A team of seven naval officers from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and the Argentine Naval Prefecture bolstered their knowledge of maritime security to conduct naval control operations. The International Naval Vessel Traffic Service Officer Training Course (OCONTRAM, in Spanish) took place at the Argentine Navy's Manuel Belgrano National Nautical School, in Buenos Aires, March 12–23, 2018.
“The officers received training in maritime traffic guidance, support and defense, as well as on the Law of the Sea and agreements of the merchant shipping and fishing world,” Commander Sergio Daniel Hoj, chief of operations of the Argentine Navy’s Operations Control Local Command told Diálogo. “The theoretical and practical instruction provided every year by the Navy's Maritime Transit Naval Command is open to all countries worldwide.”
The training encompasses current knowledge and procedures used to manage maritime transit security and protection operations during times of crisis or armed conflict. Additionally, it is part of the preparation stage for the Inter-American Maritime Traffic Defense Coordination Plan—to which most of the Western Hemisphere's naval forces belong—that seeks to provide courses to standardize instruction among naval forces.
Over two weeks, students specialized in message preparation and learned to operate the Atria message encryption system, which has secure communication features. They also trained in the naval mercantile shipping information system, to prepare for crisis situations, while keeping up with each of their areas of responsibility.
“We identify how transfer of information occurs between the various Vessel Traffic Service organizations and between countries,” Chilean Navy Ensign Alejandro León Solari, chief of the Maritime Security and Operations Department of the Iquique Maritime Command told Diálogo. “All the students presented our ways of working within our institutions, and we identified relationships and drew comparisons.”
A direct impact
The graduates gained the tools to interact at the port level and with a general staff, between the maritime community and the naval forces that provide security and defense for maritime traffic when regional threats arise. “The knowledge gained will allow officers to make use of information [procedures] regarding seagoing vessels, navigable waterways, and [military, merchant, fishing and scientific] ports,” Cmdr. Hoj said.
“Interacting and comparing vessel traffic service work methods between countries helps us improve our procedures and perform better in international exercises,” Ensign León said. “The key to naval control of maritime traffic is to maintain good relations between countries. This contributes to better transfer of information, leading to better control of the maritime theater.”
OCONTRAM is essential for maritime control institutions. “Without a doubt, coordination and cooperation between the various organizations enable better security results in the South Atlantic and interior navigable waters, which are our areas of responsibility, Cmdr. Hoj said.
In addition to the academic challenges the course presents, other challenges arise in assimilating the different technologies and work methods that vary among countries. “This course [strengthens] the efforts of each of the naval forces and resolves issues that do not recognize borders, issues that are regional, even global, rather than national,” Cmdr. Hoj concluded.