MANAMA, BAHRAIN, Nov. 4, 2019 — The U.S. Navy has surged critical support to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command to provide expanded interface between military and merchant shipping as part of the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC).
The IMSC is a multinational maritime effort created to increase monitoring and surveillance of critical waterways, safeguard freedom of navigation and ensure maritime security in order to enable the free flow of commerce in the Middle East Region. This maritime security framework enables nations to provide overwatch to their flagged vessels while taking advantage of the cooperation of participating nations for coordination and enhanced maritime domain awareness.
Critical to the success of the IMSC is knowing where merchant vessels are, where they are going and when they will arrive there. For U.S.-flagged merchant vessels, that information is provided to the IMSC by U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS).
“With a surge of manpower from the U.S. Navy Reserve’s Strategic Sealift Officer Reserve Force, NCAGS has rapidly evolved from a small cadre of merchant marine advisors to a robust watch team providing 24-hour monitoring of and communication with commercial shipping across the region,” said Capt. Charles “Buck” McDermott, NCAGS Officer in Charge.
NCAGS is made up entirely of U.S. Navy reservists, many whom are professional merchant mariners and who leverage their civilian expertise and experience when they report for Navy duty.
“Our relationships with ship masters and company security officers is critical,” said Cmdr. Todd Rennie, NCAGS Assistant Officer in Charge. “It helps that many of our officers are merchant mariners themselves or work in the maritime industry ashore in their civilian jobs. They understand merchant ship operations and, often enough, a member of our NCAGS team personally knows someone on the ship or working for the company ashore. You just can’t build that kind of connection overnight.”
On any given day, NCAGS monitors over 5,500 ships in the region, including 100 or more U.S. merchant vessels. This increased awareness enables all U.S. and international partners to deter and expose malign activity in the maritime domain.