By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
The Federated States of Micronesia has authorized the U.S. Coast Guard to patrol its waters under an augmented pact ostensibly aimed at keeping China at bay. “The expanded shiprider agreement signed by the respective law enforcement authorities allows for remote coordination of authorities, and so results in enabling the U.S. to act on behalf of the FSM in combatting illicit maritime activity and to strengthen international security operations,” the FSM government said in a statement. The agreement was signed by FSM Justice Secretary Joses R. Gallen and Capt. Nicholas R. Simmons, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia Sector, during a Joint Committee Meeting held on Guam on Oct. 10. The FSM delegation was led by Vice President Aren B. Palik. The FSM government said the “first-of-its-kind” expanded shiprider agreement “is intended to further operationalize, strengthen and modernize” the existing maritime pact between the FSM and the U.S.
"This historic agreement significantly strengthens presence and enforcement options to counter illicit maritime activity in the region. It is only made possible by the deep and abiding relationships and respect between the Coast Guard and our FSM partners," Simmons said.
"FSM has the 14th largest EEZ in the world and only two patrol boats. Our crews spend ample time within the region but getting a shiprider aboard our vessels can be a real logistical challenge," he added.
Simmons said the agreement dramatically increases the capacity of available resources to act on FSM's behalf to protect their living marine resources and sovereignty.
“Traditionally, the shiprider agreement between the FSM and the United States resulted in actual FSM law enforcement officers literally riding on a U.S. Coast Guard vessel for a period of time, so that in the event the U.S. Coast Guard vessel—while in the FSM’s waters— detected activity that is contrary to FSM law, the FSM law enforcement officer on board would have the capacity to suspend the potential criminal activity and apprehend any potential suspects,” the FSM government said. FSM officials said the shiprider agreement has been “essential toward securing the FSM’s borders and maintaining security across the nation's vast ocean territory.” Officials expressed confidence that the U.S. Coast Guard's expanded role “will dramatically reduce illegal, unreported, and unregulated and other activity that threatens the FSM’s security and stability.”
Shiprider efforts enable Pacific island nation partners to enforce their laws and regulations using U.S. assets.
“We’re thrilled to cooperate with our Federated States of Micronesia partners on this initiative that will reap benefits for FSM’s economic, environmental, and national security in the maritime domain,” said Alissa Bibb, chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Kolonia.
The U.S. Coast Guard regularly exercises 13 bilateral fisheries law enforcement agreements with countries throughout the Pacific islands.
“Kind words, kind actions and kind intentions are good enough for the great majority of us who abide by the rule of law and see the value to our society and our planet in working together in harmony,” Palik said in a statement following the signing ceremony.
“For those who don’t abide by the rule of law, however, and threaten our economic and food security by illegally fishing in our waters, this expanded shiprider agreement will help to ensure FSM’s security, and continues to contribute to our vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific and peaceful Blue Pacific continent.”