Coast Guard Encounters Russian, Chinese Ships Near Alaska

A Coast Guard cutter Kimball crewmember observing a foreign vessel in the Bering Sea on Sept. 19, 2022. Courtesy photo.

Crew aboard a U.S. Coast Guard cutter homeported in Honolulu reported encountering a formation of Russian and Chinese naval ships near Alaska while on patrol in the Bering and Chukchi seas in October.

A Coast Guard report from the cutter Kimball said that while on routine patrol the crew spotted a formation of naval ships from Russia and China transiting through the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, but that the vessels did not enter U.S. territorial waters.  

The Kimball came within about one mile of the naval ships, established and maintained radio contact, and ultimately ensured their presence was in accordance with international rules and norms.
The Kimball and its crew covered more than 22,000 miles in over 100 days, conducting search and rescue and fisheries enforcement patrols in the Bering and Chukchi Seas, earning the ship’s first Coast Guard Arctic Service Medal.

Capt. Thomas D’Arcy, commanding officer of the Kimball, noted that as ice melts in Arctic waters, Coast Guard presence in the region is vital to ensuring the safety of increased maritime traffic to protect critical resources including fish stocks, and to uphold U.S. sovereign interests and international law. 

During this mission the Kimball’s crew patrolled both sides of the U.S.-Russian Maritime Boundary Line and conducted multiple boardings inspecting U.S. commercial fishing vessels, including one fishing vessel that has operated for 109 years.

Kimball’s crew also supported along-range helicopter medical evacuation of an injured crewmember aboard a bulk carrier ship and a proof-of-concept trial that involved coordinated efforts with Kimball’s crew, resulting in the first overnight deployment of a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter on a national security cutter in the Arctic.

The Kimball was commissioned in 2019 as the Coast Guard’s seventh national security cutter. The vessel is 418-feet long, 54 feet wide and has a displacement of 4,600 long-tons. Vessels of this classification are designed to support the national objective to maintain the security of America’s maritime boundaries and provide long-range search and rescue capabilities.