The 16th annual Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) exercise kicked off on Aug. 21 in Singapore, Brunei, and the Philippines to increase the trust, build information sharing, refine multilateral cooperation skills, and deepen friendships of the 11 participating nations.
Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific (COMWESLOG), said navy officers from South and Southeast Asian countries are engaged in a series of workshops, information exchanges, and boarding operations at sea which run through September 1.
“SEACAT brings nations together for meaningful dialogues, knowledge sharing, and practical training to address common challenges of piracy, sea smuggling, and other illegal activities at sea,” Gabrielson said.
Naval officers from Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore will operate from Singapore’s Multinational Operations and Exercises Centre while personnel from the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, and the United States will operate at Brunei’s Multinational Coordination Center.
On the other hand, the US Coast Guard personnel will conduct boarding workshops in Manila with the Philippine Coast Guard and boarding teams of Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
The sea phase of the exercise includes seven boarding operations across three vessels including the expeditionary fast transport USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3). Boarding teams from multiple nations will train in real-world at-sea environments as a way to understand and develop each other’s boarding tactics, techniques and procedures.
US Navy Capt. Lex Walker said the difference in operation style of countries is the challenge in joint maritime domain exercises.
“Over the 16 iterations of SEACAT, we remain fully committed to developing the mutual trust and proficiency required from each other to increase safety and security and in the maritime environment,” Walker said.
According to COMWESLOG, the annual event started in 2002 as Southeast Asia Cooperation Against Terrorism and was renamed in 2012 to expand the scope of training among navies and coast guards.
Last year, liaison officers who attended SEACAT gathered reports of suspected vessels in Singapore, Malacca, the Andaman Sea, and the South China Sea. The naval officers then developed response plans and conducted field exercises.