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USCG Team Advances Maritime Safety In Palau
by U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Sara Muir
January 10, 2024

In a critical effort to enhance maritime safety, a team from U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam (FM/SG) led a series of Safe Boating Workshops in the Republic of Palau December 26-30, 2023.

December 27, 2023 - Petty Officer 1st Class Joel Vela discusses boating operations with Palau Rangers during a boating safety class. The U.S. Coast Guard regularly works with partners in the Republic of Palau; this series of events was part of Pacific Partnership 2024, which is now in its 19th iteration, the largest multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the region. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam photos.)
December 27, 2023 - Petty Officer 1st Class Joel Vela discusses boating operations with Palau Rangers during a boating safety class. The U.S. Coast Guard regularly works with partners in the Republic of Palau; this series of events was part of Pacific Partnership 2024, which is now in its 19th iteration, the largest multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the region. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam photos.)

The initiative, part of a broader commitment to regional safety and cooperation, involved hands-on training and donating vital safety equipment to local boaters. The workshops coincided with the USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) visit to Palau, marking a significant contribution to the Pacific Partnership efforts.

Throughout the week, the FM/SG team, comprising two marine science technicians, a maritime law enforcement specialist, and the FM/SG Compact of Free Association (COFA) liaison officer, traveled across four Palauan states. They engaged with Palau State Rangers, fishers, and boaters, focusing on practical and effective maritime safety measures. The FM/SG CG team worked with Civic Action team Palau, currently crewed by the U.S. Army engineers and a U.S. Navy aviation rescue swimmer, to present and deliver whistles, safety checklists, and signaling mirrors to attendees in Ngaraad, Airai, Ngchesar and Ngarchelong states.

Highlighting the importance of these workshops, Lt. Anna Maria Vaccaro, the COFA liaison officer and team lead, emphasized the lifesaving potential of such knowledge and equipment.

“Any information or equipment that we can provide has the chance to save a life while out at sea. As much as we can teach our Palauan neighbors, we can always learn from them, too. We listened to a story from a fisherman who was stranded at sea for three days after the propeller fell off his outboard motor. When he spotted a plane flying overhead, he poured gasoline into the water and lit it on fire to get the plane’s attention. He was rescued six hours later.”

While the U.S. Coast Guard does not advocate pouring fuel into the water, the event truly showcases the endurance and creativity of Pacific Island fishers. Gasoline is a very light fuel oil that evaporates quickly and, in this case, was reportedly consumed by the fire.

The FM/SG team capitalized on their visit by engaging in recruitment activities. They met with a future U.S. Coast Guard recruit slated to attend basic training in early 2024 for a physical fitness test. They also discussed U.S. Coast Guard Academy life and application processes with Palauan high school seniors, fostering future maritime leadership.

This visit strengthened maritime safety practices and further cemented the enduring partnership between the U.S. Coast Guard and Palau. As a next step, the U.S. Coast Guard plans a multi-agency search and rescue exercise in Palau in 2024, continuing to solidify this crucial alliance.

About U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam

The U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam team focuses on maritime safety, security, and stewardship in Oceania. With a primary presence in Guam and Saipan and over 300 members across Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the team maintains a strong U.S. presence in the Micronesia sub-region and adjacent areas, closely tied to local communities.

About Pacific Partnership

The Pacific Partnership, initiated following the devastating December 2004 Southeast Asia tsunami, has transformed from a direct care mission to one emphasizing partnership enhancement through expert exchanges and civil-military collaboration. Aboard the Mercy, the mission team will visit the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia. In each location, engineering, medicine, and disaster response specialists will collaborate with local experts on civic-action projects, community health initiatives, medical symposiums, and disaster response training, reinforcing regional resilience and cooperation.

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