The vast ASEAN maritime domain is home to major fish and hydrocarbon resources, and provides shipping lanes that carry billions of dollars in international goods every year. Despite this, most ASEAN member states don’t have a comprehensive operating picture of their maritime neighborhood. Challenged by jurisdictional disputes, political tensions and capacity deficits, basic maritime domain awareness in the region remains out of reach.
Faced with this dilemma, ASEAN maritime policy makers gathered for the “Building Maritime Shared Awareness in Southeast Asia” workshop hosted by APCSS with support from U.S. Pacific Command. Seventy-one people from 10 ASEAN nations and the United States attended the workshop at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies May 10 to 14 to explore feasible ways ahead to enhance the region’s domain awareness.
“The event was an ideal platform to share best practices and lessons learned from recent regional maritime activities,” said APCSS Associate Professor Kerry Lynn Nankivell, workshop lead. “It was driven by a recognized need for a comprehensive look at maritime information sharing, which underpins all maritime operations and informs good maritime policy.”
Subject matter experts shared best practices in multi-national information sharing leading to coordinated operations in a number of transnational missions, including search and rescue, oil spill response, and countering illegal fishing, counter-piracy, and counter-trafficking. Following lectures, multi-national breakout groups worked to identify lessons learned and how to apply them.
By workshop’s end, the majority of participants agreed on recommended actions to deepen regional maritime shared awareness, including: institutionalizing a single ASEAN forum for comprehensive discussion of maritime issues; establishing a single point of contact within each ASEAN member state to facilitate regional information sharing; and deepening and expanding U.S.-ASEAN and intra-ASEAN training, exercises and exchanges.
Participants refined these recommendations and other country-level ones through days of discussion. Nankivell said recommendations are now “well-positioned for referral to ASEAN’s official mechanisms for consideration, as well as to USPACOM, U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Coast Guard.”
APCSS Director Lt. Gen. (Ret) Dan Leaf added, “Shared awareness is complex and requires comprehensive solutions. It’s not easy, but it’s not as difficult as dealing with the consequences of not advancing maritime information sharing. This [workshop] has been a very important step in making progress.”
ASEAN participants were from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.