During Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles’ recent visit to Japan, nations pledged to enhance the interoperability of their armed forces amid shared concerns over China’s assertiveness. The minister’s visit came shortly after the Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore, where Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged $2 billion ($2.9 billion) to help Indo-Pacific countries enhance maritime security. “We will use technical cooperation, training and other means conducive to building the maritime law enforcement capacity of at least 20 countries to promote efforts to train at least 800 maritime security officers and strengthen their human resource networks,” he said.
This is a timely and important move by Japan at a time when law enforcement at sea is becoming increasingly difficult. Strengthening civil maritime law enforcement is needed to help the region manage common problems such as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; Drug traffic; human trafficking; marine pollution; and search and rescue. These challenges were set for Australia in April this year with the release of the first Australian Government Civil Maritime Security Strategy.
Over the past decade there has been a significant growth in both the size and use of the Coast Guard and other civilian maritime law enforcement forces in the region. But many states in the region have a limited capacity to respond to national and regional civil maritime security challenges, particularly in relation to maritime domain awareness.
The Japan Coast Guard Academy hosts regional students and the Japan Coast Guard sponsors ASEAN Coast Guard personnel for training in Japan. The U.S. Coast Guard participated in hands-on exercises to help train the Southeast Asian Coast Guard in boarding procedures and vessel inspections. It also supported the technical expert workshop organized by the Southeast Asia Maritime Law Enforcement Initiative, a regional forum aimed at increasing maritime law enforcement cooperation and sharing information between Southeast Asian countries.
Interpol has held courses in Southeast Asia on strengthening border controls and preventing and combating various forms of maritime crime. Within the framework of the Global Program on Maritime Crime of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the Indian Ocean Forum on Maritime Crime carries out capacity building activities through training sessions on visit, boarding, search and seizure procedures; maritime domain awareness; and criminal investigation skills. Based in Bangkok, the program’s Pacific Ocean team helps states in Southeast Asia and the Pacific region build their capacity to combat maritime crime.
But there is no dedicated institution in the Indo-Pacific that focuses specifically on the professional training and education of regional coastguard officers and maritime law enforcement agencies.
A maritime law enforcement professional development center in the Indo-Pacific would fill the void to build partner capacity, promote professionalism in maritime agencies, and enhance regional cooperation to better address maritime security challenges. . The center could also cover maritime security and protection of the marine environment, since these activities are often subsumed under the roles played by regional maritime law enforcement agencies.
The proposed center would encourage the emergence of long-term relationships between Indo-Pacific maritime law enforcement agencies and their counterparts in the region.
It would facilitate contributions to maritime law enforcement training by partners such as the United States, France, Japan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. It would work with existing structures and regional institutions and operate in a way that builds lasting and trust-based relationships to ensure that Indo-Pacific maritime law enforcement agencies see a clear benefit in teachings and engage with it. At the start of its operations, the center would engage with high-level representatives of Indo-Pacific agencies in order to best tailor its programs.
An interesting model to consider is the US International Law Enforcement Academy in Botswana, which hosts and facilitates international law enforcement training, including maritime law enforcement events, particularly in Africa. Another interesting model would be the NATO Centers of Excellence concept, and in particular the NATO Center of Excellence for Maritime Security in Turkey.
The Indo-Pacific Maritime Law Enforcement Professional Development Center is expected to be located in Darwin given the city’s status as a gateway to Southeast Asia. Its establishment there would underscore Australia’s strong ties to the region. Darwin is a rapidly growing center of maritime activity supporting the Australian Defense Force, Australian Border Force, offshore oil and gas industry, commercial fishing, ship repair and maintenance, and maritime tourism.
For Australian Border Force personnel, it is possible that some of the training currently provided at ABF College in Neutral Bay in Sydney will be provided in Darwin. The best place to conduct realistic and practical training is always in the environment in which you intend to operate: the Port of Darwin at large and its maritime approaches are among the best maritime training areas than the ADF , ABF, maritime police units and regional allies are already using. A center of excellence in Darwin would also be ideal for the collaborative framework Heads of Asian Coast Guard Agencies Meeting, of which Australia, through the Maritime Border Command, is a member, to regularly organize practical collective training and exchanges of skills.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met Prime Minister Kishida at the Quad Summit in Tokyo last month. The two leaders will meet this week at the NATO summit in Madrid. On the sidelines of this meeting, Albanese may raise the idea of a maritime law enforcement professional development center in Darwin being a joint venture between the Australian and Japanese governments. It could be managed by the Australian Border Force and the Japan Coast Guard. It would soon become the facilitator of choice for maritime law enforcement training in the Indo-Pacific and foster a multinational approach to the conduct of regional law enforcement operations at sea in an age of maritime insecurity. growing.