Multinational Naval Exercise Focuses on Fight against Transnational Threats

Multinational Naval Exercise Focuses on Fight against Transnational Threats

By Andréa Barretto/Diálogo
July 06, 2017

Piracy; trafficking of drugs, arms, and people; illegal immigration; and terrorism are considered some of the new threats to maritime security throughout the world. In order to share experiences about confronting this international problem, which affects nations to different degrees and in different ways, representatives of 12 foreign navies, in addition to Brazil’s, met for five days in Rio de Janeiro to ponder and apply solutions to real cases but in simulated situations. The exercise, called “Bell Buoy,” is held annually under the direction of the Pacific and Indian Ocean Shipping Working Group (PACIOS WG). The Brazilian Navy (MB, per its Portuguese acronym) has been a member of the group since 2012. This was the first time that the event included the participation of 30 Brazilian service members and 23 members from foreign navies, including those of the United States, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, and Ecuador. The activities took place May 8th–12th in the War Games Center, a unit of the Navy War College, which has 16 gaming rooms where the crisis-case simulations were performed. Because it was essentially a simulation exercise, naval assets were not mobilized. “We created situations with a navigation accident, port infrastructure sabotage, vessel hijacking, seizure of an oil-production platform, environmental pollution, piracy, immigration crisis, fighting an infectious disease epidemic, and terrorism,” said Brazilian Navy Captain Paulo Renato Rohwer Santos, the commander of Maritime Traffic Naval Control (COMCONTRAM, per its Portuguese acronym), the MB organization that planned “Bell Buoy 2017.” International doctrine Given the circumstances, the proposal was to apply the doctrine of Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS), together with measures specified by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to fight the so-called new threats. “Bell Buoy is the successor to the exercises of the Naval Control of Shipping (NCS) doctrine, performed since 1951 in the context of the Cold War, and the result of an agreement signed between the U.S. Navy and the Royal Australian Navy,” explained Brazilian Navy Rear Admiral Flávio Augusto Viana Rocha, the director of the Navy’s Social Communications Center. The transition from the NCS doctrine to the NCAGS doctrine occurred when a shift was perceived from a scenario of allied states acting against a common and powerful threat to a regional scenario involving asymmetrical, non-governmental threats, i.e., “threats made by agents of clandestine groups (not necessarily associated with a state), often with simple techniques and with huge ideological appeal,” Rear Adm. Rocha clarified. Facing the simulated problems, the participants were also given the opportunity to learn and employ the protocols established by the Brazilian governmental agencies, bearing in mind that “Bell Buoy” was being carried out in this country. The solutions that the participating groups devised were applied virtually in the naval war simulator system. Through its graphic interface, the simulators portrayed various aspects of the created scenarios, the logistical capacity used, the results of engagements between units, the means available, geographic information, and climate conditions. With this, the participating players could collect the data necessary to support their decisions. Terrorism on the sea Terrorism is not a threat present in Brazilian waters today, according to Capt. Rohwer. Therefore, he says, considering this hypothesis, MB foresees a response through an operation to guarantee law and order, authorized by the president’s office, as determined by the Federal Constitution. However, in many countries, terrorist threats in the water are a reality. Capt. Rohwer pointed out that “the Brazilian Navy is closely monitoring the evolution of NCAGS and its highly effective results, mainly in the Horn of Africa (coast of Somalia and neighboring countries) and the Gulf of Aden, with regard to piracy and terrorism.” The observation of what happens in the world, combined with an awareness of national specifics, helped in devising terrorist situations that challenged the service personnel participating in “Bell Buoy 2017.” Among the events that take place, the following stand out: the infiltration of armed terrorists on a passenger ship, the attempt by extremists on board a speedboat to board a merchant ship, and the attempt by terrorists to board and damage an oil-production platform. All of this would hypothetically occur in Brazilian jurisdictional waters. Based on NCAGS doctrine and their own experiences, participants offered alternative solutions for each of the problems presented. “For us, any experience brought by those who practice NCAGS in real situations against terrorism is extremely valuable,” said Capt. Rohwer. For him, this exchange is one of the aspects that makes the “Bell Buoy” exercise so beneficial. “The importance of participating as an effective member of PACIOS WG, as well as the “Bell Buoy” exercises, lies fundamentally in the unparalleled opportunity to closely monitor developments in doctrine also allowing us to adapt their best practices to our doctrine, when identified as appropriate for our situation.”
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