By Petty Officer Etta Smith
“Everyone remain calm! We are the U.S. Coast Guard and we’re here to conduct a security boarding,” a law-enforcement officer announces as his teams rush aboard an elegant, white cruise ship. The teams: Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Teams from Boston and New Orleans. The vessel: the Spirit of Boston, an upscale, commercial, dinner cruise ship nestled in the heart of metropolitan Boston.
This exercise was part of quarterly, week-long training for MSST’s throughout the Coast Guard. The final day of training was held aboard the privately-owned commercial ship. The ship granted the law enforcement team’s access to an authentic environment so they could implement learned tactics in a realistic setting. The law enforcement teams, MSSTs, are Coast Guard members with specialized skills and training to carry out anti-terrorism and maritime law enforcement operations in support of homeland security.
“They (the MSST’s) were the nicest people you could ever meet. Each one shook my hand and thanked me individually at the end of the day,” explained Sean McGrath, Operations Manager Spirit of Boston. “They even cleaned and vacuumed the inside of the ship before they left,” added McGrath as he chuckled.
The training team was so flexible by working around our cruise schedule; this exercise was no intrusion to our business,” said McGrath. “The team even came in earlier than planned so they could depart ahead of schedule to accommodate a cruise we had scheduled later that night,” he said.
The Coast Guard benefits from this real-world training by elevating their crew’s familiarity with various commercial ships.
“Industry vessels are where we work. We have to ‘train like we fight,’ ” said MSST 91112 Training Officer Lt. j.g. Dan Clifford, based in New Orleans. Clifford noted the valuable rapport built between vessel staff and the Coast Guard during these training operations.
While this training exercise was beneficial to the Coast Guard and unobtrusive to the Spirit of Boston, McGrath expressed the need for similar partnerships to be established throughout the country.
Gary Frommelt, Vice President of Marine Operations for Entertainment Cruises, parent company for the Spirit of Boston, said, “These training exercises enhance maritime security in the port and in the fleet. We need to make these partnerships in every port.”
Entertainment Cruises, LLC, operates 23 harbor cruise ships in seven cities throughout the country. Frommelt said, “We, on the industry side, are open to prospective training operations and are ready to support them.”
This exercise ran so smoothly aboard the Spirit of Boston, future training opportunities are being discussed, McGrath said. “This contact with local security agencies is essential. We have begun discussing possible air insertion and water-based boardings during the ship’s slower seasons,” said McGrath.
By raising the industries’ awareness of the Coast Guard’s need for diverse training platforms, hopefully new industry vessels will join in this vital partnership for homeland security, concluded McGrath.
For more information on how your commercial ship can partner with the Coast Guard in support of Homeland Security, contact Lt. Paul Frantz, Operations Officer for MSST Boston (617) 227-1828 or [email protected]