NCAGS is a program active in many navies around the world, especially NATO countries and Australia. NCAGS units have been active in the Arabian (Persian) Gulf for some time: Here's an article from March 2003 -
"There are concerns, and there have been ever since September 11, in the region," Lieutenant Commander Ken Sprowles told journalists Saturday. "We try to balance people's fears with advice, to tell them what the situation is."Source: here (scroll down to "Vigilance advised for merchant shippers in Gulf region")
...The team, known as Naval Co-operation and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS), has been in the Gulf since October 2001, just a month after the suicide plane attacks on New York's World Trade Centre and Washington. NCAGS -- and similar teams run by the US, Canada and Australia in the Gulf -- act as a link between commercial shippers and the increasing naval forces in the region. "Our information goes directly through British command to British warships," said Sprowles, a reservist for 21 years...
Data gathered by NCAGS lets military commanders know the position of commercial vessels. At the same time NCAGS can advise merchant seamen about threats and "self-protection measures", if that becomes necessary.
NCAGS itself goes back to the convoy operations of World War II and through the Cold War years when it was known as Naval Control of Shipping.
In the late 1990's, the name was changed to Naval Control and Protection of Shipping, later to Naval Coordination and Protection of Shipping and now to NACAGS. In most navies (including the US Navy), it largely has been a reserve function. Also in the later 1990's the mission was changed from developing large open-ocean convoys to a more regional role stressing de-confliction and indentification of vessels of interest. These new techniques were tried in various exercises with the fleet. For example,
Exercise BELL BUOY 99 validated the concept that NCS can be employed as both a long-range detection asset and as a force multiplier. Merchant ship characteristics information obtained by NCS personnel, along with the timely reporting of merchant shipping movements, assisted in the identification of both legitimate and suspect vessels. The result of implementing these new NCS procedures was that fewer resources were required to process legitimate shipping, thereby freeing up naval and air assets to detect, search, identify and interdict suspect vessels.Later exercise validated the concept and led to hands on multi-national exercises with real merchant shipping in the Arabian Gulf, which clearly paved the way for the work described above. See: Global Security
NATO has clearly embraced the mission:
There is no need for every navy in NATO to cover the whole spectrum of maritime capability and I think that a better understanding of task specialization would enable us to focus limited resources in a more efficient way. This would lead to improvement in quality of response and a contribution to something which is known as increased ‘maritime domain awareness’. This is a key factor in my vision for enhancing global maritime security. The old campaigners among you may remember a NATO concept called ‘Naval Control of Shipping (NCS)’. Of course NATO cannot control merchant shipping – neither does merchant shipping necessarily want to be controlled. The vision was to increase security, and therefore also the operational efficiency and effectiveness of commercial maritime traffic. Co-operation between the military and civilian sectors, rather than control, is the way ahead. NCS has now developed into new project known as Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping (a mouthful which is also known by its more user friendly acronym ‘NCAGS’). NCAGS is dedicated to providing advice, guidance and assistance to enhance the safety of merchant ships and support military operations – on a global scale. It is an ambitious, but realistic, project.(from a speech by Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, 24 Oct 2002: "Fighting Terrorism on the Oceans")