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Home > SOF > VBSS

Vessel Boarding Search
and  Seizure (VBSS)

One of the principle missions of U.S. special operations forces is the Vessel Boarding Search and Seizure (VBSS). This is sometimes called "Visit Boarding Search and Seizure". A number of U.S. SOF units train for and conduct these operations and missions. Boarding operations are one of the most complex and dangerous operations that SOF units can conduct. Ocean sea states and environmental considerations are an important factor during VBSS training and missions.

The Vessel Boarding Search and Seizure operations are part of a broader category of missions known as Maritime Interception Operations (MIO). MIO may be conducted by an intercepting vessel when it is in its own territorial waters - or if outside the territorial waters of any other nation. In addition, there must be a legal rationale for boarding. [1]

 

26th MEU conducts VBSS Operations

Photo: U.S. Marines and Sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embark a simulated enemy ship while conducting a visit, board, search and seizure during Amphibious Ready Group/MEU Exercise (ARGMEUEX), Atlantic Ocean, April 17, 2023. LCpl. Rafael Brambila-Pelayo.


References

Commericial Vessel Boarding Training Program, Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC). Five day training program.
https://www.fletc.gov/commercial-vessel-boarding-training-program

Conducting Effective Vessel Search and Seizure, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Scientific and Technical Information. (26 page slide presentation)
https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1642733

Newbold, Elizabeth A., Analysis of Manning Options for Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure Teams, Naval Postgraduate School Thesis, Monterey, California, 2015, PDF, 69 pages.
https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/tr/pdf/ADA632440.pdf

Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure, Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visit,_board,_search,_and_seizure

Special Warfare Combatant-Crewmen conduct VBSS operations.

Photo: U.S. Marines and Sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embark a simulated enemy ship while conducting a visit, board, search and seizure during Amphibious Ready Group/MEU Exercise (ARGMEUEX), Atlantic Ocean, April 17, 2023. LCpl. Rafael Brambila-Pelayo.


News Articles about VBSS

May 19, 2023, "VBSS: A Navy SEAL Explains How to Board Enemy Ships", SANDBOXX.

March 13, 2023, "A Clash of Doctrine: VBSS in the Western Indian Ocean", U.S. Navy.

February 28, 2023, "13th MEU, Conducted a Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure Training Exercise with Timor-Leste Fuzileiros", Marines. mil.

July 8, 2022, "VBSS School Basics", SOF News.

July 2016, "From the Deckplates: Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure Teams Need More Time to Train", Proceedings, U.S. Naval Institute.

January 22, 2011, "22nd MEU Conduct Vessel Boarding Search and Seizure Training", Marines.mil. U.S. Navy Sailors take part in Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) training at the VBSS Schoolhouse in Chesapeake, Va.

Romanian SOF Train with Navy SEALs

East-Coast based U.S. Naval Special Warfare Operators (SEALs) conduct visit, board, search, and seizure training with the 164th Romanian Naval Special Operations Forces near Constanta, Romania, Nov. 16, 2023. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Bill Carlisle)


Videos

NSW Overview. DVIDS, October 3, 2023, 6 minutes.
https://www.dvidshub.net/video/900276/nsw-overview-video

"U.S. Navy Sailors Take Part in VBSS Training", Defense Now, December 11, 2022, 3 minutes.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rBpevVgWTo

"TYR 22 Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS)", U.S. Marine Corps Forces, July 13, 2022, DVIDS, 4 minutes.
https://www.dvidshub.net/video/850425/tyr-22-visit-board-search-and-seizure-vbss

"Naval Special Warfare VBSS Capabilities", NSW Group Two, DVIDS, June 1, 2020. Visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations are a core competency of Naval Special Warfare (NSW) providing special operations maritime interdiction and sanction enforcement capabilities. VBSS is a significant component of the U.S. Navy’s larger Maritime Strategy.
DVIDS - Video - Naval Special Warfare Vbss Capabilities (dvidshub.net)

"VBSS -- Visit, Board, Search & Seizure", America's Navy, YouTube, October 15, 2013, 3 minutes.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6jj2BSkVu8


Endotes

1. For the legality of conducting MIO and VBSS operations see "Broken Tailight at Sea: The Peacetime International Law of Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure", Ocean and Coastal Law Journal, Volume 16, Number 1, 2010, University of Maine School of Law, PDF, 47 pages. See also "The Right of Visit, Search, and Seizure of Foreign Flagged Vessels on the High Seas", Hostra Law Review, Volume 33, Issue 1, 2004.

 

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