VBSS in the Navy: Boarding Enemy Ships

VBSS Navy 2009

Operating in the vast and unpredictable expanse of the ocean is no easy feat, especially when facing potential threats from various hostile forces. That’s where the Navy's VBSS (Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure) team comes into play. The highly trained men and women who make up these teams are an essential component in ensuring maritime security for our country.

They undertake the critical mission of intercepting, boarding, and securing enemy vessels at sea – a job that requires immense physical strength, tactical proficiency, and precise execution. In this blog post, we’ll dive deep into VBSS Navy operations to understand their role in protecting our naval assets and maintaining peace on international waters.

Introduction to VBSS Navy

VBSS, short for Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure, is an important part of the Navy's operations against security threats. Simply put, VBSS is the process of searching and boarding ships, vehicles or planes suspected of carrying unlawful items and persons. The need to perform a VBSS mission might arise when a ship is suspected of carrying illegal weapons, drugs, or even terrorists.

During such operations, the Navy team responsible for VBSS must be well-trained, equipped, and ready to take on the mission successfully. VBSS is a critical operation that requires an impeccable coordination between all parties involved in order to guarantee a safe and successful operation. The implementation of VBSS Navy has been a crucial step towards controlling illegal activities at sea.

VBSS Navy crossing

VBSS Navy History and Evolution

The origins of VBSS can be traced back to the early 1980s when the need for a specialized team to board and search ships became apparent. Over the years, VBSS Navy teams have evolved to become highly trained units that perform a wide range of tasks, from maritime interdiction to humanitarian aid and disaster response.

Along with modern technological advancements, VBSS has adapted to an ever-changing naval environment, making it an essential part of the Navy's operations today. A well-executed VBSS operation can mean the difference between success and failure in preserving national security and protecting American interests. Despite the risks, VBSS Navy personnel continue to carry out these challenging and important missions with professionalism, skill, and bravery.

Intelligence Gathering in VBSS Navy Missions

Intelligence gathering is a crucial element in the VBSS Navy mission and can provide critical information about potential threats, the nature of cargo on board, and the behavior of the crew. With this information, Navy personnel can determine the appropriate course of action and make informed decisions that ultimately lead to successful outcomes. Intelligence gathering in VBSS missions cannot be overstated as it helps identify and mitigate risks.

Targets of VBSS Navy Operations

VBSS Navy teams play a vital role in intercepting vessels that pose a threat to national security. VBSS operations can be conducted on a variety of targets, including cargo ships, fishing vessels, and pleasure crafts.

These different types of vessels pose unique challenges during VBSS operations. For example, cargo ships can be large and have multiple decks, requiring thorough searches to ensure that all cargo is accounted for and that no illicit materials are brought onboard.

In contrast, fishing vessels are typically smaller and more agile, making them harder to board and search. And pleasure crafts may be more difficult to target, as they often move quickly and can dock in a variety of locations. VBSS Navy teams are trained to adapt to these different challenges, ensuring that every operation is conducted safely and efficiently.


VBSS Navy Methods

VBSS involves several steps that must be executed carefully and efficiently to ensure the safety and security of all involved parties. The first step is approaching the vessel, which requires careful planning and communication to avoid any misunderstandings.

Once the vessel is approached, the boarding team carefully boards the vessel to prevent any potential escape. The search phase is then conducted to seek out any contraband and gather intelligence. Finally, if any illicit activities or materials are found, the seizure phase commences, which involves detaining the crew and bringing them back to the Navy vessel for further processing.

Challenges of VBSS Navy Action

VBSS Navy teams are an essential component of the Navy's mission to maintain law and order on the high seas. However, these teams face a number of challenges that can make their missions more difficult and dangerous.

One of the primary challenges is the weather. Navy personnel know that the ocean can be a fickle mistress, with weather conditions that can change rapidly and unpredictably. This can make boarding operations more difficult and increase the risk of accidents or injuries.

Additionally, hostile forces pose a significant threat to VBSS teams. Pirates, smugglers, and other criminals will often take extreme measures to avoid capture, including using violence against Navy personnel. As a result, VBSS teams must be highly trained and prepared to deal with a wide range of dangerous situations.

Real-life VBSS Navy Operations

The VBSS operations are crucial to ensuring national security, especially for countries like the United States that rely heavily on maritime trade. In recent years, the U.S. Navy has conducted several successful VBSS operations that have had a significant impact on national security.

For instance, in 2018, the USS Laboon conducted a VBSS operation in the Gulf of Aden and seized more than 1,000 AK-47 rifles. This operation not only prevented potential terrorist attacks but also disrupted their funding. Similarly, the USS Kidd conducted a VBSS operation near Somalia, seizing narcotics worth more than $7 million.

VBSS Navy training


The success of maritime security operations largely depends on the training and expertise of VBSS teams. These highly trained professionals play a crucial role in ensuring that vessels entering territorial waters are compliant with international regulations, and preventing illicit activities such as terrorism, human trafficking and piracy.

For the Navy, VBSS training is an essential component of maintaining the security of seaways, ports and coastal regions. The teams must be proficient in tactics, weapons, communication and awareness, and have a thorough understanding of the maritime environment. By investing in VBSS training, the Navy can increase its ability to detect and respond to security threats, and protect the interests of nations and their people.

1 comment

Do you get a ribbon or a batch if you’re a member of VBSS?

Bob May,

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