VLADIVOSTOK, Russia – The Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) and the Maritime State University (MSU), Vladivostok, co-hosted a workshop focused on maritime security and regional cooperation in Northeast Asia in Vladivostok, Russia, Nov. 8-12, 2010.  The workshop aimed to increase shared understanding across the North Pacific region of the complexity and challenges associated with maritime security cooperation.  It brought together 40 officials and scholars from seven countries to engage in candid discussion of feasible, mutually acceptable regional collaborative opportunities to address shared challenges. 

Participants from attending nations and organizations comprised senior-level officials from a broad interagency mix, as well as scholars in the field of maritime and regional security. Participants represented coast guards, navies, government ministries, port operators, private shipping interests, and regional think-tanks and universities from Canada, Japan, Mongolia, People’s Republic of China (including Hong Kong), Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States.

Over the course of the five-day workshop, distinguished speakers and APCSS faculty briefed participants in plenary sessions on topics under daily themes:  Maritime Security Definition and Regional Trends; Economics and Infrastructure of the Oceans; Transnational Challenges at Sea; and Maritime Strategy Development and Interagency Execution.

During breakout sessions, participants discussed and compared perspectives on the presentations and set upon four key objectives for a final report:  (a) the development of a shared working definition of maritime security; (b) identification of shared challenges in the maritime domain; (c) identification of shared opportunities for realizable success in meeting transnational challenges; and (d) identification of key success factors in strategy development and execution for greater regional maritime security.

The workshop closed with a final report by participants to a senior panel comprising Rear Adm. Andrey Ryabukhin, Deputy Commander, Russian Pacific Fleet; Ms Sylvia Curran, U.S. Consul General in Vladivostok; Dr Sergey Ogay, MSU Rector; and Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Ed Smith, APCSS Director.

Delegates developed a shared working definition of maritime security which identified comprehensive and cooperative security as the object of maritime security practitioners.  They specified that maritime security comprises three broad areas of government activity:  (a) enabling the sustainable management of ocean resources; (b) ensuring the efficiency, safety and security of inter-modal transport; and (c) the defense of national interests and jurisdiction.

Delegates identified key challenges in three thematic areas of the maritime domain: political/legal, economic and environmental.

  • In the political/legal domain: lack of mutual trust, competing national priorities, uneven acceptance and/or interpretation of international law of the sea, uneven acceptance and/or enforcement of international protocols for exchange, lack of formal regional forums to address issues of strategic concern, insufficient information exchange at all levels, and poor governance and corruption.
  • In the economic realm: lack of investment in and maintenance of both marine infrastructure and skilled labor in the field; over-exploitation of living and non-living ocean resources; smuggling, trafficking, and robust transnational criminal organizations; and the need to manage destructive competition in the private sector.
  • In the environmental sphere: climate change and mitigation of its effects; natural disaster, oil spills and industrial accidents at sea; and interruption of the ocean ecosystem (ballast water mismanagement, food chain disruption).

Following from discussions about definition and identification of challenges, delegates sought out real opportunities for deepened collaboration in the same three component parts: political/legal, economic and environmental.

  • In the political/legal sector, delegates recommended the development of enhanced dialog forums; the initiation of increased cooperative exercises in international waters; the expansion of existing successful bilateral operational-level agreements, such as the Russia-Japan agreement against illegal poaching; and the development of legal structures to support security optimization in the private sector.
  • In the economic realm, delegates recommended incentivizing cooperation through agreements enabling joint development of ocean resources; increased sharing of best practices; improved exchange of information regarding shared transnational challenges (smuggling, illegal fishing); increased exchanges between agencies, between nations, and among private and public sector stakeholders; and, enhanced development of human capital through development and enforcement of common standards across the maritime sector.
  • In the environmental realm, delegates emphasized the need for increased sharing of information regarding the state of the ocean environment; improved technological transfer and capacity building among states to promote sustainable stewardship within national boundaries; increased exchange of best practices in governmental management of ocean resources; and identification of successful bilateral, trilateral and multilateral “seed beds” that can be widened to include new issue areas, new partners and new mechanisms for increased cooperation on environmental security.

Finally, delegates considered various national perspectives on maritime strategy development and interagency execution and tried to answer the question: “What does success in regional maritime security look like?”

Agreement was met on some fundamental requirements for a framework for success in the maritime sector across the region:

  • mutual trust among regional players;
  • an awareness and acknowledgement of sovereignty concerns with the shared commitment that insistence on “absolute sovereignty” should not impede cooperation on all levels in the short- and medium-term;
  • the need to focus on common, transnational interests;
  • the need for constant, consistent and sustained dialogue between nations;
  • the importance of devolution of operational-level and tactical-level decision making to the appropriate level of authority.

The workshop was a substantively productive event that enhanced awareness of maritime security challenges in the region for those delegates in attendance, and took an essential step in building confidence, relationships, and networks among delegates as a foundation to expanded and sustainable collaborative approaches to maritime issues.

The workshop did succeed in bringing senior Track 1 and 2 delegates from the region to engage in candid dialogue about shared concerns in a uniquely enabling forum.  The final report was remarkable in its candor and sophistication in identifying opportunities and roadblocks to increased confidence in the North Pacific.

APCSS and MSU agreed to continue supporting regional maritime security dialog through distribution, dissemination and further discussion of the workshop findings and recommendations by using their institutional channels and networks as well as information portals and websites.

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