MAJURO, Marshall Islands – Establishment of “shiprider” agreements between the United States Coast Guard and eight Pacific nations has “dramatically changed law enforcement” in the Pacific region Coast Guard, Rear Adm. Charles W. Ray said in Majuro in early March as he joined the crew of the cutter Jarvis on its first stop of a multi-country patrol mission.
Ray, the commander of the Coast Guard’s 14th District in Honolulu which covers the Pacific area, said the shiprider agreements assist island nations in enforcing fisheries regulations by “making good use of limited resources.”
The Coast Guard established its first shiprider agreement with the Marshall Islands in 2008 for marine patrols in the Marshall Islands’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone and has since expanded these agreements to include eight nations in the Pacific.
In early March the Jarvis, a 378-foot vessel based in Honolulu, spent two days in port in Majuro before picking up Marshall Islands Sea Patrol Lt. Jerry Aneo and fisheries officer Kyle Aliven to begin patrolling Marshall Islands waters. After the Marshall Islands the Jarvis will continue to other parts of the Pacific for patrolling.
“We aim to do 60 boardings in 60 days, ” Ray said of the normal activity level for Coast Guard cutters when they are on patrol.
Through the shiprider agreements island governments place local law enforcement personnel on board Coast Guard vessels and give the Coast Guard authority for patrolling their territorial waters and conducting vessel boardings. “Fish don’t stop at territorial boundaries so neither should we,” Ray said. The agreements “help preserve resources,” he said.
The shiprider agreements, combined with an agreement covering the high seas under the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, allows law enforcement coverage of virtually everywhere fish are being caught, Ray said.
It’s not only marine surveillance that occupies Coast Guard vessels. The Coast Guard expends considerable resources on search and rescue missions. Last year the Coast Guard cutter Rush was in Kiribati on patrol when four islanders were reported missing on a small boat. The Coast Guard’s Hawaii rescue center produced a search pattern a New Zealand Air Force plane flew the pattern locating the people and the Rush accomplished the rescue. “They were given up for dead (by their community), ” Ray said. “Imagine the reaction when the Rush helicopter flew them back to their village.”
Ray said teamwork with island governments through the shiprider program is increasing and improving immeasurably benefiting the safety of people and protecting resources.