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First Meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Maritime Security and Safety Working Group (WGMSS)

Colombo Sri Lanka, 8-9 August 2019

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Figure 1: Delegates of the First IORA WGMSS

The First Meeting of the IORA Maritime Safety and Security Working Group was held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka as the current Coordinating Country for Maritime Safety and Security (MSS). Malaysia was represented by the Mr Ismail Mohd Bakri, Deputy High Commissioner of Malaysia to Sri Lanka as Head of Delegation while Capt. Martin A. SEBASTIAN RMN (R) was nominated as the MSS Expert.

The IORA Maritime Safety and Security Working Group (WGMSS) was established last year at an Initial Workshop held for this purpose on 4 – 5 September 2018, in Sri Lanka.

The Meeting was preceded by an address from the IORA Secretariat, followed by a   stimulating panel discussion on ‘’Emerging scenarios related to safety and security in the Indian Ocean” that saw the active participation of MSS experts. Among others the panel consisted of UNODC and the Sri Lankan Navy

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Figure 2: Experts for the First WGMSS

The Meeting itself saw an impressive gathering of MSS officials and experts from 16 IORA Member States (Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Oman, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Tanzania), and IORA Secretariat officials.

This Meeting provided a platform for IORA Member States to finalise the draft Work Plan for the WGMSS which has been drawn up for an initial period of two years so as to achieve the following:

Objective One: Building the foundation for a collaborative IORA MSS Framework based on the respective needs and priorities of Member States;

Objective Two: Establishing an integrated policy approach on MSS, including through capability enhancement and capacity building; and

Objective Three: Establishing a Coordinated Regional Vision for MSS in IORA to address existing and emerging issues.

During the WGMSS, the Draft Work Plan drew upon the Terms of References (ToRs) that were agreed upon on September 2018. The ToRs identified the Outcomes from the three Objectives. The Jakarta Concord adopted during the First IORA Summit held in March 2017 was also used a reference to compare language on some aspects of the WGMSS Work Plan.

The Jakarta Concord clearly ironed out four focus areas in Promoting Maritime Safety and Security in the region:

  1. enhancing cooperation in preventing and managing accidents and incidents at sea and promoting effective coordination between IORA member states’ aeronautical and maritime search and rescue services;

  2. encouraging the sharing of expertise and resources to reduce substandard shipping and manage risks to the safety of vessels and the marine environments of the Indian Ocean region;

  3. strengthening regional cooperation to address transboundary challenges, including piracy, armed robberies at sea, terrorism, trafficking in persons, people smuggling, irregular movement of persons, illicit drugs trafficking, illicit trafficking in wildlife, crimes in the fisheries sector, and environmental crimes; and

  4. ensuring that countries in the region can exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS, as constitution for the Oceans.

Accordingly, in scoping the WGMSS Work Plan requirements, SAR, Safety of Vessels, Transboundary challenges and Freedom of Navigation were the four thematic areas that were identified. There were recommendations to adopt Study Groups findings, emulating the Memoranda by the Council for Security and Cooperation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP) on focus areas. Adopting some Best Practices and avoiding Bad Practices were also discussed by Experts.

After a grueling two days of intense debate and exchange of ideas, the Experts of the WGMSS produced the Final Draft of the Work Plan for MSS. It was a pleasant experience to share expertise from regional perspectives like ASEAN and extra regional perspectives like China and the Pacific. Much of the discussion focused on SAR and Transboundary challenges. Malaysia being in the centre of the IndoPacific region has the opportunity to be active in the IORA MSS Work Plan.

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