Coasties from Coast Guard Station Bellingham, Wash., and members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police participate in Shiprider familiarization. (Jordan Akiyama/Coast Guard)
An agreement between the U.S. Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will allow mixed American/Canadian crews to pursue suspects across borders in the Pacific Northwest.
The Coast Guard signed the “Shiprider” agreement with RCMP’s British Columbia Division on June 17. It will enable Shiprider patrols, with armed crews made up of both Coast Guardsmen and RCMP, to regularly patrol the Canada-U.S. maritime border. The Shiprider agreement is formally known as the Integrated Cross-border Maritime Law Enforcement program; routine patrols under a similar program began in the Great Lakes region the weekend of June 22.
Pacific Northwest Shiprider patrols will have both Coasties and Mounties aboard. Service members from the nation in which a pursuit ends will take the lead when it comes to law enforcement, said Cmdr. Dale Bateman, chief of the enforcement branch at District 13, which encompasses the Pacific Northwest.
“This is a partnership between friends,” he said. “There is no loss of autonomy or sovereignty.”
The patrols are targeting illicit activity such as the smuggling of drugs, goods and people, said Lt. Regina Caffrey, a Coast Guard spokeswoman.
The countries have had similar temporary agreements in the area — one was signed during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The latest one is permanent, Bateman said.
District 9, which covers the Great Lakes area, signed its regional standard operating procedures June 18, said Lt. David Connor, a District 9 spokesman.
Both Coast Guardsmen and RCMP will be required to attend a course at the Coast Guard’s Maritime Law Enforcement Academy in South Carolina. About 30 Coasties in District 13 have taken the course, Bateman said, and at least one patrol had been out in the week since the agreement, he said.