USCG cutter visits Suva; hosts shipriders during Operation Blue Pacific
SUVA, Fiji—The crew of U.S. Coast Guard cutter Munro visited the Port of Suva, Fiji April 20-24, as part of Operation Blue Pacific. Prior to the port call, five Fijian shipriders representing Fiji’s Immigration Department, Ministry of Fisheries, Revenue and Customs, as well as the Fiji Navy, worked alongside the Munro’s crew to conduct fisheries boardings in Fijian waters.
During the port call, Munro’s crew hosted military and government officials from both Fiji and the U.S. during a media engagement and reception. Capt. Blake Novak, Munro’s commanding officer, visited the FMSRCC, Republic of Fiji Navy, that manages maritime surveillance and search and rescue coordination in the region. Munro crew members volunteered alongside Fiji Navy members at a local eldercare facility. Munro’s crew hosted hosted Fiji Navy members and other partners for a barbecue and ship tour Saturday. Shared interagency recreational activities during the port call included both soccer and rugby matches, and a waterfall hike.
USCGC Munro departed from Alameda, California in late March for a multi-month deployment to the South Pacific. The deployment aims to counter illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and strengthen relationships to enhance maritime sovereignty and security throughout the region. Operation Blue Pacific’s focus is to lead and promote international efforts that uphold the principles of security, safety, sovereignty, and economic prosperity in Oceania through operations and engagements to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.
In November 2018, Fiji became the latest nation to sign a shiprider agreement, which allows partnering nations’ defense and law enforcement officers to embark on U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy vessels to observe, protect, board and search vessels suspected of violating laws or regulations within their exclusive economic zones or on the high seas.
Fiji has an exclusive economic zone of around 1.3 million square kilometers. It is difficult to protect Fiji’s sovereign rights for fishing and other economic activities over such a vast area of sea. The shiprider program gives Fiji another tool to patrol and protect its sovereign waters.
The shiprider agreement allows cooperation between both nations to protect the fishing industry and Fijian sovereignty. This will also contribute to regional stability.
The Coast Guard is committed not only to the American people and its national interests, but also other nations, including Fiji and other the Pacific island countries whose governments may be threatened or weakened by rival powers that challenge rules-based international order through inter-state aggression, economic coercion, maritime hybrid warfare, gray zone activities, and overreaching territorial claims.
As part of the U.S. National Security Strategy, the U.S. is committed to advancing a peaceful, free and open Indo-Pacific.
“We are pleased to work with Fiji to combat IUU fishing,” said Novak. “Working together, we were able to share technical expertise and ideas on how to improve safety, risk management and develop case packages for evidence preservation. IUU has replaced piracy as the leading global maritime security threat. Systemic disregard to IUU fishing normalizes illegal behavior and erodes governance structures that foster peace and stability.”
Through Operation Blue Pacific, the Coast Guard aims to strengthen relationships with like-minded nations. Our shared efforts will improve maritime governance within Oceania, increase capacity for bilateral search-and-rescue and law enforcement and promote shared technical expertise and proficiency.
The Coast Guard combats illegal fishing and other maritime threats across the Pacific. Combating illegal fishing is part of promoting maritime governance and a rules-based international order that is essential to a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Munro was the second U.S. Coast Guard cutter to visit Fiji this year, after Coast Guard cutter Stratton.
Commissioned in 2017, Munro is one of four Coast Guard legend class national security cutters homeported in Alameda. National security cutters are 418-feet long, 54-feet wide, and have a 4,600 long-ton displacement. They have a top speed in excess of 28 knots, a range of 12,000 nautical miles, endurance of up to 90 days and can hold a crew of up to 170. Munro is the second cutter named for Signalman First Class Douglas A. Munro, the only Coast Guardsman awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. (USCG)