East meets West in historic exercise

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Galveston Island, homeported in Honolulu, is underway alongside the crew of the People's Republic of China Maritime Safety Administration ship Haixun 31 eight miles offshore of Honolulu, Sept. 6, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric J. Chandler.

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Galveston Island, homeported in Honolulu, is underway alongside the crew of the People’s Republic of China Maritime Safety Administration ship Haixun 31 eight miles offshore of Honolulu, Sept. 6, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric J. Chandler.

Written by Pacific Area external affairs staff.

History was made earlier this month when a Chinese Maritime Safety Administration ship pulled into the Port of Honolulu marking the first time an MSA patrol boat visited a U.S. port.

The 367-foot MSA ship, Haixun 31, made the historic port call to participate in a combined search and rescue exercise alongside Coast Guard Cutter Galveston Island. Together the two ships, working with Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, formed building blocks towards a cooperative partnership.

The crew aboard Haixun 31 arrives at Aloha Tower in Honolulu Harbor Sept. 4, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony L. Soto.

The crew aboard Haixun 31 arrives at Aloha Tower in Honolulu Harbor Sept. 4, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony L. Soto.

Solidifying this partnership is vital for continued safety in the region. In 1987, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Chinese MSA signed a memorandum of understanding outlining search and rescue communications and responsibilities. Since then the U.S. and China have collaborated on maritime issues, and the Haixun 31 port visit served to bolster this already strong partnership.

“This historic engagement further improves the coordination of search and rescue operations at sea,” said Rear Adm. Charles Ray, commander of the 14th Coast Guard District. “This is the first visit to the United States by the Haixun 31 and is an opportunity to strengthen our relationship on a number of common maritime missions.”

Over the course of a few days the two ships took part in joint exercises which included using ships and helicopters from both countries in search and rescue scenarios.

But before the at-sea exercises could begin, the agencies presented on their unique capabilities and assets. The Coast Guard highlighted a Joint Rescue Coordination Center’s role in determining search area and coordination of available rescue assets. Participants also learned about the Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System program – a voluntary system used worldwide by search and rescue agencies to arrange assistance for those in distress at sea. The MSA participants focused on their capabilities and how their missions are performed.

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Galveston Island escorts the crew of the People's Republic of China Maritime Safety Administration ship Haixun 31 into Honolulu Harbor, Sept. 4, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric J. Chandler.

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Galveston Island escorts the crew of the People’s Republic of China Maritime Safety Administration ship Haixun 31 into Honolulu Harbor, Sept. 4, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric J. Chandler.

After discussing their capabilities, the responders were ready for another historical milestone: the first time the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China would operate together in a full-scale search and rescue exercise.

Bright and early in the morning a Coast Guard helicopter crew dropped a rescue dummy to simulate a survivor in the water eight miles off Oahu. Six hours later a helicopter crew from the Haixun 31 conducted search patterns. They were able to locate the rescue dummy and deployed a flare to mark its location. A small boat from the Haixun 31 was then launched and recovered the survivor. Coast Guard aircrews then moved in and hoisted the survivor from the deck of MSA ship to simulate a medevac.

The historic exercise was a direct result of discussions between the United States and China during the fourth round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialog in May 2012. During that May meeting the two countries held in-depth discussions on major bilateral, regional and global issues, and reviewed the progress of advancing the shared vision of building a U.S.-China cooperative partnership.

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  • Aaron

    I didn’t know the CGC Galveston Island could carry a helicopter

  • Mac

    It’s a really little one

  • Coastie

    It can’t. That has to be an extreme error. The 110′ vessel that is an Island Class cutter does not have the space for a helo pad, nor billets for the maintenance crew.

  • matt

    I’m sure their families are really enjoying them “not resting on their laurels”

  • LT S. M. Young

    Aaron and Coastie,

    Thanks to the both of you for keeping us honest. The helicopter was, in fact, from Barbers Point and we have edited the article to show that.

    Thanks again!

    Very Respectfully,
    Lt. Stephanie Young
    Coast Guard Public Affairs