SINGAPORE — The 10th annual Southeast Asia Cooperation Against Terrorism (SEACAT) maritime security exercise began June 15, as liaison officers from the U.S. and Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand began training to track simulated contacts of interest at sea.
SEACAT is a 10-day at-sea exercise designed to enhance maritime information sharing and the coordination of maritime security responses in the region. During the exercise, three U.S. Navy ships, USNS Pecos (T-AO 197), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) and USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50) will serve as simulated “vessels of interest.” Liaison officers from the participating navies, operating from the Multinational Operations and Exercise Center (MOEC) at Singapore’s Changi Naval Base, will coordinate ship tracking, help coordinate their own country’s boarding operation, and hand off the ship to a neighboring country as the ship departs their country’s waters.
Cmdr. Troy Amundson, Deputy for Operations at Commander, Task Force 73, which is heading the exercise, said exchanges like SEACAT give neighboring navies a unique opportunity to become familiar with each other’s practices and procedures while dealing with a complex problem scenario.
“Our partner navies participate in SEACAT on a bi-lateral basis,” Amundson said. “However, we work as a team in that we work through a challenging scenario, and offer guidance to one another. Our LNOs can take these ideas and make a more informed recommendation to their headquarters on whether or not to board a ship, and how that should occur based on the perceived threat.” During actual boardings of the designated vessels of interest by participating navies, U.S. Navy crewmembers trained in visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) will witness the boarding techniques of their counterparts, and then share their own best practices.
SEACAT, which began in 2002, is a model of how navies can cooperate and work together to address issues of shared concern, including piracy, smuggling and other transnational crimes at sea.