Thursday, June 3, 2010

The South Asia Region Port Security Cooperative

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard “Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council” magazine by LCDR Scott Stoermer, International Port Security Liaison Officer, U.S. Coast Guard Activities Far East.

Among many other things, the analyses of September 11 identified limited communication, organizational stovepipes, and inter-organizational power struggles as critical road blocks to information sharing. While the 9/11 Commission final report refers mainly to the law enforcement and intelligence communities, its applicability is far more ubiquitous. The maritime sector is one of the areas where communication and cross-organizational information sharing was lacking. Moreover, the global nature of the maritime transportation sector and the interconnected web of world markets are excellent examples of where collaboration is critical.

Cooperative Effort: A Key to Success
In the case of maritime and port security, a number of organizations throughout the world assist member states and provide regional forums to share port security information and build mutual capacity.

As an example, in the Americas, the Organization of American States has a Secretariat of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism that maintains a port security program. The European Union has a robust communications and rulemaking infrastructure for port security. The African Union, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Association of South East Asian Nations, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community assist their member states with port security capacity building and provide a collaborative forum to share information and develop regional solutions to mutual issues.

In the case of South Asia and the Central Indian Ocean, no such port security-oriented organization had previously existed. Consequently, there was no practical way to affect cross-border cooperation and communication regarding regional maritime and port security issues.

South Asia Region Port Security Cooperative: The Idea
The South Asia Region Port Security Cooperative (SARPSCO) was born of necessity. In 2006, the Sri Lanka Navy thwarted an attack on the Port of Galle in southern Sri Lanka. The port facility security officer (PFSO) expressed his desire to share lessons learned from the attack with PFSOs throughout the region. Moreover, he shared his frustration at the lack of a regional mechanism through which this information could be promulgated.

From this kernel, LCDR Richard Kavanaugh, the IPSLO for Sri Lanka and other countries in South Asia, began to engage the Coast Guard and other nations regarding the idea and a regional organization was developed in cooperation with U.S. embassies and regional governments. Through the formalization of the partnership, the government of the Republic of Maldives took the lead in developing the cooperative and offered to host an initial conference.

An Idea Becomes Reality
Entitled “Partnering for a Safer Sea,” the conference was held in May 2008 in the Republic of Maldives. Conference delegates represented nine nations and myriad security partners including Interpol, the International Maritime Organization, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Conference flow provided for a mix of presentations, panel discussions, networking opportunities, and discussion sessions.

Successes and Outcomes
By all accounts, the conference was a resounding success and ended with a unanimously approved conference agreement citing the importance of such a forum and the desire to bring the delegates/stakeholders together for a future event.

What’s Next?
It is vitally important that we work with the nations of the region to collaboratively deal with problems of mutual concern. The Coast Guard’s foray into the world of international engagement and security-related capacity building efforts, such as this conference, provide awesome opportunities to showcase the Coast Guard, its missions, and its expertise.

Activities Far East looks forward to working with the other nations of the region to further support their efforts to improve port security in the central Indian Ocean region.

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