JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
When someone mentions “shrimp and grits,” what comes to mind - a traditional dish in the Lowcountry of coastal South Carolina? In 2016 the U.S. Coast Guard gave “SHRIMP and GRITS” a whole new meaning: Save Harbor Reach on Intelligence for Multi-state Partnerships and Guarding Responsible Interests for Target Safety.
Operation SHRIMP and GRITS is an annual multi-jurisdiction and multi-state maritime enforcement operation, which took place Aug. 11, 2018. The operation targets recreational and commercial boaters traveling along the water in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. One of the objectives of this operation is to unify and coordinate investigative efforts between federal, state and local agency assets.
“This is a huge operation for us and it’s all about our inter-agency partnerships,” said Cmdr. Matt Baer, chief of response at U.S. Coast Guard Sector Charleston and the incident commander for Operation SHRIMP and GRITS. “This is our third year conducting Operation SHRIMP and GRITS, and the first year we’ve expanded it down to Florida. The U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for over 95,000 miles of coastline around this country and over 360 different ports around the nation. We cannot do it alone. Joint operations like this allow us to ensure a unified response should an unknown or an unfortunate event occur in ports or waterways.”
There are approximately 86 different agencies and 400 people in the states of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina that are participating in the operation with the U.S. Coast Guard. The agencies cover about 430 to 440 miles of coastline and about 500 miles of internal waterways.
“It’s a unique blend of authorities, and jurisdictions,” explained Lt. Lloyd Heflin, enforcement division chief at USCG Sector Charleston. “As the Coast Guard, we have pretty broad authority and jurisdiction, but with some of the state and local laws which the local partners can enforce, it gives them the opportunity to expand the scope of the operation. While we all bring something unique to the table, we’re a lot stronger when we bring everybody together.”
The main objective of Operation SHRIMP and GRITS is ensuring maritime security and boating safety. The Coast Guard, along with the helping agencies, accomplishes this by conducting searches on the water. During these interactions, they conduct boardings to make sure everyone follows the rules and stays safe on the water.
“We respond to events that occur on the water through search and rescue as well as law enforcement, but we’re also about preventing these things from happening,” Baer said. “It’s important for us to get out there, educate and inform the boating public, while also learning from them about what’s normal and abnormal in the local water ways.”
The overall goal is boating safety and maritime security, but this mission also allows the Coast Guard to strengthen their relationships, not only with other agencies, but with the boating public.
“Joint operations like this help with our relationships with local law enforcement, and it brings us together for one common goal,” said Seaman Nathan Guillot, boat crewman at USCG Station Charleston. “We’re strengthening our relationship with the public, and they’re really thankful for what we do. This shows the community that we’re here for them; they don’t see us as people who are here to ruin their day.”
“We want people to be comfortable sharing information they see on the waterways if something looks strange to them. We want them to be confident in reporting to law enforcement what they see, because they are our eyes and ears on the water,” Baer said. “We’re always excited to get out there and talk to the boating public. We want people to enjoy the water, but we want folks to do so safely.”