Key surveillance operation concludes this week in FSM & Palau

THE REPUBLIC OF PALAU AND THE FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA, 12 MAY 2009: Operation Rai Balang, a bilateral maritime surveillance operation between Palau and Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) to detect activities such as illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, ended today. The operation was conducted over 10 days from 2-12 May 2009 over the Palauan and FSM Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) in their entirety. This is the fifth Rai Balang conducted (the first was in 2006) and was the most complex to-date.  Support was provided by a diverse number of agencies in dispersed locations, including Australian advisers (through the Defence Cooperation Program), US Coast Guard (USCG) agencies in Guam and Hawaii and the US Navy in Japan.

Outcomes included: for FSM, sixteen boardings with five citations issued and apprehension of one vessel, and for Palau, six boardings with two vessels directed to port for further investigation.  Data was also collected on fishing activities in the High Seas Area to the south of Palau.  Another significant outcome was that a detailed set of instructions, procedures and communications architecture were trialled as a possible permanent template for future small operations like this in the Pacific.

MSA Palau, LCDR Kimbal Dunsmore, Royal Australian Navy said: “While we are still collating the results from this operation, I am excited about the outcomes, particularly how well all the agencies worked together.  From what I saw, the right people were receiving the right information at the right time, which is the hardest thing to achieve in this sort of activity when close coordination is required between a number of different organizations from different nations.  While we didn’t have any ‘big busts’, my observation would be that if we are getting maritime surveillance and law enforcement right, it is the smallness of the number of apprehensions that is a measure that we are being effective.”

Palau’s Division of Marine Law Enforcement was the key planner for the operation with the FSM Maritime Wing and Pacific Patrol Boats FSS Palikir and FSS Independence as the bilateral participants.  Support was provided by USCG Sector Guam and USCG Cutter Washington (110’ Island Class Patrol Boat), USCG District Fourteen in Hawaii with a C-130 aircraft (based in Kwajelein, RMI) and US Navy CTF 72 with a P3-C (based in Guam).  Australian support was provided by the Maritime Surveillance Advisers in Palau and FSM.  As the Palau Pacific Patrol Boat PSS H.I. Remeliik was unavailable for this operation and USCGC Washington conducted two maritime law enforcement patrols of Palau’s EEZ instead.   A short patrol was also carried out by Washington in the FSM EEZ.  These activities were possible as a result of cooperative maritime law enforcement agreements between Palau and FSM and the USCG.

The operation also used data sharing in the FFA Vessel Monitoring System, a satellite-based system which monitors the position, speed and direction of registered fishing vessels.

Two agreements enable increased cooperation during the operation:
•    A permanent Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement (NTSA) between Palau, FSM and Marshall Islands was enacted in November 2008 and was used during this operation. This means forces remain under respective national commands throughout and Pacific Patrol Boat crews have jurisdiction in both EEZs where the NTSA is invoked.  The Niue Treaty is an agreement on cooperation between FFA members about monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing - it includes provisions on exchange of information (about where the position and speed of vessels at sea, which vessels are without licences) plus procedures for cooperation in monitoring, prosecuting and penalising illegal fishing vessels.

•    Permanent Shiprider Agreements (SRA) have also been enacted between Palau and the USCG and between FSM and the USCG.  Under the regime USCG surface assets are able to conduct enforcement operations in the Palau EEZ with Palauan Shipriders embarked and in FSM EEZ with FSM Shipriders embarked (one officer was embarked from each nation for Operation Rai Balang).
For more information, contact Anouk Ride, FFA, Email: [email protected]

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