More than 100 senior officials and representatives from over 60 agencies and authorities across the Indo-Pacific region, together with other regional actors, convened in Colombo from 5-7 March 2024 to consolidate and enhance the governance of IORIS, the Indo-Pacific regional information sharing platform designed to facilitate coordination and exchange of information to respond effectively to maritime security threats and support sustainable fisheries.

Over the three days, participants considered how to move towards a common management of the system, to facilitate coherent and efficient use of IORIS amongst all users, whilst ensuring for the long-term vision of the platform’s adoption and employment.

Central to the discussion the enhancement of the of IORIS’ role in enabling Command, Control and Communication (C3), data storage policy, and the accountability of users, with the ultimate goal of strengthening cooperation for more safe and secure seas.

The meeting, co-chaired by CRIMARIO and the Sri Lanka Navy, is another important milestone for the Indo-Pacific governance of the IORIS platform, which endorsed, amongst others, legal documents consolidating the governance structure and establishing rules for the information exchange and for the general use of IORIS to best serve the needs of all users in the Indo-Pacific.

Moreover, the implementation of the Regional IORIS Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the Indo-Pacific will continue to contribute to the enhancement of information exchange within the region in a harmonised manner, using standard reporting methodology and terminology, hence facilitating the coordinating process among members.

Speaking during the opening ceremony, Lars Bredal, Chargé d’Affaires at the EU Delegation to Sri Lanka and Maldives, affirmed: “The European Union and Indo-Pacific countries have a stake in each other’s prosperity and security. Our regions share the same interest in upholding the rules-based international order – with the UN Charter at its core. In the area of maritime safety and security the EU funded CRIMARIO enables Indo-Pacific partners to better govern their maritime spaces with the use of the IORIS neutral and secure information-exchange platform. “

In his opening speech the Sri Lanka Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera, highlighted a shift in maritime security strategies, emphasizing the growing importance of sharing information among maritime nations over traditional individual or country-specific measures: “This collective approach to information sharing is crucial for combating maritime crimes and ensuring safe seas, and maritime nations should join a maritime information network and relax individual information sharing protocols to achieve this goal. Furthermore, he emphasised the commendable contribution of IORIS instructors in expanding the perspectives of Sri Lanka Navy personnel and emphasized how the IORIS platform has been instrumental in effectively resolving and addressing maritime issues on a regular basis.

Furthermore, Martin Cauchi-Inglott, CRIMARIO project director, added: “We have learnt that to progress, we need to be innovative, plan ahead, and most important of all, ensure that all IORIS users feel that they are part of the decision-making process, and hence this Steering Committee. This pathway will continue leading towards greater achievements, in terms of both expansion of the Community and efficiency of the platform, and perhaps we should be now looking at more out-of-the box solutions to continue propelling us forwards.”

The conference follows the first IORIS Steering Committee (ISC) meeting held in Bali, Indonesia, in May 2023, which lead to the  implementation of the regional governance and the creation of its supporting working groups (Policy, Legal, Operational, and Technical) and the subsequent IORIS Steering Committee Policy Board and Working Group meeting held in Nairobi, Kenya, in October 2023, during which specific actions were discussed to operationalise the governance of IORIS.