News & Events
ENSENADA, MEXICO- On February 22-23rd Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Algonquin took part in the North American Maritime Security Initiative (NAMSI) exercise off the coast of Southern California and Northern Mexico. NAMSI is an interagency tri-lateral security initiative between U.S., Canadian, and Mexican maritime commands. The primary goal of the exercise is to test the interoperability and mutual understanding amongst the participating commands.
The NAMSI exercise is conducted to validate the tri-lateral agreement’s standard operating procedures (SOP) used to coordinate the hand over of custody of a suspect vessel from one nation to another. The SOPs are designed to facilitate maritime law enforcement as it relates to interdicting vessels suspected of trafficking illicit drugs or other illegal activities prohibited by international law. NAMSI was also a fantastic opportunity to observe how the U.S. and Mexico conduct boarding operations in order to expand our knowledge of their procedures with the end goal of improving our own.
During the afternoon of the 22nd, HMCS Algonquin’s boarding team boarded the US tanker, USNS Henry J. Kaiser, who was playing the role of the Merchant Vessel, Black Pearl, a container ship known to be harbouring a person of interest (POI) with links to terrorist activity. After obtaining permission from Canadian maritime authorities, HMCS Algonquin’s Naval Boarding Party secured the vessel and conducted a search for the POI. Once POI was located, secured and his identity was confirmed, U.S. National authorities were contacted in order to turnover the custody of the vessel to the United States. Shortly after national maritime authorities had completed the requisite paperwork, USCGC Boutwell was seen charging over the horizon in order to take custody of the Black Pearl and the POI. Algonquin’s Naval Boarding Party officer and his team conducted a thorough turnover of custody to the U.S. Coast Guard.
The following day a similar exercise was conducted to test the ability of the Canadian and Mexican maritime authorities to hand over custody of a vessel in accordance with the NAMSI Letter of Intent. This time it was the Mexican Navy’s turn to conduct the initial boarding on a Canadian flagged vessel once again played by USNS Kaiser. ARM Monasterio conducted the boarding, secured the vessel and in doing so found an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) for which a Mexican Explosive Ordinance Team was dispatched. Once the IED was neutralized, Mexican maritime authorities contacted our maritime authorities to commence the transfer of custody of the vessel to Canadian control. Algonquin’s Boarding Party proceeded to board the Canadian Flagged vessel and the Mexican Navy transferred custody of the secured vessel to Canada thus ending the exercise.
Many lessons were learned in this two day exercise and a healthy appreciation was gained for both the American and Mexican way of conducting boarding operations. This exercise stressed the importance of interoperability between our North American partners and the fostering of these relationships will be key in facilitating future efforts against common threats to our collective security.
Article by Lieutenant (N) Mike Ronaldson
Naval Boarding Party Officer HMCS Algonquin
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