Multinational maritime drill SEACAT kicks off in Singapore

A nine-nation maritime domain awareness exercise kicked off in Singapore on August 27.

Illustration: Philippine Naval Special Operations Group conduct Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) aboard USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3) during SEACAT 2017 off Philippines, Aug. 30. 2017. Photo: US Navy

Named Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT), the exercise is aimed at developing a common understanding of what is going on in the maritime environment and how best to operate as an effective unified maritime force.

SEACAT brings sailors and coast guardsmen from Bangladesh, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, US, Thailand and Vietnam together in a series of tailored seminars including a comprehensive visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) workshop in Manila, Philippines led by the US Coast Guard.

The sea phase will include fifteen boarding operations by multiple nations across three vessels designed to provide training opportunities in real-world at-sea environments.

“SEACAT demonstrates the combined commitment of navies, coast guards, law enforcement and other interagency organizations from the US and ASEAN to work side-by-side in ensuring a transparent and inclusive information-sharing architecture where all partner nations, large and small, contribute to maritime domain awareness,” said Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, Commander Task Force 73.

This year will incorporate increasingly complex maritime interdiction scenarios to emphasize ‘real world, real time’ practice. Scenarios will involve sharing information from all available sources including Singapore’s Information Fusion Center (IFC) and Maritime Operations Centers (MOC) in Brunei, Philippines and Thailand. Based on the situation, ships and aircraft from participating navies and coast guards including the US Navy’s P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft will investigate and conduct at-sea boardings as necessary.

Participants will also utilize the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIXS) to communicate and share information through secure channels. A global multinational information sharing initiative, CENTRIXS enables partner nations to communicate in real-time during complex exercises such as SEACAT.

“We all need to share the same maritime picture so that we can identify and enforce the same maritime laws- rules based order requires maritime domain awareness,” said Tynch.

SEACAT, which began in 2002 under the name “Southeast Asia Cooperation Against Terrorism,” was renamed in 2012 to expand the scope of training among regional navies and coast guards.