The United States Coast Guard patrols America’s waterways to keep them safe and secure. They repel drug traffickers, they provide vital search and rescue operations, and they even provide environmental protection for one of America’s most valuable resources. So why are there USCG cutters in Bahrain?
The Coast Guard employs Island Class WPB cutters, which are highly maneuverable and, with a smaller draft, can patrol in the shallow waters found in the Arabian Gulf. These ships also maintain their ability to stay long periods at sea since they can be replenished while underway. There are similarities in the capabilities of the WPBs and the Navy’s Coastal Patrol ships, however, the crew and legal jurisdiction really separate the two and creates the need for the Coast Guard in Bahrain.
As a member of Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard is able to enforce United States laws and treaties that Department of Defense services are unable to due to domestic and international laws. However, when operating as a member of the armed forces, the Coast Guard can fall under the Department of Navy and obtain the same authority and jurisdiction that U.S. Navy vessels have as well.
Having the USCG in Bahrain gives us another card to play in keeping the sea lanes open and safe for travel.
Threats in the maritime environment can be varied in both technology and approach, and this year’s IMCMEX is designed to address multiple elements of maritime security. These elements of security have been grouped into three categories for the exercise: Maritime Infrastructure Protection, Maritime Security Operations, and Mine Countermeasures.
I’ve prefaced these areas before, and are covered in more detail at the IMCMEX 13 website, but I’d like to take a moment to address the importance of adding maritime infrastructure as a focus for this exercise.
Navies are accustomed to being watchful for threats at sea and, due to past pirate activity, so have merchant companies and crews. It is just as vital that we train to protect our harbors and facilities, as without them our goods, services and personnel cannot get to sea.
Ports like Mina Salman and Khalifa Bin Salman are important for regional commerce as well as staging facilities for local and international navies to protect national and international interests.
Explosive ordnance disposal divers, patrol coastal ships, inshore boats, mine countermeasure ships, multiple aircraft, and port security teams work in concert to ensure shipping in ports and harbors are safe both in the water and ashore.
Security in the maritime environment is a multi-step process that can be challenging at the best of times, and the units we will focus on in future posts help ensure that our maritime infrastructure–both ports of departure and arrival–are capable of fulfilling commercial, national and international needs.