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U.S., Canadian Coast Guard leaders reinvest in Great Lakes stewardship

• Aug 9, 2016 at 12:00 PM

Rear Adm. June E. Ryan, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Ninth District, joined Assistant Commissioner Julie Gascon of the Canadian Coast Guard, Central and Arctic Region on Friday in the midst of annual festivities at the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival to review and sign the binational pollution response agreement.

The pact is the annual update of the operational annex to the bilateral Joint Marine Pollution Contingency Plan between the United States and Canada, commonly referred to as the CANUSLAK Plan.

The Great Lakes are a pristine binational treasure and this ongoing agreement builds on the existing unity of effort through binational collaboration, uniquely positioning our agencies to meet rapidly evolving and complex threats facing our nations by speeding up the sharing of information, equipment and personnel between countries in the event of a cross-border spill.

"We greatly appreciate our close partnership with the Canadian Coast Guard on our shared waterways," said Ryan. "Crews from both countries play a vital role in ensuring the safe movement of cargoes, flood mitigation, search-and-rescue and a unified approach to responding to environmental incidents, and we look forward to further strengthening this partnership in years to come.”

Gascon noted: "Our brave Coast Guard personnel on both sides of the border have a critical role in fostering safe, secure and environmentally-responsible maritime activity on the Great Lakes, Georgian Bay and connecting waterways.”

The CANUSLAK annex of the Joint Marine Pollution Contingency Plan covers the Great Lakes boundary between Canada and the United States, defines the CANUSLAK Joint Response Team, and is regularly tested and improved in an ongoing series of exercises and real-world events like the May 25 exercise in Marysville, Mich., or the May 27 grounding of the motor vessel Roger Blough in Whitefish Bay on Lake Superior.

Environmental stewardship is just one of the multiple mission areas where the collaborative partnership has grown. Similar agreements also exist for search-and-rescue, the coordination of icebreaking operations on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway, and for maritime security.

Maritime security is another mission vital to the United States and Canada much like environmental stewardship. Our shared maritime border requires our cooperation and partnership to strengthen maritime security on our shared waterways. Over the past decade both nations have developed an unparalleled security arrangement, officially named Integrated Cross-border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations, and commonly referred to as Shiprider, which allows for seamless operations in specific areas for both U.S. and Canadian crews to man one vessel and enforce both U.S. and Canadian law at the same time.

These continued partnerships highlight the unique nature of the U.S. Coast Guard as a force with both military and civil authorities. The Coast Guard and our missions are a part of nearly every facet of this nation’s expansive maritime domain. Coast Guard authorities, people and assets are essential to environmental stewardship, national security and economic prosperity.

For more information about the Canadian Coast Guard, visit www.ccg-gcc.gc.ca.

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