Maritime forces from the US, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, have started the annual multilateral exercise South East Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT), at the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) Multinational Operations and Exercises Centre (MOEC).
Aimed at improving regional cooperation to deal with mutual maritime security challenges such as piracy, smuggling and other illegal activities at sea, the 13th SEACAT exercise involves maritime search and rescue scenarios, as well as participation from local coast guards.
US 7th Fleet Task Force 73 commander rear admiral Charlie Williams said: "As maritime nations that depend on the free flow of commerce at sea, we share an interest in addressing these challenges and recognise that none of us has enough resources to do it alone."
As part of the five-day command-post exercise (CPX), liaison officers (LNO) from the participating nations will get simulated reports of suspicious vessels in the Straits of Singapore and Malacca, the Andaman Sea or the South China Sea.
After sharing facts from all available sources, including Singapore's Information Fusion Centre (IFC), Malaysia's International Maritime Bureau (IMB) and the Philippines' Coast Watch System, the LNOs will advance and deploy response plans during a parallel field training exercise (FTX).
During the exercise, participating aircraft and vessels will investigate and perform on-scene boarding as required.
Williams added: "Coordination between navies, coast guards and marine police is a big part of getting after maritime security challenges, especially those that overlap with international and territorial waters."
In addition to personnel from the RSN's Maritime Security Task Force and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), the exercise involves patrol vessels from the RSN, patrol boats from the Singapore Police Coast Guard and a maritime patrol aircraft from the Republic of Singapore Air Force.
The US Navy is represented by staff from Commander, Task Force 73, DESRON 7, the guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108), fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) and a P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft.
US Navy Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7 commodore captain Fred Kacher said: "Exercises like this help to strengthen partnerships, so we are ready to respond as one team to challenges whenever they arise in this incredibly important maritime region."
Image: The RSN's Maritime Security Task Force executing a compliant boarding mission during the 13th SEACAT exercise. Photo: courtesy of the Government of Singapore.