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The Coast Guard and Maritime Chokepoints

By CIMSEC[1] 2017-04-20 21:41:48

[By Victoria Castleberry]

The need for security of international maritime trade has never been greater as over 90 percent of internationally traded goods are transported via maritime shipping and 70 percent of maritime shipped goods are containerized cargo. Most trade vessels are funneled through one or more of six strategic chokepoints around the world: the Suez and Panama Canals, Strait of Malacca, Strait of Bab el-Mandeb, Strait of Gibraltar, and the Strait of Hormuz. Perhaps the most unique of these chokepoints is the Strait of Hormuz, and the presence of six 110 Coast Guard Cutters in its vicinity. Coast Guard presence provides what no other U.S. asset can to this hostile region: provide security without an escalation of arms and the facilitation of transnational cooperation through various interagency programs. Expanding this model of strategic deterrence by increasing the U.S. Coast Guard s presence internationally, the United States will be capable of protecting our most precious passages, promote international cooperation, and give the U.S. an advantage in determining how the international maritime waterways are governed. According to the Energy Information Administration, the Strait of Hormuz exports approximately 20 percent of the global oil market and a total of 35 percent of all sea-based trade. With such a valuable resource transported through a small area, the necessity of security for this strait is clearly essential to the international market. Unfortunately, tensions within the region are rising and the risk of port closure, piracy, and military interference are all real possibilities that the global market may face when transporting through this region. In an effort to counter potential mishaps the United States has already utilized the Coast Guard to provide an authoritative yet non-threatening presence in the Persian Gulf that over time has proven effective. Currently the Coast Guard spearheads several programs in Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORCESWA). Programs in the region specialize in the training of Coast Guards from around the world to bolster international maritime security cooperation. These programs help to support Article 43 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) agreement which requires user and bordering states to cooperate for the necessity of navigation and safety for vessels transiting. This specific call to duty for the user and bordering states by UNCLOS is a mission set specialized by the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard is currently operating in Freedom of Navigation Operations, escorting of military vessels, hosts an International Port Security Liaison Officer program, and possesses a Middle East Training Team responsible for conducting operations in conjunction with foreign militaries.

As previously stated, the Coast Guard currently offers programs which work toward international cooperation for maritime security. Programs offered in the Persian Gulf include the International Port Security Liaison Officer (IPSLO) program and the Middle East Training Team (METT). These programs act as partnerships between the U.S. Coast Guard and foreign militaries to build up and sustain their own Coast Guards, as well as improve their own port security to facilitate trade between all nations. The IPSLO program allows for a sound foundation from which countries can build their own domestic maritime security system. This foundation is built through the education and enforcement of the international codes. Other programs such as the METT regularly participate in theater security cooperation engagements with foreign navies and coast guards throughout the region. These teams focus on teaching other coast guards and navies proper procedure for LE boarding and smuggling interception. These are the programs which need support to protect maritime chokepoints globally. Lieutenant Jared Korn, USCG, was the Operations Officer aboard USCGC Adak, one of the six cutters deployed to PATFORCESWA. When asked about situations experienced while deployed within the Persian Gulf region, LT Korn described instances where Iranian vessels would approach the cutter and eventually depart. LT Korn to explained that in whole, the U.S. Coast Guard is an internationally recognizable symbol for aid, security, and is notably less threatening than a grey-hulled naval vessel within the Persian Gulf region. The presence of the U.S. Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf has been an effective tool in deterrence of hostiles within the region. This model can and should be applied to the other strategic chokepoints around the world. In 2014 the Panama Canal was faced with 44 reported piracy attacks, the Suez Canal is similarly plagued with piracy, off the coast of Somalia pirates have collected ransoms for over 10,000 dollars.12 Other strategic chokepoints such as the Strait of Gibraltar, Strait of Malacca, and Strait of Bab el-Mandeb would also benefit from the presence of the U.S. Coast Guard within their regions. Although these regions are not experiencing as severe of a threat to their maritime trade route imminently, prevention-based presence could avoid severe consequences of trade shutdown in these strategic chokepoints. The best way to do this is to grow the U.S. Coast Guard s patrol craft fleet internationally as well as the training programs which aid in the diplomatic relations and sovereignty of nations security.

Although the solution of expanding the Coast Guard s mission internationally is possible, it does have two potential obstacles. The first obstacle is public perception, the second, asset availability. Public perception of law enforcement today is already at an all-time low. By allowing our only armed service with law enforcement capabilities to shift its mission internationally the United States runs the risk of the American people s perceptions shifting as well. The positive perception by the American people of the Coast Guard is at risk of being diminished due to the perception of war-like actions by our domestic maritime law enforcement. More clearly, however, is the logistics. As the smallest branch of the armed services the U.S. Coast Guard accomplishes its mission set with just a fraction of the assets, personnel, and budget as her Department of Defense counterparts. Expanding the mission set of the Coast Guard will only spread these resources more thin without congressional budgetary aid to gradually build up international forces overseas.

The solution to the problem of securing strategic maritime passageways is a complex one. The solution cannot escalate tensions, must facilitate international cooperation, be non-intrusive, and help bolster nations forces. In many of the strategic chokepoints around the world, tensions run high. The necessity for diplomatic operations makes the Coast Guard the best choice to accomplish this mission. Expanding the United States Coast Guard s assets and programs internationally will allow for these requirements to be met and give the United States a strategic advantage in the control of international maritime security.

Victoria Castleberry is a junior at the Coast Guard Academy. She hopes to become a Deck Watch Officer and drive big white boats somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line and attend law school.

This article appears courtesy of CIMSEC and may be found in its original form (including footnotes and references) at[2].

The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.


  1. ^ CIMSEC (
  2. ^ (

Dreger, Hastings drilled on alleged oil spill

Alliance City Council members had plenty of questions remaining regarding the Westville Lake situation, especially in conjunction with an alleged hazmat incident on March 7

During Monday’s regular council meeting, Lawrence Dordea, R-3, questioned an incident related to seven audio files The Alliance Review obtained from the Alliance Police Department’s dispatch center, which began with an initial call shortly after 5 p.m. from Alliance Fire Chief Jason Hunt, asking them to contact Water Distribution Foreman Chet Jones on behalf of Superintendent Doug Hastings, whose cellphone went dead in mid-call when reporting an alleged spill. According to that audio recording, Hunt relayed that Hastings was out at Westville Lake campground when a hydraulic line broke and released oil into the lake. “Can you please tell Chet that I’ve notified North Georgetown Fire Department, and I will call the EPA as soon as I get off the phone with you?”

Within four minutes, an Alliance police dispatcher successfully contacted Jones, who apparently relayed he was now with Hastings, though it is unclear if they were at that scene or another location. She relayed, “(The chief) already called North Georgetown Fire Department and is calling the EPA.”

Jones responded, “We need to talk to Jason. Is there a possibility you can call him and give him my number?”

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To the dispatcher’s inquiry if Jones knew what happened, specifically “(Hastings) hit a hydraulic line out there,” the foreman responded. “I am sitting here with Doug right now … Doug said maybe you can get a hold of Jason real quick before he calls the EPA.”

However, in the meantime, Hunt had already called the EPA before Alliance dispatch was contacted by Sebring police, which dispatches for North Georgetown Fire Department. According to Sebring dispatch, North Georgetown responders arrived on scene at Westville Lake, found no water distribution personnel there and approximately 30 to 50 feet of sheen on the lake courtesy of a nearby creek. Capt. Rob Hardy of North Georgetown Fire Department told Alliance police dispatch approximately 40 minutes into the incident that they were going to try and “dam it up .. to get the oil (from) running into the lake and contact (their) hazmat team,” again stressing that they needed employees — and possibly Hastings — out there at the scene.

A check of timesheets acquired by The Alliance Review for March 7 show that in addition to Hastings, who worked 11 1/2 hours, three employees (Jones, Dana Bericchia and Charlie Vance Jr.) noted overtime due to “stay over for Westville Lake issue.” However, communications between Hunt and Alliance dispatch only acknowledged the presence of Hastings and Jones. In response to a question from Council, Hastings said he was not the driver of the backhoe during the incident.

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A water distribution office employee confirmed that water distribution employees typically work four 10-hour days per week between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. On March 7, both Bericchia and Vance recorded 2 1/2 hours overtime each, while Jones, whom Hastings had been trying to reach per Hunt’s 5:01 p.m. call, tallied 1 1/4 hours of overtime. Dordea had several questions for city Safety-Service Director Michael Dreger, including why an audio recording appeared to imply that Hastings tried to stop Hunt from contacting the EPA. Dreger disputed Dordea’s interpretation of the dialogue, saying, “I don’t believe that it was what you heard indicated there.”

In an effort to clarify the issue before the council meeting, Dordea said he contacted the Ohio EPA for the report, which allegedly acknowledged another “chief,” Hastings, as a contact in addition to Hunt, who reported the incident.

Dreger told Dordea that he wasn’t sure how the EPA had made such an assumption, adding that he didn’t “believe Doug Hastings identified himself as a fire chief and I don’t know why anyone would accuse him of that.”

Dreger told Jim Edwards, R-at large, that city employees contained the spill themselves, utilizing some equipment stashed at Walborn Reservoir. “Basically the volume was low enough, there was nothing substantive there,” Dreger said. Dordea then inquired about Hastings’ allegedly not having an Ohio driver’s license, since Hastings drives a city-owned vehicle and is listed on the city’s insurance policy as a supervisor. Dreger told Dordea he was unsure about that the license issue, but Hastings verified he does not have an Ohio driver’s license. Dordea then responded to Dreger, “Again, isn’t this a little sloppy, Mike?

“We sit up here and get water reports all the time. However, we don’t hear about the hazmat situation at Westville Lake, and we don’t hear that … (our) water superintendent does not live in Ohio If he lives in Ohio, then he has an Ohio driver’s license, Mike. You cannot be here more than two months and have a Florida driver’s license. That’s the law,” Dordea, a former Alliance police chief, said. Dordea said the city’s policy manual requires employees to have an Ohio driver’s license, alleging that Hastings would be in violation of that.

In addition to answering questions about upgrades to the Westville Lake property and the hiring of a private security guard, Dreger also informed council that he was to meet Tuesday with Westville Lake residents at the skating rink on U.S. Route 62.

No new information has been made available regarding the status of the Westville Lake Spillway despite the expectation of a report to be issued this month from state officials.

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