PHILIPPINES—Maritime forces from 21 countries in the Indo-Pacific region, including the Philippines, kicked off with the 20thiteration of the Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) in Singapore on Tuesday, August 10.


Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (US Pacific Fleet)

SEACAT is a multilateral exercise aimed to enhance cooperation among Southeast Asian countries and provide mutual support and a common goal to address crises, contingencies, and illegal activities in the maritime domain using standardized tactics, techniques, and procedures.

The 10-day exercises will be broken up into two phases: the Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) seminar which will be conducted virtually, and the sea phase which will be in-person.

According to a statement provided by the United States Pacific Fleet, SEACAT scenarios are designed to encourage countries to use maritime forces to enhance understanding of the operational environment, build capacity for humanitarian support missions, and uphold international laws and norms.

Aside from the United States and the Philippines, also joining the largest iteration are Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, said this year’s SEACAT aims to enhance interoperability among partners in addressing shared maritime security concerns and preserve rules-based international order.

“In this region, the strength of our partnerships matter and our ability and willingness to work together is paramount,” Thomas said.

For the first time since the establishment of the annual training exercise, various international organizations and non-governmental organizations will participate in SEACAT by providing greater understanding of the operational environment through scenario injects designed to simulate real world situations that enhance understanding and adherence to accepted rules, laws, and norms.

Among these organizations are the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), European Union Critical Maritime Route Wider Indian Ocean (CRIMARIO), and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Application of Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) principles ensure respect for principles that align with accepted standards for human rights and fair treatment of women.

As part of the exercise, a maritime operations center is set up at the International Fusion Center in Singapore to serve as a centralized hub for crisis coordination and information sharing in the tracking of contracted merchant vessels simulating suspicious vessels of interests throughout Southeast Asian seas.

Accordingly, countries will work with all available maritime domain awareness (MDA) tools to provide cueing and contact information to another country’s operations center and maritime patrol reconnaissance aircraft or surface assets with the stated goal of enforcing international rules, laws, and norms.

Capt. Tom Ogden, commander of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7 said practicing multilateral, multi-platform intercepts will help Southeast Asian partners prepare for possible real-world engagements in the future.

“The scenarios are designed to encourage countries to work together through maritime domain awareness assets to better understand operations and adherence to international norms,” he said.