An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Blue Hawks of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 78 conducts flight operations aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) May 5 in the Yellow Sea. (U.S. Navy photo)

YELLOW SEA - With the endorsement of CUES at the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) in April 2014, WPNS navies have affirmed their commitment to safety during unplanned encounters at sea. Across the Indo-Pacific Seventh Fleet ships and aircraft train for the expected increase in use of CUES to ensure quick and effective communication.

CUES (Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea) is a guideline for unplanned maritime encounters while at sea, providing standards for communication, safety procedures and maneuvering instructions for naval ships and naval aircraft.

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108), underway in the Yellow Sea, reviewed CUES standards with all officers and practiced different scenarios where CUES would be beneficial. One scenario included fast-reaction sound signals such as five short blasts to signify danger, and bridge to bridge communication procedures on international VHF channel 16.

"Every member of our bridge watch team needs to be proficient in CUES; timely and accurate communication can mean the difference between life or death at sea," said Cmdr. Randy Van Rossum, commanding officer, of USS Wayne E. Meyer.

U.S. Seventh Fleet has been using CUES routinely for the past three years, and with 21 maritime nations signing the code in April, the fleet is increasing its training and enthusiastic use of the standards. U.S. Navy support of CUES further emphasizes the overarching support for adherence to international norms, standards, rules and laws as well as the use of multilateral communication to resolve unexpected issues and avoid uncertainty while maneuvering at sea.

"In addition to improving safety and reducing uncertainty at sea, CUES will help build trust and confidence in the navies of the region as we interact together more frequently and build our communication skills," said Vice Adm. Robert Thomas, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet.

"It's a positive development that should help reduce the risk of misunderstandings between military ships and aircraft operating in the region. These guidelines demonstrate the effectiveness of dialogue, transparency and multilateral approaches to dealing with the modern challenge of close interaction at sea," said Thomas.