The growing reliance on the oceans for trade, and energy makes ‘Maritime Security’ one of the predominant factors that have a direct impact on global security. With approximate 362 million square kilometres of ocean space, the global community would have to face a wide range of challenges in countering maritime security threats that would take place within the maritime domain, if collaborative effort is not structured. Considered as the last frontier of mankind, the oceans therefore have to be protected from present as well as future security threats which are anticipated.
Today, we encounter a major challenge in terms of keeping the maritime sphere safe and secure. Since vast oceans are vulnerable to be utilized by criminals for nefarious activities due to blindness and lack of or sympathetic legal regimes to deal with wrongdoer.
The rapid evolution of maritime security threats and challenges demand a proactive response from the key players who have the responsibility of keeping the oceans safe and secure. As we all act as nodes of a web that is laid over the maritime domain, the role played by stakeholders in protecting the maritime sphere from a wider range of threats is therefore considered crucial.
The Navies, Coast Guards, other maritime law enforcement agencies and a number of other entities responsible for surveillance of vast oceans, find it challenging to remain vigilant on each and every square meter of the ocean. Despite the advances made in the fields of communication, maritime surveillance, intelligence gathering, information sharing, etc., maritime space is being still heavily exploited by illegal actors. They have been successful in navigating through the barely monitored maritime sectors as well as some of the loosely imposed rules/regulations. Today, even the most technologically advanced agencies run into difficulties in acquiring the complete maritime picture which is considered as a binding factor as far as the implementation of counter strategies are concerned.
Though, there are quite a number of agencies that are involved in ensuring maritime security and managing their own affairs/ back yards such as Merchant Vessel traffic, smuggling trails of humans and drugs, IUU fishing, human trafficking etc., each of them has their capabilities and capacities focused on different sectors to acquire visibility only in their interested sectors. Unfortunately, a very few agencies share their visible portion of the maritime picture, which includes vital details pertaining to different activities in the maritime domain, with the rest. Therefore, one of the significant challenges that we face today is to explore how best each one of us can work in unison to share the ‘own visible maritime segment’ with rest of us to minimize ‘Maritime Blindness’.
On the other hand, the illegal actors have taken the advantage of this ‘maritime blindness’ and continue to exploit same. When we look at the present maritime context, it is quite evident that the Navies, Coast Guards, and other agencies find it challenging to be on the proactive side when addressing maritime security threats. One of the key reasons for such conditions is attributed to ‘Maritime Blindness’, which prevents us seeing the much needed broader strategic maritime picture. Unless all the partners share their visible maritime segment with the rest, it will be a strenuous undertaking to overcome maritime security threats and challenges. Further, there is a tendency of different agencies investing separately to achieve overlapping visibility, mainly due to lack of coordination, resulted in waste of finances.
It is in this context that this year’s Galle Dialogue theme ‘Greater Maritime Visibility for Enhanced Maritime Security’ has been articulated with the notion that the participants will confer ways and means to augment ‘maritime visibility’ through constructive deliberations and means of sharing already available capabilities that stem from a tactical level all the way up to a broader strategic and policy level. It is anticipated that such an approach will pave the way to enhance ‘maritime visibility’ and address maritime security threats and challenges through a proactive stratagem.