Combined naval exercise Viekaren 2023, carried out in Puerto Williams, Chile, saw the deployment of Chilean and Argentine navy units in the waters of the Beagle Channel, at the southern tip, an area shared by both nations. The objective was to increase combined response capabilities in the event of a maritime emergency and to strengthen bonds of trust and communication between both countries.
“Weather conditions during Viekaren 23 were not the best, but they are what we generally have in the area of operation: There was snow and winds of up to 40 knots,” Captain Jaime Jara, commander of the Chilean Navy’s Beagle Naval District, told Diálogo on October 4. “However, we were able to interoperate with adverse weather conditions, further demonstrating the versatility of the Chilean and Argentine navy units.”
Viekaren has been carried out in this area annually since 1999. It is a combined exercise that is part of the mutual confidence-building measures provided for in the 1984 Treaty of Peace and Friendship both nations signed. This edition took place August 22-26.
In each training exercise, interoperability between both forces is tested by means of various operations aimed at increasing the capacity to safeguard human life at sea and to strengthen units’ response capabilities. Due to the fact that maritime transit through the Beagle Channel is frequent during the summer, the training aims to ensure that the exchange of capabilities is effective in the event of emergencies.
Viekaren is conducted alternately by each naval institution, and this year it was the turn of the Argentine Navy, which participated with three speedboats from the Southern Naval Area Speedboat Grouping, under the command of Argentine Navy Captain Jorge Vildoza, chief of staff of the Southern Naval Area.
On the Chilean side, three general service patrol boats belonging to the Beagle Naval District participated, in addition to the Puerto Williams Naval Air Detachment, led by Capt. Jara.
During this training, participants carried out maritime search and rescue exercises, deployment of booms for a pollution spill simulation, towing maneuvers between units, and an aerial medical evacuation of an injured person with a Chilean Navy helicopter, with transfer to a hospital in Ushuaia, Argentina.
Participants also carried out firefighting exercises in surface units, navigations in restricted waters, and simulated the failure of a ship’s hull, which was repaired with a combined diving exercise, among others.
“Our biggest concern of the desired end state of Viekaren 23 that we mapped out with the Argentine Navy was the integrity of our personnel and materiel and that we would not have any real incidents,” said Capt. Jara. “We finished without any injuries or materiel damage, so that objective was 100 percent met.”
“Viekaren also seeks to have coordination procedures and information flow, to cooperate with the transit of ships through the Beagle Channel, whose frequency increased considerably in recent years and is expected to increase in the future,” Guillermo Holzmann, defense analyst and academic at the University of Valparaíso, Chile, told Diálogo. “This exercise creates confidence not only among the navies, but also for the rest of the users of the Beagle Channel, both from other countries and private [users], including all the cruise ships that circulate through that waterway.”
“Relations with the Argentine Navy were outstanding. We were able to develop the exercise without interference. We had good professional discussions and working meetings,” said Capt. Jara. “It’s very enriching to note the professionalism and [to know] that we are prepared to cover any emergency, that we have related materiel and a common language. Viekaren means trust, and that is precisely what we produce between both navies.”
Preparations for Viekaren 2024 are already underway. The objective will be for four units from each navy to participate in the next edition, in addition to air support, such as helicopters, Capt. Jara concluded.