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NEWS | Feb. 26, 2024

U.S. Coast Guard conduct joint patrol with Kiribati partners under Operation Blue Pacific

By Chief Warrant Officer Sara Muir U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam

In a significant advancement of regional maritime cooperation, the USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) crew successfully concluded a pivotal leg of its current expeditionary patrol in the Kiribati exclusive economic zone (EEZ) from Feb. 11 to 16, 2024.

This leg marks a noteworthy engagement under Operation Blue Pacific, emphasizing the United States' commitment to strengthening ties and ensuring maritime security within the Pacific community.

For the first time since 2015, the patrol incorporated shipriders from the Kiribati Police Maritime Unit (PMU), executing the maritime bilateral agreement signed with Kiribati in 2008. This collaboration underscores a reinvigorated partnership focused on shared maritime safety, security interests, and fostering a united Pacific community.

"The collaboration between our crew and the Kiribati shipriders has been exemplary," said Lt. Ray Cerrato, commanding officer of USCGC Oliver Henry. "Their seamless integration and the mutual learning opportunities have significantly contributed to the patrol's success. I am incredibly proud of the dedication and professionalism displayed by everyone involved."

Throughout the patrol, the USCGC Oliver Henry crew and Kiribati shipriders from the PMU conducted observation reports and several maritime law enforcement boardings, affirming their dedication to upholding maritime law and governance.

"Despite challenging weather conditions, our dedicated team demonstrated adaptability and resilience, ensuring the continuation of essential boarding operations with utmost safety and efficiency," said Cerrato.

Notable activities included two boardings of People's Republic of China-flagged fishing vessels and observing and querying other fishing vessels from the PRC, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Korea within the southwest Kiribati EEZ, all conducted with the utmost professionalism and adherence to safety protocols. The crew found the vessels encountered compliant with all requirements.

Upon returning to Tarawa, the Oliver Henry crew hosted nearly a dozen PMU officers and recruits for comprehensive ship tours, small boat transfer experiences, and maritime law enforcement skill-building sessions conducted alongside the International Maritime Training Team, effectively enhancing their operational capabilities and readiness for maritime security tasks.

"The tours of the Oliver Henry in Tarawa were a resounding success, and we extend our gratitude to Lt. Mueller and the International Maritime Training Team for their pivotal role in facilitating this enriching experience for the Kiribati Police Maritime Unit recruit class who came aboard," said Cerrato.

This patrol also facilitated vital subject matter exchanges and medical drills underway and offered a unique opportunity for cultural and professional exchange between the U.S. Coast Guard and Kiribati officials. The initiative reflects the broader goals of Operation Blue Pacific aiming to enhance maritime governance, security, and cooperation across the Pacific region, emphasizing combatting illegal fishing and illicit maritime crime.

"As the USCGC Oliver Henry crew continues their mission, this leg of the patrol stands as a testament to the enduring partnership between the United States and Kiribati," said Rear Adm. Michael Day, commander of U.S Coast Guard 14th District. “Routine patrols from U.S. Coast Guard Fast Response Cutters such as this clearly demonstrate a joint resolve to maintain a rules-based order in which everyone in the Pacific Community benefits.”

-USCG-

About the U.S. Coast Guard in the Pacific

The U.S. Coast Guard 14th District, based out of Honolulu, Hawaii, and U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam, continue to foster enduring partnerships with regional allies through Operation Blue Pacific, an overarching multi-mission Coast Guard endeavor to promote security, safety, sovereignty, and economic prosperity in Oceania. With humanitarian Service at its core, the U.S. Coast Guard remains committed to maritime safety, security, and stewardship, solidifying its longstanding reputation in the Pacific as a trusted partner.

About USCGC Oliver Henry

USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) is the 40th 154-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter named for Oliver T. Henry, Jr., an enlisted African American Coast Guard member first to break the color barrier of a then-segregated Service. Designed for many missions, including search and rescue, national defense, and maritime law enforcement, the Oliver Henry plays a significant role in safeguarding national interests and preserving good maritime governance.

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