Director of the RCOC,
International Liaison Officers from countries of the region,
My colleagues from the EU Member States
Representatives of EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation Atalanta
Members of the Press,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to meet you this morning for the launch of the Maritime Awareness System (MAS) funded under the MASE programme.This is a key tool in support of the regional approach we are building to address maritime threats in the region.
First of all, I would like to highlight the important role played by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) under the MASE programme for the establishment of the Regional Coordination Operational Centre (RCOC) in Seychelles.
I would also like to thank the Director of the RCOC and all the international liaison officers based at the RCOC for their cooperation and commitment to fully operationalise the functioning of the Regional Centre for the benefit of all the countries in the Western Indian Ocean.
The recent Cutlass exercise that has seen your full participation shows that the main international actors are now aware of the potential and capacities of your centre.
Addressing maritime threats in the region: importance of the regional approach supported by the EU
As you all know, the region is confronted with many challenges such as piracy as well as the trafficking of narcotics, people and illicit goods, arms proliferation, illegal fishing, environmental degradation and destruction.
We have a responsibility to achieve rule-based governance of the seas. How do we do that? First, by working with our regional and international partners. And second, by providing a comprehensive approach to dealing with interests ranging from freedom of navigation to border security and biodiversity conservation.
This is an approach that the EU supports with maritime security programmes, MASE and CRIMARIO, and the EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation ATALANTA which are strategic initiatives to promote maritime security and maritime governance in the Eastern, Southern African and Indian Ocean region.
This joint collaboration brings concrete results. The drastic reduction of piracy off the Somali coast over the past ten years is a concrete example.
But this is no time to rest on our laurels; we have to keep going forward and tackle an ever more complex security climate.
And you may ask yourself whether potential threats are adequately covered by existing surveillance mechanisms and networks.
Here, I would also like to congratulate the countries of the region for acknowledging the need to enhance information sharing at regional level and undertake joint regional actions at sea in order to combat these maritime crimes.
Cooperation is the name of the game here, as is complementarity.
And the response so far is very positive. The adherence of countries of the region to the two regional maritime agreements namely a Regional Agreement for the Setting up of a Regional Maritime Information Exchange and Sharing Mechanism and secondly a Regional Agreement on the Coordination of Operations at Sea is highly commendable.
With that said it is important for us here in the region to take ownership of and drive improvements that will enhance our maritime domain awareness, and to combat maritime and criminal threats.
The role of the Maritime Awareness System (MAS): making it possible to share information at regional level
Today, we are visiting the Regional Centre as it has a pivotal role to play in coordinating joint regional operations at sea to combat maritime crimes.
The timely detection and neutralization of any threat arising in or approaching via the maritime environment is a key element in Maritime Security.
Sharing of information at regional level is now possible with the operationalisation of the Maritime Awareness System (MAS) that links the RCOC with national centres of the seven signatory countries of the MASE regional maritime agreements. These equipment worth close to EUR 2.5 million has been fully financed by the European Union.
It is equally important to highlight that maritime security needs a multi-agency and multi-functional response. Today, various authorities are responsible for the implementation of different tasks at national level. There is a need for a coordinated and comprehensive approach to dealing with interests ranging from freedom of navigation to border security and biodiversity conservation.
This is why under the MASE programme, the EU provided funding to develop national maritime strategy for the countries of the region including Seychelles. The objective is to bring together all relevant national actors in the maritime sector to enhance cooperation and integration which would greatly enhance preparedness and response to threats to maritime security.
The Maritime Awareness System (MAS) on its side will enable providing timely accurate information and intelligence, enhancing surveillance and reconnaissance of all vessels and cargo within the Western Indian Ocean zone; I am sure this will improve awareness of the situation in the region.
Advancing regional cooperation with coordinated regional patrols: key to address maritime threats in the region
Given the limited assets of the countries of the region, it is important to underline that they have decided to undertake coordinated regional patrols at sea to enhance response capability.
This is quite innovative and is a good means to be more cost effective. As you may be aware already, the EU funded MASE programme is closely accompanying these efforts by financially supporting all the signatory countries in undertaking joint regional patrols by their respective coastguards and navies.
Finally, I would like to mention the MARPOL operation that was conducted one month ago in Madagascar where countries of the region participated in a pilot exercise to respond to a possible case of maritime pollution. This was the first example of regional cooperation under the MASE agreements and helps to understand also the variety that can be included into the maritime threats.
Despite the success of this first MARPOL exercise, the regional cooperation system must be further fine-tuned and this can only help by means of further regional operations, which I am sure, will now unfold with the operationalisation of the MAS.
Beyond the very useful and needed drill exercises, we are really looking forward to testify the first, authentic action at sea triggered by the RCOC centre. We count on the valuable international and national staffs that we are very happy to meet here today for this to become true.
The EU is the only partner which is currently supporting this regional maritime centre. The EU is proud to enhance its collaboration with the countries of the region as it is a good and concrete example of improving maritime security. And I must say that I am really glad that my colleagues, ambassadors from EU Member States, who are accredited to the Republic of Seychelles but not based here, have the opportunity to see how the regional cooperation that we have collectively set in motion, is delivering results.
Thank you for your kind attention.