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Dialogue and Co-operation as Maritime Security Enablers

8th Venice Regional Seapower Symposium for the navies of the Mediterranean and Black Sea countries

October 20, 2010

​8th Venice Regional Seapower Symposium
for the navies of the Mediterranean and Black Sea countries
19-22 October 2010
Dialogue and Co-operation as Maritime Security Enablers
Speech by Efthimios E. Mitropoulos
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization

Admiral Branciforte, Chiefs of Navies, Commandant of the Italian Coast Guard, Admirals, representatives of international organizations, Ladies and gentlemen,
 
It is a pleasure to be with you here today and I am delighted to have been given the opportunity, once again, to address this forum – especially during this, the Year of the Seafarer, as IMO has named it.
 
Addressing you, today, represents, in many ways, a step outside of my comfort zone, since IMO deals with merchant shipping matters only and, as a consequence, the vast majority of our work concerns the civil rather than the military side of the maritime arena. However, maritime security has long been a part of IMO’s remit and, in recent years, the increased incidence of global terrorism and the security aspects of piracy as manifested in certain parts of the world nowadays have forced the attendant considerations ever higher on our radar.
 
All over the world, military strategists have been re-conceptualizing and re-defining the roles for which today’s armed forces should be equipped and ready to undertake. This re-evaluation has come in response to fundamental changes in the nature of the threats with which civilized society is confronted in our days. And, as traditional perceptions about national defence have shifted, so the boundaries between civil and military operations in the maritime sphere have become blurred. Things are simply not as clear-cut as once they were.  And recent technological developments, while, on the one hand have made our life easier, they have, on the other, complicated certain issues.  In the context of this week’s debate on the United Kingdom’s Strategic Defence and Security Review, for example, the central point of reference of many commentators was cyber-related: Cyberthreat, cyberwarfare, cyberterrorism, cyberfraud, cyber, cyber, cyber!...
 
In the maritime domain, as elsewhere, States have a number of rights and obligations conferred upon them through their becoming party to international treaty instruments (conventions and agreements).  In order to meet these, and other, obligations States are expected to conduct a number of tasks which, in some countries and regions, might traditionally be described as ‘coastguard functions’.  Such activities include fishery protection; prevention of trafficking of people, drugs, weapons and other prohibited or restricted items; prevention of attacks on merchant ships and offshore installations; the suppression of piracy and armed robbery against ships; protection of the marine environment; and the safety of navigation, including conducting hydrographic and aids-to-navigation surveys as well as search and rescue operations. 
 
For a small State with limited resources and a large exclusive economic zone to protect, the challenges can, at first sight, seem insurmountable.
 
In the new paradigm, the demarcation between what were traditionally “coastguard” functions on the one hand, and “naval” functions on the other, is not always so distinct – which, of course, means that the need for dialogue and co-operation, as highlighted in your theme for this conference, is stronger than ever.  Indeed, for most developing States (and for many developed ones as well), having both a navy and a coastguard is not an affordable option; therefore, many are now looking to develop a more coordinated national maritime domain policy, within which the concept of the navy as a ‘force for good’ is becoming widely accepted.
 
As this year’s Symposium theme suggests, a coordinated national maritime policy framework needs to address all three ‘C’s, that is coordination, co-operation and communication between all of the agencies having a stake in the maritime domain – indeed, it could be, and is, argued that these concepts should be at the very foundation of such a framework. 
 
But what does it really mean? As I am sure you will hear during the course of this event, it will require changes in outlook and in perception. It should not for example, come as a surprise if, in future, navies are asked to participate actively in national and local maritime security policy-making, engaging with other stakeholders and sensitizing them as to what naval assets can contribute to the civil maritime effort.  The use of naval assets for patrolling ports and their approaches, anchorages and offshore installations; the provision of naval vessels as platforms to transport law enforcement officers into the maritime domain; sharing of the navy’s situational awareness picture; and other ‘sponsored’ tasks such as search and rescue, conducting hydrographic surveys and monitoring the marine environment for pollution prevention, would contribute significantly to a State’s ability to meet its obligations for maritime safety and security and the protection of its natural resources.
 
Dialogue and co-operation have other, practical ramifications, too. Navies would, for example, need to review their current capabilities to perform or assist in operational coastguard functions and determine their training, materiel and organizational needs so as to ensure sustainable effectiveness in performing such roles.  Similarly, law enforcement agencies, coastguards in the main, intending to operate law enforcement detachments on board naval or other vessels, should also assess their own needs. Naval personnel might, furthermore, require additional training in a number of associated disciplines – for example, in the conduct of boarding merchant ship operations at sea, as allowed under the 2005 SUA Protocol in case intelligence suggests that a ship has on board biological, chemical or nuclear substances; or in joint operations with civil agencies; and on support services such as equipment maintenance.  
 
Inherent to this new way of thinking is the imperative to maximize the effectiveness of infrastructure and equipment. With dialogue and co-operation (as embodied in, for example, the co-location of sensors for search and rescue, coastal radar, fishery surveillance, automatic identification systems, long-range identification and tracking, all of them installed in single centres and networked to relevant departments and services) massive synergies become within reach. 
 
Moreover, Governments may wish to consider sharing assets and responsibilities on a regional level. Sharing of assets could be through joint patrolling; co-operation, training and exercises with neighbouring countries or visiting navies; exchange of officer programmes; use of regional training centres and development of centres of excellence; and sharing of recognized maritime pictures and security-related information beyond the level already required in international law. 
 
Sharing of responsibilities could include legal agreements on hot pursuit, prosecution and extradition; and intra-regional agreements on joint policing of the outer-reaches of the EEZ, while the coastal States continue to exercise sole jurisdiction in their territorial waters and out to a stated distance from the coastline, and to develop their maritime capabilities. 
 
Indeed, the long-standing Black-sea Naval  Co-ordination Task Force, or Blackseafor, is a good example of this concept in action. Slightly different, but clearly related, is the 2006 agreement between IMO and the members of the Maritime Organization of West and Central Africa on the establishment of an integrated sub-regional coastguard function network for the  States of that region.
 
And, of course, if anyone needs further confirmation of how effective shared operational responsibility can be, you need only to consider the coordinated anti-piracy efforts that have been underway off the coast of Somalia and in the wider Indian Ocean for some time now and in which several of the national navies represented here today are participating actively. In a region of immense global strategic importance, this represents one of the greatest examples of international co-operation of all time, being possibly the first time in history that navies from countries so far and wide have converged in one area, joining forces in an unparalleled demonstration of solidarity to address a common threat to the safety of life at sea and the bringing of humanitarian aid to Somalia.  And I take this opportunity to reiterate to all the navies concerned, and their governments, the appreciation of the entire maritime community for the protection being provided to seafarers, fishermen and passengers on board ships sailing through piracy-infested areas.
 
Another good example of dialogue and co-operation enhancing maritime security is in the Strait of Hormuz, where the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations office in Dubai and the United States Navy’s Maritime Liaison Office in Bahrain act as the primary points of contact for merchant vessels sailing to, and out of, the Persian Gulf and liaison with naval forces in the region. UKMTO Dubai also administers the Voluntary Reporting Scheme, under which merchant vessels are encouraged to send regular reports, providing their position, course, speed and ETA at their next port of call whilst transiting the region. Given that an average of about 15 tankers carrying around 17 million barrels of crude oil normally pass through the Strait every day (equivalent to some 964 millions of tonnes per year, representing approximately 40% of the world total of oil transported by sea annually), making the Strait of Hormuz one of the most strategically important choke points in the world, it is not difficult to see the vital importance of such arrangements.
 
The benefits of such co-operation – and that announced recently in the United Arab Emirates in connection with the escorting of oil tankers in Abu Dhabi waters is another example – cannot be overstated.
 
Ladies and gentlemen, to conclude: throughout the course of this Symposium you will hear from people with valuable, hands-on experience, of how these, and similar, ideas on inter-agency and inter-navy collaboration can be turned into reality. You will hear different approaches and, no doubt, a variety of different points of view. But I have no doubt that the basic premise of this event, namely that dialogue and co-operation are essential to maritime security, will receive universal support. The challenge now, is to make it happen. IMO stands ready to add its contribution in whatever way this might be required.
 
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
Thank you.
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