U.S. Coast Guard Undertakes First Joint Ops with Papua New Guinea
The U.S. Coast Guard recently undertook its first joint maritime operations to combat illegal fishing and safeguard maritime resources at the invitation of the government of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced the plans in July while meeting with Prime Minister James Marape and following the U.S. signing in May of a new bilateral agreement with Papua New Guinea.
PNG led the mission which the USCG notes aligns with its sovereign rights to protect the EEZ and emphasizes the country's commitment to maritime domain awareness, fisheries regulation enforcement, and sovereignty protection. The PNG government requested the U.S. Coast Guard's participation and the Guam-based Fast Repones Cutter USCG Myrtle Hazard joined the mission. Under the terms of the new agreement between the countries, the U.S. can embark shipriders from PNG aboard its ships to conduct at sea boardings on other vessels operating in the EEZ under their national agency authority.
According to the commanders, the PNG-led patrol aimed to observe activity and conduct boardings to reduce illegal fishing and illicit maritime activities in PNG's EEZ. It's part of a long-term effort to counter illegal maritime activity and safeguard the sustainable use of maritime resources.
The crew of the USCGC Myrtle Hazard arrive to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea at the invitation of the government (U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam photo)
The collaboration was vital to Operation Blue Pacific and augments ongoing efforts by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency and Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. It was also part of a broader U.S. initiative in the region and the USCG efforts in the past few years to increase enforcement and stop illegal fishing in the region.
The USCGC Oliver Henry was the first U.S. Coast Guard Fast Response Cutter to call in Papua New Guinea during its southern expeditionary patrol in 2022. The USCGC Myrtle Hazard's crew continued the efforts by engaging with the PNG Defense Force through exchanges in the northern part of the country on the recent patrol. The activity also included subject matter exchanges with the PNG Defense Force Patrol Vessel Ted Diro crew and a port call in Rabaul.
Continuing to build the relationship with Papua New Guinea is seen as especially important after the USCG suffered a rebuff from the neighboring Solomon Islands during last year’s mission to confront illegal fishing in the same region. The Solomon Islands did not respond to a request from the cutter Oliver Henry for a port call in August 2022 and later announced it was suspending port calls by all foreign naval vessels.
Fishing vessel Shoei Maru No. 7 during USCG inspection by crew of USCGC Frederick Hatch (U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam)
Three USCG cutters stations in Guam, USCGC Frederick Hatch, USCGC Myrtle Hazard, and USCGC Oliver Henry, were involved in a broad effort this summer to enhance safety in the Pacific Islands region while confronting illegal fishing or unsafe passenger transport. The three cutters conducted four patrols spanning 44 days. The efforts included conducting seven boarding and five additional observations. They investigated the transport of 11 people aboard an overloaded vessel transiting to Guam from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands during an illegal charter.
The U.S. Coast Guard notes that it is working with 12 bilateral maritime law enforcement agreements with Pacific Island countries seeking to reinforce maritime law enforcement operations and domain awareness in the region. In addition to the efforts with Papua New Guinea, the recent operations involved others including the Federated States of Micronesia with which the U.S. entered into an enhanced bilateral agreement in October 2022. Other operations worked in support of the Northern Mariana Islands.