HMCS Whitehorse leads the pack in PASSEX

Navy News / December 21, 2015

By Acting Sub-Lieutenant Kyle Reed

While transiting southbound towards the west coast of Central America prior to the start of Operation CARIBBE, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships Whitehorse and Brandon conducted a Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with ships from the United States Navy (USN), the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and Mexico’s Secretaría de Marina (SEMAR).

The Commanding Officer of Whitehorse, Lieutenant-Commander Shane Denneny, and his team led the exercise, which required coordination with seven other ships, as well as a USCG helicopter and search and rescue aircraft.

Whitehorse was the designated on-scene coordinator for the event, taking the group from the rendezvous point through the various formations and coordinating the conduct of all other training evolutions for the event,” explains Major Don Senft, head of Plans and Force Protection at Maritime Forces Pacific Headquarters. “As a minor warship crewed by a mix of both Regular and Reserve Force sailors, it is significant that Whitehorse was able to so effectively plan, organize and conduct a PASSEX of this size with so many complex evolutions.” (A maritime coastal defence vessel has a crew of approximately 45.)

A PASSEX, in its most basic format, is any number of naval exercises grouped together and executed while transiting to and from locations. They are extremely useful for navies because they help sailors develop and maintain core naval skills such as formation steaming, small boat operations, crew exchanges and communication drills. However, on a larger scale, they also promote interoperability and give our ships the training to be able to seamlessly integrate into partner formations such as a USN Carrier Strike Group.

In fact, this recent PASSEX was the first time that all four partners of the North American Maritime Security Initiative (NAMSI) were working together in the same exercise. NAMSI, composed of the Royal Canadian Navy, the USN, USCG and the SEMAR, was established to strengthen the exchange of information and cooperation in matters of maritime safety and security in order to improve a mutual capability for operational coordination.

“This PASSEX demonstrates the ability of our three closest partners in the regional maritime security domain to come together and effectively operate side by side to ensure regional security and stability. It served as an excellent platform to validate the work being done by the NAMSI,” says Maj Senft.

The value of PASSEXs cannot be overstated, which is why the Formation has made them a priority recently; at least 22 have been conducted in the past five years.