Successful Maritime Trade Protection Exercise Wraps up in NZ

31 May 2013
The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) has completed hosting an International Maritime Trade Protection exercise involving participants from 10 nations. 
Exercise BELL BUOY 13 is the annual inter-Navy exercise for the Pacific and Indian Oceans Shipping Working Group (PACIOSWG) for the protection of maritime trade and shipping. 
Exercise Convener, Captain (CAPT) Phil O'Connell of the RNZN says BELL BUOY was aimed at testing the capabilities of the member nations' participants to respond to a range of significant events affecting shipping.
"The fictional exercise scenario was set in the South West Pacific, and included a natural disaster, the grounding of a container ship, acts of sea robbery / piracy and civil unrest.
"The dynamic scenario required planning for emergency operations for the provision of humanitarian aid, issuing navigation warnings, and guidance to commercial and military shipping." 
Exercise events were largely based on recent events in different parts of the world, and provided a realistic setting to the challenges and obstacles faced in maintaining secure shipping routes in the South West Pacific and beyond.
CAPT O'Connell says an exercise of this type is relevant to New Zealand as the security of shipping is crucial to our economy.
"Around 85 percent of New Zealand exports by value are carried by sea. With New Zealand being responsible for a large area of the Pacific Ocean, we have an important role in protecting the sea lanes." 
Held from 13-23 May 2013, this is the first time the exercise has been hosted by the Royal New Zealand Navy. The exercise was an international affair, bringing together a range of military and maritime trade specialists from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Korea, Singapore, UK, US, and one observer from Uruguay.
"The Navy works alongside other nations to ensure regional security. Bell Buoy 13 was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate New Zealand's commitment to practise these vital skills alongside our international colleagues who bring a diverse range of valuable experience to the exercise," said CAPT O'Connell.
The exercise was based at Devonport Naval Base in Auckland where Exercise Control and Maritime Trade Operations Headquarters cells were established. Field training exercises were also held at a number of NZ ports including Auckland, Tauranga and Whangarei.
"Key highlights for the exercise participants included conducting rapid port assessments, working with ship's masters, pilots and port companies to conduct briefings and operating with other nations in a deployed combined joint task force environment," said CAPT O'Connell. 
Other exercise activities included planning a range of operations and training. Exercise participants practised giving ships navigation warnings alerting them to pirate activity, ensuring that charts and publications provided consistent advice on what routes to take, who to report to, self-protective measures, and what to do when attacked.
The exercise also went beyond a Maritime Trade Operations focus, said CAPT O'Connell. 
"It required coordination and guidance of merchant shipping to be conducted directly in the context of a multinational humanitarian assistance or disaster relief operation." 
The participants also tested civilian and military cooperation (CIMIC) doctrine, designed to establish and maintain cooperation between the military, civilians, civil authorities and other non governmental aid organisations.
"The exercise provided a realistic setting to replicate likely interactions between the military, and various government and civilian agencies," said CAPT O'Connell.
"This exercise has helped orientate the RNZN Maritime Trade Operations team toward the NZDF objective of a Joint Amphibious Task Force," said CAPT O'Connell.
"Naval Reservists working alongside Regular Force Navy and Army personnel quickly integrated into a cohesive team to deliver the BELL BUOY exercise objectives."
This page was last reviewed on 18 December 2013.