HMCS Regina ready for broad spectrum of missions

Crowsnest - Spring 2014 / April 24, 2014

By Lieutenant (Navy) Mark Fifield

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Regina is currently conducting maritime security and counter-terrorism operations at sea off the east coast of Africa as part of Operation Artemis. Op Artemis is Canada’s contribution to Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150), a multinational maritime task force combating terrorism across the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman.

Regina’s mission is to deter and deny terrorist and transnational criminal organizations from using merchant shipping lanes to smuggle weapons and illicit cargo, while simultaneously enabling the free and fluid movement of goods and services in the region. In general, Regina’s mission is similar to what previous HMC Ships like Toronto have done in the region, although each ship has been assigned to different areas of operations in the Op Artemis Joint Operations Area (JOA).

“We are taking valuable lessons learned from previous rotos [rotations] and adapting them to the constantly evolving maritime operations picture in the Op Artemis JOA,” says Commander Dan Charlebois, Regina’s commanding officer. “Our presence also provides the Government of Canada with the flexibility and capability to respond to an emerging crisis in the region on their behalf.”

Regina and her CTF 150 coalition partners are working closely together to promote security, stability and prosperity in an area that spans over two million square miles in one of the world’s most important shipping routes for transoceanic commerce and trade. The Op Artemis JOA includes the main shipping routes from the Far East to Africa, Europe and North America, with one-third of the world’s oil passing through the area and over 23,000 shipping movements each year. It also contains three narrow waterways or chokepoints where ships have to pass closely between two shorelines, restricting their maneuverability and making them more vulnerable to a littoral attack than they would be in open waters.

The Op Artemis JOA poses many unique operational challenges as it is quite large and contains many diverse countries, cultures and people. It is also an area that has seen significant poverty, conflict and political instability over the course of many decades, further complicating any effort to maintain law and order on the oceans and internal waterways of the region. Terrorism and criminal activity flourish in these kinds of conditions, which is why these kinds of organizations choose to conduct and base their operations here.

“Once we determine what the normal pattern of maritime activity is in this area, then we can distinguish that from what is considered abnormal or suspicious,” said Lieutenant-Commander Gordon Roy, Regina’s executive officer. “From that point on, we can target suspicious activities and vessels to determine if they are smuggling illicit cargo and/or persons of interest that are directly or indirectly supporting terrorism.”

When illicit cargo such as narcotics is discovered and linked to the support of terrorist or transnational criminal organizations, Regina is authorized to seize and destroy the cargo at sea, thereby depriving these organizations of a key source of funding for their operations. This supports Regina’s counter-terrorism and maritime security mission of promoting security and stability in the maritime environment, while denying international terrorists and criminal organizations the free use of the seas as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other illicit cargo.

“The ship’s company has worked very hard to prepare for this deployment over the last year and we are eager to continue the good work of HMCS Toronto and build upon her successful mission,” said Cdr Charlebois. “We are ready to execute a number of missions across a broad spectrum of operations, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter-terrorism, regional military engagement and capacity building, as well as international diplomacy.”

Regina completed her last set of mission specific workups and achieved high readiness in the Pacific Ocean waters east of Guam on January 22. This was the culmination of months of pre-deployment training and preparations for their deployment. While en route to the JOA, they visited the following ports: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Guam; Manila, Philippines; Singapore; and Malé, Maldives. Regina officially entered the JOA on February 15.