensure safe operations in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Red Sea and Indian Ocean as part of Combined Task Force 151, a multinational counter-piracy task force.

Coast Guard and Navy teams board suspect vessels to detect, deter and disrupt piracy activities.

“This is a law-enforcement operation to deter piracy and make the waters safe for all nations,” Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Greg Ponzi, officer in charge for Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment 405, said.

Each boarding team for CTF 151 missions includes Navy and Coast Guard personnel. The size of each team depends on the size and type of the vessel the teams must board. Available for missions are 14 Navy “visit, board, search and seizure” members and eight Coast Guard personnel from the law enforcement detachment.

“Our visit, board, search and seizure teams will play a central role here, as will the ship’s ability to survey the water and air space to search for suspected pirates,” Navy Lt. Cmdr. Sean Kearns, USS San Antonio’s executive officer, said.

Team members attend daily training in boarding policy, maritime laws, evidence handling, handcuffing, defensive tactics and searches. Additionally, detachment personnel instruct the Navy VBSS team in boarding procedures, evidence-package preparation and safe and humane treatment of suspects.

“Our role in CTF 151 is to augment and train the San Antonio’s VBSS team,” Ponzi said. “The [law enforcement detachment] has years of boarding experience and collectively has safely completed hundreds of vessel boardings.”

The combined boarding teams are well prepared for the CTF 151 mission, having worked together earlier in the deployment.

“We’ve also conducted significant amounts of training alongside the various embarked forces, learning to work effectively together and to leverage off of each other’s capabilities to create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts,” Kearns said.

“Our goal is to combine our two services to ensure safe and successful operations,” Ponzi said. “The top priority of any boarding team is the safety of the boarding team and the success of the mission.”

Boarding teams work together to ensure law enforcement actions are completed and collect evidence to aid in potential prosecution.

“Piracy is one of three international crimes and one that the United Nations Security Council has given special attention to in the past year,” Ponzi said.

Coalition air and sea assets compel suspect vessels to stop and comply with the boarding team.

“This mission is described as an antipiracy mission, which is true, but in a broader sense, it is also the mission that has been the central focus of the U.S. Navy since its inception, and that is maritime security,” Kearns said.

“This is about keeping the international waters of the world open to free, safe and unencumbered access by mariners, not only for our nation, but for all nations,” he said.

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