USCG and SEMAR: Shared border, shared missions

Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba moored alongside the Mexican navy ship Baja California at its first port call for UNITAS 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. John Goshorn.

Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba moored alongside the Mexican navy ship Baja California at its first port call for UNITAS 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. John Goshorn.

The U.S. and Mexico share more than a border; they also share a relationship that crosses the full spectrum of maritime operations. The Coast Guard and Mexican navy, known as Secretaría de Marina, are maritime first responders in areas ranging from interdiction of maritime transnational threats, protection of ports, protection of critical infrastructure and response to natural disasters. This common interest for the U.S. and Mexico is vital to the security of each country and also fortifies global security.

Coast Guard Cutter Aspen, a C-130 from Air Station Sacramento and Maritime Safety and Security Team Galveston worked with the Mexican navy to seize more than eight tons of marijuana and four smuggling suspects in March 2009. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Henry G. Dunphy.

Coast Guard Cutter Aspen, Air Station Sacramento and Maritime Safety and Security Team Galveston worked with the Mexican navy to seize more than eight tons of marijuana and four smuggling suspects in March 2009. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Henry G. Dunphy.

Beyond geographic connections, our nations are intertwined by the global supply chain. Thousands of vessels make their way across the globe and stopover in Mexico before finding their way to America’s port cities. The Coast Guard, SEMAR and Mexican Secretariat for Communications and Transportation mitigate threats by close and proactive collaboration as they improve awareness within ports and harbors. Security for a vessel is important in every port call of a ship’s voyage, and together our countries enhance this security and maritime governance, bolstering the global supply chain.

Eastern Pacific and Western Caribbean waters remain a major shipment zone for narco-trafficking, and operations between the Coast Guard and Mexican navy are used to combat the flow of illicit traffic across maritime borders. These maritime operations occur on either side of the border and entail the Coast Guard working closely with its counterparts in both the U.S. and Mexico to maintain a dynamic presence along the border. These maritime efforts complement international operations along the land border and further deter illicit activity from both countries.

Maintaining security along our shared borders consists of more than stopping narco-traffickers, – it also includes protecting our respective exclusive economic zones from foreign fishing vessel incursions. Particular areas of interest are commercial and recreational fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. Protecting the EEZ of both countries ensures sustainable fish stock, safeguards billions of dollars generated by the industries and preserves thousands of jobs for both U.S. and Mexican citizens.

Crewmembers of Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba help a small boat crew from the Mexican navy ship Baja California as they depart after a training event aboard Escanaba. The Mexican Navy and U.S. Coast Guard conducted the event as part of UNITAS LANT 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephen Lehmann.

Crewmembers of Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba help a small boat crew from the Mexican navy ship Baja California as they depart after a training event aboard Escanaba during UNITAS 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephen Lehmann.

Sharing hundreds of miles of maritime border in the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, both the U.S. and Mexico constantly work to improve the coordination of search and rescue planning that takes place in international and territorial waters. Having search and rescue plans in place ahead of time, particularly when a case crosses maritime borders, greatly influences the ability for rescue assets to successfully perform their mission.

Search and rescue between the two countries is further enhanced as both the U.S. and Mexico are using similar equipment to accomplish the mission; this interoperability saves lives. The Government of Mexico recently purchased four maritime patrol airplanes, similar to the HC-144A Ocean Sentry airplane used by the Coast Guard; and, in October 2010 the Coast Guard Office of International Acquisition awarded a $157.9 million contract to produce the aircraft through the Foreign Military Sales program. The airplanes are currently scheduled for delivery beginning in November 2011 and continuing through April 2012.

SEMAR also identified a need to expand its capabilities to conduct search and rescue missions and train its personnel, including establishing a search and rescue school. In 2008 the Coast Guard sent a technical assessment team to assist with the installation of search and rescue software, called Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System, or SAROPS. The system went operational at the Regional Coordination Center in Mexico City in September 2009 and Mexico’s first search and rescue school opened in April 2011.

In a world where economics, security and resources become more interconnected every day, the cooperation of U.S. and Mexico on a broad range of missions is essential to our shared safety and prosperity.

Coast Guard Vice Commandant Vice Adm. Sally Brice-O'Hara visits with Secretary of the Mexican navy Adm. Francisco Saynez Mendoza during events to celebrate El Grito in Mexico City on Sep 15.  Vice Adm. Brice-O'Hara attended the event as a sign of respect for the Mexican navy.  Coast Guard and Mexican navy units routinely collaborate on cases such as drug enforcement and search and rescue. U.S Coast Guard photo.

Coast Guard Vice Commandant Vice Adm. Sally Brice-O’Hara visits with Secretary of the Mexican navy Adm. Francisco Saynez Mendoza during events to celebrate El Grito in Mexico City on Sep 15. Vice Adm. Brice-O’Hara attended the event as a sign of respect for the Mexican navy. Coast Guard and Mexican navy units routinely collaborate on cases such as drug enforcement and search and rescue. U.S Coast Guard photo.

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  • skip

    why can’t SEMAR buy their own planes ? why does it have to be awarded through the FMS program ? in simple terms, the US tax payers are paying fo it….

  • Rick

    FMS covers all sorts of equipment. Personally, I’d rather beef up the Mexican military to help protect our southern border rather than spending more money in the Middle East.

  • Xas

    And what are we protecting the southern border from I ask? Their own people coming here illegally? Drugs?

    Nothing that they shouldn’t be able to prevent all by themselves like a big boy, rather than throwing the load onto our nation.

  • Joe

    Foreign Military Sales (FMS) helps the USG obtain a better price per unit especially with ships, cutters, aircraft, etc. The longer we keep a producction line open with the help of other countries that order in the same line the cheaper per unit. In addition, we sale or donate old ships and aircraft to other countries, for example the HAMILTON that was donated to the Philipines recently. Is cheaper to donate a ship that clean it up to make it an artificial reef. I agree with Rick!

    Xas – if you want to attack a program maybe you should look at State Dept’s (USAID) program… we lose millions on BS stuff.

  • K80

    Mexico wants to lose their people to our nation just about as much as you want them coming here illegally, XAS. Foreign relations are extremely important to America, especially during times of war. Their assistance in the interception of drug runners, SAR cases, and other missions on the Mexico-American border saves us millions of dollars and vice versa. So rather than looking at the negatives of a country, how about we focus on the positives and work on that a little more?
    And they aren’t exactly “throwing the load” onto us if they are assisting us in stopping it are they?