LIHUE — The world’s largest international maritime exercise is coming back to Hawaii next week, with 26 countries set to participate in the 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise.
And tonight, those who oppose the exercise are gathering to form another iteration of the Oceans4Peace coalition, which works to educate the public on RIMPAC impacts they find concerning.
The meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. at the Lihue Neighborhood Center and all are welcome.
“This is the third RIMPAC that we have organized the Oceans4Peace coalition,” said Gordon LaBedz of Oceans4Peace.
He continued: “(we) are committed to educating the public about the Navy’s war games and their impacts on the ocean and our islands. At the meeting Tuesday, we will brainstorm and organize ways we can educate the public and the decision-makers.”
The goal is to plan educational activities like a “teach-in” at the Kappa Library on July 1 that will educate people on the impacts of Navy sonar on ocean animals and coral reefs.
Other activities include a showing of the film SONIC SEAS at three locations throughout the island through July and educational radio ads.
The organization also has a hotline to call about any suspected RIMPAC impacts and will educate people on how to identify those impacts.
Concerns include the impacts to ocean life from live ammunition and other things used in the RIMPAC events, and also things like the disposal of sewage and waste for the 26 countries that have been invited.
“This year, they uninvited China and invited Malaysia. Many of these 26 Navies have no environmental regulations whatsoever,” LaBedz said. “Can you imagine the sewage and the waste produced by 26,000 sailors?”
One of Oceans4Peace’s goals this year is to encourage the Navy to do an environmental impact analysis for RIMPAC specifically instead of lumping it together with the rest of the training exercises in the Pacific.
“Last summer, the Navy did an environmental analysis of all their training exercises in California and Hawaii and they tucked RIMPAC into the five-inch thick document, so no one in the public knows exactly what they are going to do besides their usual bombing, sonar blasting and missile launches,” LaBedz said. “RIMPAC is by far, the largest naval exercise in Hawaii. It deserves its own environmental impact analysis.”
RIMPAC is hosted by the United States Navy’s Pacific Fleet in Honolulu biennially during June and July on even-numbered years.
Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Hawaii National Guard all participate and military forces from the Pacific Rim and all around the world are invited.
RIMPAC 2018 is set for June 27 to Aug. 2 and it is the 26th exercise since RIMPAC began in 1971.
The theme is: “Capable, Adaptive, Partners” and organizers say the focus is building and maintaining cooperative international relationships.
This year’s exercise includes forces from Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.
This is the first time Brazil, Israel, Sri Lanka and Vietnam are participating in RIMPAC. Additional firsts include New Zealand serving as sea combat commander and Chile serving as combined force maritime component commander, according to a press release from the U.S. Third Fleet Public Affairs.
The 2016 RIMPAC event didn’t change day-to-day operations at Kauai’s Pacific Missile Range Facility according to base officials. That exercise hosted 26 nations with more than 40 ships and submarines, 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel.
That RIMPAC event had more countries and personnel than in any previous years.