HONOLULU — The U.S. Coast Guard, in partnership with U.S. Embassy Koror and with the support of the Department of the Interior, provided further aids-to-navigation infrastructure improvements in the waters of Koror, Palau in late May and early June.
“The exceptional work of the U.S. Coast Guard here in Palau is both long-standing and greatly appreciated. Together with the Government of Palau, the U.S is committed to a free and open Indo Pacific. The assistance provided by USCGC Sequoia – despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic – in servicing and updating the navigation aids in Palau’s waters is an important contribution to our shared commitment to safe and peaceful navigation in the region.” said John Hennessey- Niland, U.S. Ambassador to Palau.
Over the last few weeks, The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sequoia (WLB 215) has established ten new floating aids to navigation known as buoys and established or substantially rehabilitated 43 fixed aids to navigation in Palau’s main shipping channel. This work took place in Toachel Mlengui – the West Passage, Malakal Harbor, where the commercial port is located, and Malakal Pass.
In order to safely conduct these operations in a COVID environment, the Coast Guard and Embassy worked closely with the government of Palau to meet stringent quarantine requirements. Prior to sailing from Guam, the crew of Sequoia sequestered themselves aboard the ship for 14 days before entering Palauan waters. Each of the 50 crew also tested negative for the illness. All precautions were coordinated with and ultimately approved by Palau’s Emergency Operations Committee.
The navigation aids exist at various points along the coast and navigable waterways as markers and guides to enable mariners to determine at all times their exact position with relation to land and to hidden dangers. Palau is a collection of volcanic islands with uplifted reef structures of coral and limestone at sea level. Palau also receives up to 160 inches of rain per year, which can impede visibility. The aids enable maritime commerce by helping mitigate these navigation challenges.
“I am proud of the work that the crew of Sequoia has conducted in Palau,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Adams, Commanding Officer, cutter Sequoia. “Their grit, resilience, and determination enabled us to accomplish this challenging mission safely and efficiently and deliver an excellent product to the Republic of Palau. Our Palauan partners were on the scene nearly every day to observe our work and assist. We deeply value this partnership with Palau and are very happy with the outcome – enhanced maritime safety in Palau.”
This work follows improvements made in May 2019, in support of maritime safety and security development. The crew set four buoys marking the main waterway in the Port of Koror officials from Palau’s Ministry of Transportation aboard to observe and participate in the operations. The effort is part of a longer-term effort to assess and improve Palau’s maritime navigation system.
“As a team, we continue to make progress with the improvement of waterways infrastructure in and around Palau,” said Rear Adm. Kevin Lunday, Commander, U.S. Coast Guard 14th District. “This could not be accomplished without the funding provided by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs, and our longstanding relationships with U.S. Embassy Koror and the Republic of Palau. Strengthening the Palauan maritime transportation system to ensure safe navigation is vital to improving regional maritime governance and ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Commercial, military, and private vessels utilize the Port of Koror, a deep-water port that is essential to maritime commerce and U.S. defense readiness. The Republic of Palau consists of 340 islands, with a population of more than 22,500 people. Infrastructure improvement is but one of many areas of collaboration that the U.S. and Palau enjoy under the Compact of Free Association relationship. The Sequoia is a 225-foot seagoing buoy tender homeported in Guam.
“We at the Department of the Interior are proud of this collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Embassy on this important maritime navigation safety project that strengthens and protects commerce and economic security for the Republic of Palau,” said Doug Domenech, U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs. “Such projects stand as a testament to the unique and special relationship that the United States shares with the people of Palau through the Compact of Free Association.”