April 8, 2013

By Coast Guard Cutter Washington
The Kaselehlie Press

Apra Harbor, GUAM - The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Washington, a 110-foot patrol boat, recently returned from a patrol to the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau.

During their 15-day deployment, the Washington's crew participated in Operation Rai Balang, a regional fisheries operation between Republic of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic Of Marshall Islands. Patrol Boats from each country in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Forum Fisheries Agency covered over 3.4 million nautical miles of ocean to detect, deter and prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing across the region. The crew from Washington also had the opportunity to conduct community engagements in the Federated States of Micronesia, deliver humanitarian supplies at several port calls and provide support to the Army Civil Action Team stationed in Palau.

Boating Safety and Humanitarian Assistance
The Washington conducted boating safety awareness classes at each port call and delivered humanitarian supplies to Ulithi Atoll and Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia. While in Yap, the crew also participated in the annual Yap Day celebration and hosted the U.S. ambassador to FSM, the Honorable Doria Rosen on board.

Living Marine Resource Enforcement
Once in Palauan waters, the Washington officially began their support of Operation Rai Balang. As part of this operation, the Washington patrolled Palau's Exclusive Economic Zone and boarded three fishing vessels with a Palauan ship rider. During regional fisheries operations, Washington embarks ship riders from each Pacific Island Countries' maritime law enforcement agency to lead joint boardings and ensure compliance with all applicable laws of the Exclusive Economic Zone being patrolled. "These joint operations are highly important because the preservation of fish stocks is a regionally shared concern," said Lt. Nate MacKenzie, Washington's Commanding Officer. "Fish don't respect boundaries or borders, so it is important we all work together to protect these vital marine resources."

Search and Rescue
Washington also assisted in the rescue of 10 people in the water from an overturned 60-foot canoe 103 miles northeast of Palau. The 695-foot container vessel, the Hyundai Unity, was first to arrive on scene and safely rescue all 10 crew members. Washington rendezvoused with the merchant vessel shortly afterward and transferred the canoeists to the cutter. Upon return to Palau, Washington was met by anxious families and the Palauan Vice President on the pier to welcome them home.

"Being able to work with the Hyundai Unity to get everyone out of the water and safely back to Palau was a great experience," said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Ned Timmons. "Seeing all the families and loved ones on the pier made the trip for me. Overall, this case was really rewarding."

Of the patrol, Lt. MacKenzie noted, "Washington accomplished a lot in the past 15 days. However, we could not have done it without the great partnerships we have throughout this region. The real importance of these patrols is to strengthen those partnerships and demonstrate that the Coast Guard is committed to being a team player in the ongoing effort to keep the Pacific safe and secure."