On Monday, Coast Guard Base Kodiak received a delegation of Russian officers from the Kamchatka Border Guard. Visitors included the commander of the border guard, Rear Admiral Sergei Scherbakov, and his staff. All came to meet Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo, commander of Coast Guard District 17, as part of a bi-annual joint planning, information-sharing and goodwill summit.
The Russian group’s itinerary included a week in Alaska and a day trip to Kodiak, home to America’s largest Coast Guard base.
A key part of the day’s planned activities involved a visit to the Munro, where the delegation was treated to a tour, operational discussions and light refreshments courtesy of the wardroom and support staff.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Kamchatka border guard cooperate to patrol the maritime boundary between Alaska and Russia, a line set by a 1990 treaty.
Since 1995, Coast Guard and Russian representatives have held meetings twice per year to coordinate patrols along the boundary. Each spring, Russians travel to Alaska for a meeting, and each fall, Coast Guardsmen travel to Russia.
Of particular interest to both sides is the so-called “donut hole,” an area of the Bering Sea on the American side of the boundary but beyond the 200-mile limit within which the United States exercises complete control.
Patrols cooperate to intercept rogue international fishing operations and conduct joint search-and-rescue operations. Spokesmen at the US embassy in Moscow have repeatedly stated, “Our (coast guards’) cooperation is one of the notable and positive military relationships between our two countries.”
On Monday, Capt. Mark Cawthorn of the Munro fulfilled a long-standing tradition among Western militaries by presenting the head of the visiting delegation with a set of unit challenge coins. Afterward, the delegation gathered for a photo on the flight deck where a Coast Guard MH-60 helicopter awaited in hover to conduct a search and rescue hoisting demonstration.
Meetings like Monday’s usually preface larger policy coordination events, such as the annual North Pacific Coast Guard Forum, a six-nation initiative spearheaded by Japan in 2000. The Forum has done extensive work to promote environmental sustainability and law enforcement activities in the deep Pacific. One of its most notable achievements has been the annual North Pacific Guard (NPG) Patrol, a joint maritime enforcement venture in which Russia, China, Japan and the United States share intelligence, personnel and material assets to prevent poaching, shark finning and the environmentally devastating practice of high seas driftnet fishing.
It was during an NPG patrol in 2011 that the Munro seized the notorious Bangun Perkasa, which had more than 10 miles of high seas drift net deployed. The Perkasa remains tied up in Unalaska, awaiting scrapping.
Lt. j.g. Jacob Hauser is public affairs officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Munro.