How to board, secure ‘noncompliant’ vessel

By: Calvin D. Cordova June 23,2017 - 10:42 PM

US Navy soldiers conduct a security sweep on BRP Batak during the joint maritime exercise of American and Filipino navies off the seas of Bohol.
CDN PHOTO/LITO TECSON

Boarded by a team of heavily armed US Navy personnel, a rigid-hulled inflatable boat sailed toward the starboard side of a vessel off Bohol Sea.
With their high-powered M4 rifles drawn, eight US Navymen boarded the ship and conducted a security sweep.

Crew members were asked to face the wall with their hands raised. One crew member resisted, but one soldier was quick to tackle him with a headlock. One solider went for the arms and another one, a lady soldier, went for the legs, quickly pinning the hostile crew member on the floor.

The scenes were part of yesterday’s visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) exercise, which was part of the Maritime Training Activity (MTA) “Sama Sama” 2017 participated by Philippine and US Navy troopers.

“The exercise was conducted to enhance our capability when intercepting a noncompliant vessel,” said Lt. Cmdr. Michael J. Volante, executive officer of LC 299 Batak.

During the exercise, PH Navy’s BRP Batak served as the noncompliant vessel that was intercepted by BRP Gregorio del Pilar.

US Navy’s USS Coronado vessel was also in the area.

While the security sweep in the vessel was being done, a PH Navy chopper was hovering to monitor the proceedings, which started at 10:30 a.m. and ended at 11:30 a.m.

Volante explained that VBSS is a routine procedure that is done when a noncompliant vessel is intercepted.

A vessel is deemed noncompliant when it does not respond to “radio challenges.”

“When a vessel does not communicate or reply to radio challenges, that’s the time we conduct the VBBS,” said Volante.

During the VBSS, the navy inspects the vessel’s cargoes, examines the identities of the crew and checks if the vessel has necessary permits from concerned agencies.

Crew members are also frisked to check if they have deadly weapons.

If found out that the vessel or its crew committed some violations, the vessel will be apprehended and escorted to the nearest coastline, said Volante.

Volante said the country’s naval forces has conducted several VBSS exercises, but it was the first time that such activity was done in the Naval Forces Central (Navforcen) area, specifically in the waters off Bohol Sea.

“The exercise was conducted good. We were able to observe how our counterparts in the US do their VBSS,” Volante said.

The higher level of the procedure is called combat board and search wherein the target is hostile.

Volante said apart from the knowledge that the US Navy has imparted, they were also able to observe the US soldiers’ equipment.

“We saw the weapons that they have, their vests. But soon we will have our own similar equipment as part of our modernization program,” Volante said.

After yesterday’s exercise, the US Navy personnel proceeded to the Cebu International Port on board the USS Coronado for today’s closing ceremony of the MTA Sama Sama Exercise at Navforcen Headquarters in Barangay Looc, Lapu-Lapu City.

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