The National Maritime Intelligence-Integration Office (NMIO) recently facilitated a three-day maritime information sharing exercise with 13 participating and supporting organizations in the Chesapeake Bay. The overarching objective was to achieve a more collaborative and effective vessel tracking and alerting services for maritime law enforcement agencies. Participating organizations from the Chesapeake Bay maritime community of interest included Coast Guard Sector Baltimore, Coast Guard Station Saint Inigoes, Calvert County Sheriff's Office, Maryland Natural Resources Police (MNRP), and Dominion Power-Cove Point LNG Facility. Supporting organizations included NMIO, the Naval Research Lab, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Integrated Maritime Domain Enterprise (IMDE)/ Coastal Surveillance System (CSS) Program Office, and the US Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center-Pacific.

The exercise was centered on sharing maritime sensor data, from MNRP’s Maritime Law Enforcement Information Network (MLEIN), via DHS’ IMDE/CSS, with Federal, state and local maritime law enforcement agencies. The shared sensor data supported natural resource and critical infrastructure protection missions of the participating organizations. The data sharing also enabled the testing and evaluation of automated alerting to provide warning to participating organizations on maritime-based threats.

“It was rewarding to see over 12 months of planning and system development come to a successful finish. Rear Admiral Train USN (Director, NMIO) and I are very thankful for the support of the organizations that came together to make this exercise possible. The NMIO exercise represents what can be accomplished throughout the global maritime community of interest regarding maritime information sharing,” stated Captain Mike Bee, Deputy Director, NMIO.

The exercise began on 28 September with activities focused on training for users/operators on IMDE/ CSS and the kick-off meeting for the 13 organizations involved. On 29 September, activities centered on a counter poaching scenario in the vicinity of Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, MD. MNRP received alerts on simulated poachers intruding into an artificial oyster sanctuary. The specialized automated alerts applied to this scenario were developed to detect distinct poaching practices. 

On 30 September, exercise operations were spread out at several locations, including Coast Guard Sector Baltimore, Dominion Power Cove Point LNG Facility and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plan, with a focus on critical infrastructure protection. Three scenarios were exercised: the escort of a LNG tanker, and unauthorized intrusions into the maritime security zones adjacent to the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, and the Cove Point LNG Facility.

Information sharing has been an integral component of MLEIN’s culture, since its inception a few years ago. MLEIN’s first director, Tim Bowman, established that culture, stating, “We took to heart the idea that sharing could bring about joint success. From the start, we realized that information sharing was the best way to effect coordination.”

That information sharing culture exists today within MLEIN, as Ms. Irish M. Sirmons, MLEIN Program Manager, stated,

"MLEIN, the Maritime Law Enforcement Information Network, is an ever evolving work in progress. DHS' technical demonstration and NMIO's exercise helped the MNRP gain more insight into MLEIN's operational viability. Providing the maritime surveillance data used for information sharing between all levels of government showed MLEIN's current capabilities and potential for use as an information sharing model outside of Maryland.”

It was that search for a working maritime information sharing model that drove NMIO to facilitate this groundbreaking Federal, state, local and industry-based exercise. The result being a cohesive joint maritime law enforcement response effort amongst Federal, state and local organizations was created and tested.

News Source: 

Christopher Hickey, Information Sharing Action Officer, Director of National Intelligence’s National Maritime Intelligence-Integration Office, via the the Information Sharing Environment blog