On 22-25 November, the Australian Civil-Military Centre (ACMC) conducted the East Asia Summit (EAS) on Maritime Security Cooperation in Sydney. This was the second EAS seminar facilitated by the ACMC (the previous in 2015 explored lessons learned in regional Search and Rescue, and Disaster Response). This year’s seminar was co-hosted by the Republic of Indonesia and the Australian Government, and assisted by the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS). The seminar attracted 70 attendees from 16 countries in the East Asia region, under the chair of co-hosts Paul Stephens, Assistant Secretary Department Foreign Affairs and Trade, and His Excellency Jose Tavares of Indonesia Kemlu.
Given the dependence of the Asia Pacific on sea trade, improving maritime safety and security are key to the prosperity of all countries in the region.
Dr Alan Ryan, Executive Director of the ACMC noted the fundamental importance of maritime trade to EAS member states: “Commercial vessel movements in the region can facilitate a number of potential security threats such as piracy, maritime terrorism, narcotics trafficking, and illegal fishing, which require an effective regional response. To facilitate enhanced maritime security cooperation in the region, it is essential that we establish common understanding and shared information systems.”
Attendees discussed and made recommendations on a number of aspects of information sharing, such as the types and sources of information, its use in combatting security threats, best practice in sharing information, and the organisational and technical capabilities required to enhance information sharing. Working groups presented their findings in plenary session, enabling the seminar to endorse a series of ten recommendations which will be presented to the EAS Senior Officials’ Meeting in 2017.
Networking opportunities occurred during a visit to showcase the Australian National Maritime Museum, and many personal and professional relationships were established and cemented across regional maritime organisations. The seminar has helped to build communication, understanding and practical cooperation amongst EAS member states to further build maritime security in the region. His Excellency Hirubalan VP, Deputy Security General of ASEAN for the ASEAN Political Security Community provided a closing statement which emphasised the importance of the EAS, and its achievements in enhancing regional cooperation and confidence-building architectures.
The seminar was lauded a success, largely due to the openness of all attendees to declare and work together to solve regional issues.