SINGAPORE - The U.S. Navy and maritime forces from ten Indo-Pacific partner nations began the 18th iteration of Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) in Singapore, Aug. 19.
The goal of the SEACAT exercise is to bring together regional partner nations to engage in "real world, real time" training designed to enhance partner nation ability to communicate, coordinate and counter illegal smuggling and piracy.
The exercise emphasizes realistic training scenarios wherein exercise participants will practice identifying, tracking and boarding of vessels participating in the exercise.
"SEACAT is regional maritime security at its best," said Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, commander, Task Force 73. "This year, more partner nations than ever have come to SEACAT to share their challenges and best practices. There's no better place to strengthen our abilities to sense, share and respond than working together at sea."
SEACAT promotes shared commitments to maritime partnerships, security and stability in Southeast Asia. Participating nations include Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United States and Vietnam.
Throughout the exercise, maritime forces from the Indo-Pacific region will operate together, executing a variety of realistic scenarios designed to reinforce interoperability in areas such as visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS), maritime domain awareness and maritime asset tracking.
VBSS events will focus on countering numerous kinds of maritime threats. Teams from multiple countries board and seize ships under a number of simulated scenarios.
A maritime operations center in Singapore will serve as a centralized hub for crisis coordination and information sharing in the tracking of vessels of interests throughout the exercise.
Liaison officers will receive simulated reports of suspect vessels in the Straits of Singapore and Malacca, the Andaman Sea or the South China Sea. After sharing information from all available sources such as Singapore's Information Fusion Centre and the Philippines' National Coast Watch Center, the LNOs will develop and implement response plans utilizing aircraft and ships from participating navies and coast guards to investigate and conduct on-scene boardings as necessary.
In all, SEACAT includes 14 ships and more than 400 personnel. U.S. Navy units include the staff of Destroyer Squadron 7; P-8 Poseidon aircraft assigned to Task Force 72 and personnel from Task Force 73. Participants from the U.S. Coast Guard include Maritime Security Response Team West (MSRT) and Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team (PACTACLET).
The U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT) will conduct workshops and seminars on visit, board, search and seizure techniques in Manila, Philippines, addressing a wide-range of topics to include human trafficking, drugs and weapons smuggling and illegal fishing.
U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. David Negron-Alicea, Defense Threat Reduction Agency maritime advisor for U.S. Embassy Manila, and Philippine Coast Guard Capt. Edgardo T. Hernando, commander, coast guard special operation force, led the opening ceremony for VBSS seminars in Manila.
“I challenge everyone to get to know your fellow Navy and Coast Guard participants - to observe with an open mind, share lessons that you’ve learned and best practices for the future,” said Negron-Alicea. “By the end of the workshop, I look forward to seeing teams comprised of operators from each of the different partner nations here today working together and achieving success.”
SEACAT, which began in 2002 under the name "Southeast Asia Cooperation Against Terrorism," was renamed in 2012 to expand the scope of training among regional navies and coast guards.