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Maritime Security in the Indian Ocean Region IORA Perspective

Published Sep 11, 2018
Updated Aug 12, 2020

The Indian Ocean region faces many traditional and non-traditional security challenges including piracy, armed robberies at sea, terrorism, human trafficking, irregular movement of persons, drugs trafficking, illicit trafficking in wildlife, trafficking of weapons, crimes in the fisheries sector such as IUU fishing, degradation of ocean health, unlawful exploitation of marine resources and climate change with its related repercussions.

The countries of the Indian Ocean region are remarkably diverse in terms of size, economic strength, languages and cultures.

 Recognising that a safe and secure Indian Ocean is important for socio economic development, IORA assigned Maritime Safety and Security (MSS) in 2011 as the top priority area of focus.  The importance of the Indian Ocean as a major transit area for international trade that carries half of the world’s container ships, one third of the world’s bulk cargo traffic and two thirds of the world’s oil shipments requires attention and strategies for Maritime Security includes elements of international peace and security, sovereignty/territorial integrity/political independence, security from crimes at sea, security of resources and environmental security; while Maritime Safety is concerned with training (both technical and personnel), transport, construction and equipment related issues, assistance in distress situations, etc.

The IORA has been addressing MSS in the Indian Ocean through a broad range of activities to enhance international cooperation in security and governance to successfully tackle the challenges faced by the region in MSS. The IORA Leaders’ Summit held in March 2017, in Jakarta, Indonesia, highlighted the prioritization of these concerns through its theme, “Strengthening Maritime Cooperation for a Peaceful, Stable, and Prosperous Indian Ocean.”

IORA has also devised flagship initiatives such as the Indian Ocean Dialogue, which is held annually as a 1.5 track event, bringing together key representatives including scholars, experts, analysts, and policy makers from think tanks, civil societies and governments from IORA Member States to discuss pertinent issues including MSS.

Through these events, the IORA aims at building upon existing national, regional and multilateral measures to support a harmonized implementation of international MSS regulations and provide more effective utilization of resources for enhanced cross-border co-operation and sharing of knowledge, experiences and best practices.  IORA remains committed to:

•           Cooperation between public and private stakeholders, greater involvement of external stakeholders and other regional and sub-regional groupings,

•           The establishment of a regular forum for dialogue and institutionalization of mechanisms for the exchange of information, and

•           Capacity building and provision of technical assistance.

These measures are essential for the advancement of this Priority Area and to secure the Indian Ocean as an ocean strengthening maritime cooperation for a peaceful, stable, and prosperous region.

 Forthcoming IORA initiatives in MS&S include:

•           Establishment of the Maritime Safety and Security Working Group

•           Initial Workshop on Maritime Safety and Security Working Group, on 4-5 September 2018 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.