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Friday, April 18, 2014

Coast Guard Sector Guam boasts of new communications system, response boat

U.S. Coast Guard Sector Commander Casey J. White speaks to Rotary Club of Saipan members yesterday at the Hyatt Regency Saipan. (Clarissa V. David) The U.S. Coast Guard Sector Guam now uses a new and advanced maritime command, control, and communications system that increases coverage gaps in coastal areas, enhancing the agency’s capability to locate distressed mariners and improving response time in saving lives.

Rescue 21 “will save us money and save us lives,” said Sector Commander Casey J. White, speaking to Rotary Club of Saipan members yesterday at the Hyatt Regency Saipan.

From a 15-percent coverage using the old system, Rescue 21 has increased coverage to 99.5 percent and extends it out to 20 nautical miles from the coastline, White said.

“This new capability is really remarkable,” she told Rotarians, adding that Sector Guam is presently conducting education and outreach among the local boating community about the new system of four antennas: one each on Saipan and Rota and two in Guam.

Rescue 21 replaces the National Distress and Response System, which used VHF transmission via Channel 16, their primary ship-to-ship distress frequency.

Given the previous lack of coverage, White disclosed that boaters within the Sector Guam jurisdiction would rely on cell phones, which “might alert us that you’re in trouble but doesn’t tell us where you are.”

According to the U.S. Coast Guard website, Rescue 21 improves information sharing and coordination with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal, state, and local first responders as well as identifies suspected hoax calls.

“By harnessing state-of-the-market technology, Rescue 21 enables the Coast Guard to execute its search and rescue missions with greater agility and efficiency,” it added.

Besides Rescue 21, Sector Guam also has additional response boats for Guam, allowing them to send Coast Guard cutters Washington and Assateague to the Northern Marianas.

“It really frees up resources so we can focus on areas where we haven’t been able to fully cover in the past,” explained White.

An active unit since 2005, Sector Guam encompasses 2 million square miles of the Northern Marianas, Guam, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau, and is one of the 36 sectors of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Founded in 1791, the U.S. Coast Guard is one of the five armed forces of the United States and the only organization within the Department of Homeland Security. It is Semper Paratus—always ready—to provide services in maritime security operations, maritime law enforcement, maritime prevention, maritime response, defense operations, and marine transportation system management.

“We are responsible for taking the lead in building maritime awareness in the Micronesian region to improve our knowledge of what’s out there and identify any threat and where it’s coming from,” said White.

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