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Press Release | March 19, 2024

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf departs Port Blair, India, conducts exercise with Indian Coast Guard

PORT BLAIR, India – U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL 750) departed Port Blair, India, Saturday morning, and conducted two-day exercise ‘Sea Defender 2024,’ with the Indian Coast Guard (ICG).

Bertholf’s stop in Port Blair marks the first time a U.S. Coast Guard cutter has called upon the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

During the port call, the crew of the Bertholf participated in multiple professional engagements and training opportunities. Bertholf crew and Indian Coast Guard members participated in operation ‘Sea Defender 2024,’ a two-day at-sea exercise designed to build upon best practices and strengthen maritime partnerships.

The at-sea exercise included multiple Indian Coast Guard vessels, including the ICG flagship Shaurya, homeported in Chennai. The exercises simulated responses to ship attacks, shipboard damage control evolutions, pollution responses, counter drug interdiction, security boardings, flight operations, and an overnight group sail with the ICG vessel, Vishwast across the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone.

During the ‘Sea Defender 2024’ exercises, four Bertholf members sailed with the ICG vessel Shaurya and four ICG members sailed onboard Bertholf. This shiprider opportunity provided the crews with the ability to observe operations aboard each other’s vessel.

Upon arrival to Port Blair, the Bertholf crew were met by National Cadet Corps members from the local area waving flags, a band, and a brief reception on the pier. Bertholf officers attended a formal reception at the regional India Coast Guard headquarters, where the crew was able to watch a ceremonial dance, participate in a gift exchange, and connect over professional dialogue with numerous senior staff members from the Indian Coast Guard, including Inspector General Neeraj Tiwari, Commander Indian Coast Guard, Andaman and Nicobar Region.

“As the first U.S. Coast Guard cutter to call on Port Blair, we feel very fortunate and thrilled to engage directly with our partners here,” said Capt. Billy Mees, commanding officer of the Bertholf. “Participating in ‘Sea Defender 2024’ was a tremendous way for the Bertholf crew and the Indian Coast Guard crew to collaborate in an operational setting. The Indian Coast Guard is a stabilizing force in the region and the U.S. Coast Guard remains steadfast in supporting our partners in the Indo-Pacific.”

The crew of the Bertholf is operating as part of Commander, Task Force (CTF) 71, U.S. 7th Fleet’s principal surface force, promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific, strengthening maritime partnerships and enhancing maritime safety and security.