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By Senior Airman Christian Sullivan
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs
U.S. Coast Guardsmen assigned to U.S. Coast Guard Station Charleston conducted operation Save Harbor Reach on Intelligence for Multi-state Partnerships and Guarding Responsible Interests for Target Safety, or “SHRIMP and GRITS,” Aug. 9-10, 2019.
The multi-jurisdiction and multi-state maritime enforcement operation spanned 500 miles of coastline across South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Federal, state and local agencies participated in the annual operation to promote maritime security and boating safety to recreational and commercial boaters.
“The primary objective of this mission is to educate the boating public what maritime safety looks like,” said Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Phillip VanderWeit, Sector Charleston enforcement division supervisor. “We’re trying to prevent future search and rescue missions from happening and education goes a long way in that.”
During the operation, the Coast Guard partnered with 104 agencies to conduct searches on the water and ensure appropriate safety measures were observed by boat operators. Petty Officer 2nd class Alexander Ford, a boatswain’s mate assigned to USCG Station Charleston, said that while recreational safety boardings conducted during SHRIMP and GRITS serve as a “deterrence operation for illegal charters,” the operation was primarily aimed at safety.
“The Coast Guard’s main focus is to make sure that your everyday boater has everything they need to be safe out on the water such as life jackets, sound signaling devices, and fire extinguishers just to name a few. It makes our job a little easier and makes that person a little safer,” said Ford. “We’re not here to kill anybody’s fun, we are just making sure everyone is safe out on the water so they can have a good time.”
Ford added that he encounters many people who buy a boat to “go have a good time” without learning about the equipment and procedures to operate safely. He highlighted three of the most import things for boaters to know when operating maritime vessels.
“Be very aware of your surroundings, wear your lifejackets and be mindful of children,” he said.
This year’s operation utilized 62 law enforcement and fire vessels, 18 auxiliary vessels, two fixed-wing law enforcement aircraft, two auxiliary fixed-wing aircraft, five helicopters, four Civil Support Teams, an aircraft-mounted Mobile Detection System and a Transportation Security Administration surface inspection team.
VanderWeit said that while SHRIMP and GRITS is “fairly new,” he has seen the operation evolve over the last three years. He added that the expansion to Georgia and Florida last year and the addition of North Carolina in 2019 shows that all participating agencies are invested and ready for any situation.
“It displays our commitment to safety and security on the water,” said VanderWeit. “The Coast Guard, along with our partners, are ready to answer the call any time, any season.”