North Pacific Coast Guard Forum
On September 11-14, 2017, the Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, Jeffery Hutchinson is attending the North Pacific Coast Guard (NPCG) Forum in Tokyo, Japan. The annual forum provides an opportunity for Coast Guard representatives from six countries (Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States) to discuss mutual priorities on fishery enforcement, maritime security, illegal trafficking, joint operations and emergency response activities.
It will also be during these meetings that dedicated Coast Guardians will be committed to promoting and showcasing Canada, British Columbia, and the Canadian Coast Guard to international members of the maritime community, that is, of the Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Russian and United States Coast Guards.
The NPCGF impacts us all, every day. Canada’s membership in the Forum enables British Columbians and the rest of Canada to enjoy a peaceful, accessible, and clean maritime environment, the Pacific Ocean, thanks to the coordinated efforts of the countries involved in keeping the North Pacific safe and navigable.
NPCGF - What is it?
The North Pacific Coast Guard Forum (NPCGF) was established in 2000 by the Coast Guards of Japan, Korea, Russia, and the United States as a venue to foster multi-lateral cooperation by sharing information and establishing best practices in the North Pacific Ocean. Since its inception, Canada and China have joined NPCGF. Canadian Coast Guard leads a multi-departmental Canadian team at the NPCGF, which includes Canada Border Services Agency, Fisheries and Oceans, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Transport Canada.
Areas of focus for the six member countries include:
- maritime security;
- illegal trafficking;
- combined operations;
- emergency response;
- fisheries enforcement; and,
- information exchange.
The coordinated efforts of members continue to keep the North Pacific safe and navigable, enabling the maritime community to enjoy a peaceful, accessible, and clean environment in these waters. Further, the Forum helps protects the North Pacific’s fishery, through enforcement activities such as combating high-sea driftnet fishing, and monitoring illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing operations.
The first NPCGF meeting was held in Tokyo, Japan, in 2000. NPCGF activities are planned and approved during two meetings held each year. The Experts Meeting occurs in March and focuses on the development of operations, plans and multi-lateral initiatives. The September Summit Meeting allows organization heads and experts to review, discuss, modify and approve proposals emerging from the March Experts Meeting.
NPCGF events allow participants to strengthen relationships through formal activities such as plenary meetings and working group discussions, and through less formal activities such as meals. They allow for member countries to experience first-hand the operational and administrative contexts of the host countries and thus build better understanding of each other’s differing imperatives and constraints.
NPCGF activities also provide an opportunity for participants to experience cultural events pertinent to the hosting country, to enable them to gain an understanding of the culture of that country.
NPCGF Delegation Members
Delegation members for the Experts Meeting generally include eight to 12 senior ranking officials (military rank of Captain/Colonel), led by a head of delegation.
Summit delegations are generally comprised of 10 to 15 senior ranking personnel (Captain/Colonel to Flag Officer) led by the Head of the Agency (Coast Guard), generally a four-star Admiral/General or Deputy Minister.
Working group discussions and plenary meetings enable a broad range of bilateral and multilateral exchanges to occur, enhancing cooperation and coordination.
Since its inception, the main accomplishments of the Forum have been:
- tabletop and on-water training exercises in response to disaster assistance, search and rescue, marine security boarding, and illegal fishing scenarios;
- coordinated patrols to combat illegal fishing in the Pacific Ocean;
- agreement on common communication protocols for dealing with “vessels of special interest”;
- creation by Russia of an information exchange system; and
- exchange of information on illegal drug and migrant activities.
One example of an exercise in which CCG Pacific Region was directly involved was NPCGF Pacific Unity MMEX, which took place in Port Angeles, Washington, August 22-27, 2009. The goal of this exercise was to demonstrate the ability of members to work together in support of their shared interests in the context of response to a major natural disaster, and the resultant need to provide and coordinate humanitarian assistance and resumption of commercial shipping. The captains and crews of the CCGS PROVO WALLIS and CCGS SIYAY participated in this international endeavour.
On the first day of the exercise, photo opportunities were organized, including one involving 400+ ft long vessels lined with sailors from member countries coordinated into a diamond pattern. One participant called the display “awe-inspiring.”
The second day was Sports Day, during which member countries joined forces to participate in baseball, volleyball, soccer, horseshoes and Frisbee golf, enabling participants to laugh, play and work together despite language barriers and in preparation for the planned exercises the following day.
CCGS PROVO WALLIS and CCGS SIYAY involvement provided the interchange of best practices and methodology in lifting and placing floating navaids with their USCG counterparts. While SIYAY and PROVO WALLIS placed and lifted American buoys and moorings, the USCGC HENRY BLAKE lifted and placed Canadian equipment, proving that each country could assist the other in putting back in place navaids that may have been displaced due to a natural disaster. During these evolutions, both countries’ vessels allowed personnel from the other vessels on board to witness their buoy deck operations and impressive technological capabilities, and to obtain helpful operational advice.
Each evening captains and crews met for a formal greeting and discussions ranging from operational tactics to cultural differences.
The final day of the exercise included the transportation of the delegation heads to Seattle on board the CCGS SIYAY to meet the other ships for a final debrief and discussion on way ahead for lessons learned during the previous day’s activities. Canada was praised as a technologically-advanced country with an extremely multi-taskable asset.
According to participants, Pacific Unity MMEX was “crucial” to fulfilling the mandate of the NPCGF and reinforced the ability of member countries to work together in the operational field. One participant stated that “the experience we gained will ensure that this will be one of the major highlights for our careers.”
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