A flotilla of law enforcement and homeland security enforcement vessels will take to the waters around Long Island starting Thursday for a joint exercise designed to head off and respond to threats and disasters at sea.
Operation Blue Trident will involve more than two dozen state, federal and local agencies and 24 boats — with the training focused on detecting and responding to, among other things, an incident involving a “live” radiological device aboard a boat on the East End bays.
The device poses no actual threat, officials said, but is made to set off sensitive detection equipment.
“It’s three days of intense maritime operations,” Basil Seggos, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “First and foremost, it’s a homeland security exercise.”
The agencies spent the past two weeks conducting land-based training with spot checks at local marinas, gas docks and waste facilities to check compliance.
Long Island has 77,000 registered boats, and Seggos said that while the main aim of the next three days is training, the law-enforcement teams will be keeping a watchful eye for boating while intoxicated and fishing violations.
The primary exercise, he said, will be responding to scenarios involving weapons of mass destruction on the waterways. All 14 DEC vessels in the program have radiological detection equipment on board, capable of sniffing out even a small “dirty bomb” on board a mock enemy vessel sent through a series of law enforcement choke points on the water.
Seggos said he wasn’t aware of any enforcement vessel encountering such a device in real life, and he said using radiological targets for this year’s exercise wasn’t the result of the recent threat of nuclear confrontation with North Korea or any other specific threat. The annual exercise has been in the planning stages for months.
This year marks the first time the operation has been held on Long Island waters, including on Shinnecock and Peconic Bays, Block Island Sound and Long Island Sound.
Among the agencies participating, in addition to the DEC, are the state Naval Militia, Federal Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, U.S. Coast Guard (Long Island sector), Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, Suffolk County Police Department, East End Marine Task Force, state Army National Guard Civil Support Team, State Park Police, State Police Troop L, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and National Marine Fisheries Service.