Piracy, terrorism, illegal immigration, and environmental disasters are some of the issues that threaten maritime traffic. These threats may affect countries’ crucial activities, such as the import and export of cargo by sea. The objective of multinational exercise Bell Buoy is to work jointly to better understand what happens in the maritime environment and to combat these threats.
The Pacific and Indian Ocean Shipping Working Group (PACIOSWG) conducts this annual training. The 2019 edition took place in Australian waters, May 6-17, bringing together about 80 service members from the navies of Australia, Brazil, Ecuador, Fiji, France, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Bell Buoy simulates scenarios that incorporate new threats to which participants must respond. The doctrine of Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS) regulates all activities. The maritime traffic naval control doctrine, developed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is used as a reference to update doctrines PACIOSWG member countries adopt.
“The exercise was designed specifically to promote the practice of NCAGS’ processes and policies at tactical and operational levels,” said Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese) Commander Fábio Pereira Moraes, who heads the Maritime Security Section of the Integrated Maritime Security Center. The institution is part of the MB structure and collects navigation security and maritime protection data.
Brazil participated in Bell Buoy as an observer since 2005, and actively participates in the exercise since 2012. In the 2019 edition, two officers represented MB. Cmdr. Fábio Moraes participated as part of the General Staff, while Brazilian Navy Lieutenant Commander Leonardo Lopes Pereira da Silva, integrated a team that was sent to ports.
“Bell Buoy is predominantly a ‘command post’ exercise, or a type of exercise in which the forces are simulated, involving the commander, the General Staff, and the communications inside and between the commands, however using real resources,” said Cmdr. Fábio Moraes.
According to the scenario, participants faced a series of threats, such as piracy attacks of increasing intensity which affected the lines of communication, and industry and maritime trade in a fictitious region between the southeast coast of Australia and New Zealand. The goal was to respond, making decisions based on NCAGS doctrine incorporated within a software that simulated the theater of operations.
According to Cmdr. Fábio Moraes, an array of important information contributes to maritime security in routine activities of each country’s maritime traffic control. “It depends on the type of operation and the expected threat. We can list some characteristics, among others, of the vessels and lines of communications in the region,” said the officer.
The live portion of the training consisted of a group of service members visiting Australian ports to guide the local maritime community.
According to Cmdr. Fábio Moraes, the NCAGS doctrine is designed to avoid the conflict of military operations with maritime traffic, and also seeks to increase local security. The doctrine provides the interface between the commander of military operations and the maritime community, especially commercial vessels and those entities that operate them. “All sources and available resources may and must be used to promote guidance and cooperation with commercial vessels, for instance, with teams sent to the theater of operations,” said the officer.