Shiprider: Joint law enforcement in Canadian, U.S. waterways

Royal Canadian Mounted Police and U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team Boston members don their uniform and equipment to conduct a Shiprider patrol on the Detroit River, July 4, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police and U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team Boston members don their uniform and equipment to conduct a Shiprider patrol on the Detroit River, July 4, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

In a post 9/11 world, the United States’ main law enforcement mission has been national security to keep the public safe from nefarious activity. An integral part of this mission happens on the waters surrounding the U.S.

From early June through September, members from U.S. Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Team Boston and Royal Canadian Mounted Police joined forces to keep the public safe by patrolling the U.S. and Canadian maritime border in Lake St. Clair and Detroit River area as well as areas in Lake Erie, Lake Champlain and Lake Memphremagog.

Several Coast Guard and RCMP members were carefully selected to attend two-week training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in North Charleston, South Carolina. There they were given the chance to see how each service conducts maritime law enforcement boardings and practiced common tactics to facilitate seamless team integration for safe and effective real-world coordinated action on the water.

Following this training, the Coast Guard members were baptized in Integrated Cross-border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations known as Shiprider. Shiprider is a novel law enforcement partnership that was conceived in 2003 and has persevered through extensive legal analysis, establishment of a detailed joint training program and incorporation of countless lessons over the last 12 years to mature and grow strong roots. The program allows Shiprider designated RCMP members to enforce U.S. law in U.S. territorial waters, and likewise for Coast Guard members to enforce Canadian law in Canadian territorial waters while on joint Shiprider patrols.

Throughout the summer, a pool of 12 Shiprider designated unit members supported five U.S. Coast Guard small boat stations and multiple RCMP units by staging 25-foot Response Boats-Small, weapons and personnel over 2,200 miles to reach Lake Champlain and Lake Erie. The Shipriders successfully conducted 11 deployments and 97 maritime vessel boardings.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer Maryse Robert stands by united U.S. Coast Guard and RCMP ensigns while underway aboard a Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team Boston 25-foot Response Boat-Small on Lake Champlain, Aug. 3, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer Maryse Robert stands by united U.S. Coast Guard and RCMP ensigns while underway aboard a Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team Boston 25-foot Response Boat-Small on Lake Champlain, Aug. 3, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

“Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers like Ricky Lablond and I had to quickly assimilate to each other,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Matt Monaghan, a boatswain’s mate from MSST Boston. “Receiving the same Shiprider training provided the foundation for us to seamlessly begin operating as a cohesive team although it took awhile to assimilate to some of their French accents and passionate talk about all things hockey. I really enjoyed working on Lake Champlain in particular. It was a fantastic experience.”

Despite the cohesiveness of the partnership between the Coast Guard and RCMP, programmatic Shiprider challenges remain. Like any relationship, success is sustained through open communication, transparent expectations and a certain degree of give and take.

“The life-blood of the program is the folks planning and executing the Shiprider mission at the deck-plate level,” said Lt. Cmdr. John Kousch, commanding officer, MSST Boston. “Enthusiasm and passion on either side of the border propels the program forward. Our MSST Boston Shiprider qualified members are eager to pick up operations again next spring and re-join their RCMP brethren in protecting our shared international border. Maintiens le Droit, and Semper Paratus!”

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