Coast Guard Security Teams: Guarding Ports and Waterways

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Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team Los Angeles conducts training near Santa Barbara, Oct. 24, 2016 (USCG)

By U.S. Coast Guard News 2017-04-27 19:08:30

[Written by Lt. j.g. Antoine Adams]

Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST) Kings Bay is one of six Coast Guard Atlantic Area (LANTAREA) MSSTs. The unit’s building, quietly situated off a remote road in St. Marys, Georgia, is unassuming when viewed from outside its compound. It adjoins a municipal police department and offers little to categorize it as a Coast Guard unit with such a significant impact. Inside the compound, six response boats, a dozen government vehicles, and men and women bustling about in operational dress uniforms hint that an operational Coast Guard unit exists in rural Camden County, Georgia.

To describe the MSSTs’ operating area, a globe would be an appropriate reference, as MSSTs spend a significant amount of time on the road, with operations spanning an area of responsibility not limited by traditional geographic boundaries. For this last year alone, MSST Kings Bay accumulated over 100,000 miles on their vehicles to trailer boats up and down the highways in support of 25 operations and 14 different sector commanders. Their missions took them north to Bar Harbor, Maine, where they engaged in Ports Waterways and Coastal Security (PWCS), providing escorts for high capacity passenger vessels, and as far south as the Caribbean, where a Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Team works with an MSST crew on a Navy patrol craft, conducting counter-drug and migrant interdiction boardings.

Most recently, two non-compliant vessel pursuit crews from MSST Kings Bay joined law enforcement detachments from both coasts and deployed aboard USS Zephyr and USS Shamal for an approximate 60-day counter-narcotics patrol. This unique collaboration of forces and capabilities resulted in the largest seizure for this operational concept to date, a record 900 kilograms of cocaine estimated at over $30 million in street value. 

On an international training front, MSST Kings Bay members deployed to Saudi Arabia to teach boat tactics to aspiring border guard and to Belize to instruct their coast guard on boat handling and navigation skills.

MSST Kings Bay also found themselves in Cleveland, the city that hosted the 2016 Republican National Convention. For this historic event, MSST Kings Bay led a force consisting of 14 tactical boat crews, 12 response boats, engineering support, canine explosive detection teams, a remotely operated vehicle, and planning personnel to support all aspects of maritime security operations. MSST members accumulated 628 patrol hours escorting vessels and enforcing security zones to safeguard maritime critical infrastructure and 50,000 attendees and dignitaries. As part of their mission, MSST members conducted positive control boardings, swept facilities and vehicles for explosives, and conducted search and rescue operations.

Whether enduring the snow of Lake Michigan for a naval vessel protection zone, deploying in under 24 hours in response to intelligence in our nation’s capital, providing foreign dignitary/heads of state protection in New York City during the United Nations General Assembly, or pursuing a go-fast in the open water of the Caribbean, MSSTs’ highly trained and professional personnel provide adaptable and scalable capabilities in support of missions worldwide.

This article appears courtesy of Coast Guard Compass and has been edited for length. It may be found in its original form here

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.