Canada and the U.S. signed an agreement Tuesday that removes the international maritime boundary as a barrier to law enforcement.
The Eastern Region International Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations, also known as Shiprider, gives the U.S. Coast Guard and the RCMP the power to board ships and make arrests, whether in Canadian or American waters.
"It's a huge day for us because it not only allows us to work together on enforcement, but also information and intelligence sharing," to combat cross-border crime on shared waterways, said New Brunswick RCMP Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown.
"This will exponentially increase the law enforcement capabilities with minimal impact to budgets or manpower," he said.
Brown joined U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Dan Abel, commander of the U.S. 1st Coast Guard District, in Eastport, Me., to sign the Shiprider standard operating procedures.
"Through this partnership we are better able to protect the citizens of both the U.S. and Canada from cross-border crime," said Abel, who is in charge of more than 200 ships patrolling from the Canadian border to New Jersey.
"This is really about stopping anyone who might try to exploit a seam between the Canadian and U.S. authorities," he said.
The deal includes protocols, such as U.S. boats not being able to mount a preemptive armed patrol of the Canadian coast. But ships can cross if intelligence points to crimes, such as human and drug smuggling, even terrorism.
"The end game is there's a consequence for breaking the law or threatening the nation, it doesn't matter to me whether those people face justice here or up in Canada," said Abel.
All U.S. and Canadian officers designated as Shiprider-qualified receive extensive bi-national U.S. and Canadian enforcement training at the U.S. Coast Guard's Maritime Law Enforcement Academy in South Carolina.
This is the third Shiprider agreement between Canada and the U.S. There are also ones in place for parts of the Pacific Ocean and in the Great Lakes.
Former Public Safety minister Peter Van Loan and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano signed a framework agreement in 2009.