The Jakarta Post
In an attempt to increase maritime security in the region, coast guards from six Southeast Asian countries shared their best practices on tackling illegal fishing and drug trafficking.
The US Coast Guard, in partnership with Indonesia’s Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla), helped train coast guards from the region in an exercise at Benoa Harbor in Bali on Friday morning.
The hands-on exercise was conducted on board two fishing vessels to enhance the confidence of officers in conducting boarding procedures and vessel inspections. Participants came from Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
The Friday exercise was part of the Southeast Asia Maritime Law Enforcement Initiative's (SEAMLEI) Technical Experts Workshop (TEW), held in Bali for five days from June 24 to 28. The TEW event was hosted by Bakamla and supported by the United States' Mission to ASEAN and the US Coast Guard. It was attended by over 90 technical officers and specialists of maritime law enforcement bodies in Southeast Asia.
“This event has a special meaning, especially for countries in the Southeast Asia region. Our main target is to help each other understand how coast guards from the region conduct their tasks on maritime safety and maritime security,” Bakamla director for exercises First Admiral Yeheskiel Katiandagho said.
The SEAMLEI, formerly known as the Gulf of Thailand Maritime Law Enforcement Initiative (GOTI), is a regional forum meant to increase maritime law enforcement cooperation and information-sharing among Southeast Asian nations.
The GOTI was established in 2012 as a partnership between the United States and the maritime law enforcement agencies of the four countries bordering the Gulf of Thailand – Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam – to enable seamless collaboration among these agencies in the region. In 2018, it was expanded to include the Philippines and Indonesia.
Prior to the Friday exercise, the US Coast Guard and Bakamla also facilitated an extensive professional exchange through group discussions and briefings by SEAMLEI members and experts. The workshops included theoretical aspects related to maritime boarding as a complement to the hands-on training. The topics also included national laws and regulations, maritime domain awareness and information-sharing.
Capt. Sherman Lacey from the US Coast Guard said Southeast Asia had become increasingly important to the US.
“Our national strategy has identified that Southeast Asia is critically important, both to the United States and to the global economy. So the United States has been involved in friendship with Southeast Asia for a very long time, and it’s critical that the United States remains involved,” he said.
As part of its support for the event, the US Coast Guard brought its expertise to the table, particularly its experience in dealing with nontraditional transnational and regional maritime threats.
Twelve experts from the US, including seven trainers, participated in the event.
"At this particular event, we chose to focus on drugs and illegal fishing,” Lacey said, adding that the same event was expected to be held next year with different issues to be explored. (ipa)