Mombasa 17 December 2019: the EU CRIMARIO project shared its achievements and concrete contribution to a better maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean during a 2-day workshop organised to mark the project closing. Senior speakers were invited to discuss challenges and initiatives of maritime security in the whole Indian Ocean to facilitate the presentation of the forthcoming CRIMARIO II project initiated by the European Union.

Held in Mombasa (Kenya), this event gathered around 60 senior officials and practitioners from the wide Indian Ocean region: the 5 partner countries (Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles), western and eastern Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia countries (Djibouti, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Somalia, Thailand) and key international partners (EU NAVFOR, EUCAP Somalia, IMO, MASE, IOC).

The meeting was officially opened by the Head of the EU Delegation in Kenya, Ambassador Simon Mordue, and Principal Secretary of State Department for Shipping and Maritime Affairs, Nancy Karigithu. Both of them emphasized the necessity to intensify regional cooperation and maritime information sharing to reach a peaceful and healthy maritime space and protect the Blue Economy of the littoral states in the Indian Ocean rim. Besides announcing the CRIMARIO II project, Ambassador Mordue mentioned main EU capacity building initiatives focusing on Western Indian Ocean, namely a regional programme on the Red Sea, a new one on Port Security and Safety of Navigation but also the EU support to the newly established Kenya Coast Guard Services; he recalled that the longstanding historic ties of the EU with the region had seen a significant development in the security cooperation field these last years, the maritime sector being one of the most promising. As a country with great involvement in regional and international maritime security, Kenya took and is still taking on a major part in the fight against piracy and armed robbery in the waters off the Horn of Africa. As such, the country agreed to chair the Contact group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) in 2020.

The CRIMARIO team then took the floor to detail the achievements of a 5-year period: the IORIS web-based platform connecting 128 users in 5 countries and 2 regional centres – 60 training sessions in maritime data visualisation and analysis delivered to more than 1000 professionals – the transfer of AIS coastal network to Kenya authorities – and the building of a strong network of practitioners in the India Ocean aware of the importance of information sharing at national and regional level. The project developed a unique, comprehensive approach combining public diplomacy, digital communication and knowledge management put forth within the project, the IORIS platform, the capacity building actions and the partnership spirit. As a result, this European initiative has become a recognised actor in the Indian Ocean maritime security community.

During two roundtables, the complex challenges of maritime security were discussed in depth with the facilitation of Marianne Peron-Doise, CRIMARIO strategic advisor. The first exchanges assessed the strategic development in the Indian Ocean security and evocated the risks and opportunities raised by a myriad of new trends affecting the maritime domain. The global perception is that the whole region is facing many vulnerabilities with emerging non-traditional security challenges (resilience of piracy group, Illegal unreported and unregulated fishing, increase of drugs and human trafficking, threats to ocean biodiversity and environment) which need a coordinated approach and more cooperation from regional powers but also external actors interested by the stability of the region and the rule of law at sea. One of the highlights of the panel was to gather European and Indian perspectives with stimulating exchanges between the Commodore José Vizinha Mirones, EU Atalanta Force Commander and Vice-Admiral (retired) Pradeep Chauhan, the Director the National Maritime Foundation in Delhi. The two speakers agreed in particular on a form of ambiguity in the definition of any capacity building policy which should involve recognising the gap between capacity and capability. In certain situations, a state may have maritime capacities but without an effective framework to implement them (meaning agreement or political will for example) to be able to use it.

The second panel was dedicated to the current strategic developments in Southeast Asia maritime security. One of the objectives of the panel was to facilitate the presentation of the new EU capacity building project, CRIMARIO II that will see the expansion of the IORIS platform to the Eastern Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia. For those who had no great knowledge of the state of the relations between EU and ASEAN it was an excellent opportunity to highlight that ASEAN has become one of the showcases of the EU foreign policy in Asia. Moreover, in the security field, the most developed domain for cooperation has been maritime security. Southeast Asia’s stability and prosperity depends to a large extend on a safe, secure maritime domain but Asian waters are well known to be the theatre of illegal activities ranging from violent acts of piracy and smuggling to IUU fishing, migrations as well as environmental damages which all need to be addressed through regional and international cooperation. These topics were explored with a great success by three senior searchers : Dr Jay Benson, from One Earth Future USA, in charge of the Stable Seas programme, Captain (retired) Martin Sebastian, from the Maritime Institute of Malaysia and Professor Tomonori Yoshizaki from the National Institute for Defence Studies of Japan.

The main take away from the panellists was to underline that despite the fact that the region was benefitting from strong foundations to fight maritime insecurity with existing frameworks, maritime mechanisms, exchange structures and political military dialogues (RECAAP, IFC Changi, various ASEAN forum) information sharing was considered to be weak at the regional and national level. Beyond technology, the lack of info-sharing is mainly related to human and trust issues as well as inter agencies rivalries.

Another element to take into account is that unlike the Indian Ocean, maritime security is closely linked with sovereignty issues and economics rights in the waters of Southeast Asia, which can lead to complex relations between Navies, Coast-Guards and others Maritime Law Enforcement Agencies (MLEA). However, the significant development of Coast-Guards fleets in the region can be noted, notably with the active support of Japan and its “coast guard diplomacy”.

Captain Hassan Afrah, Director of Somali Maritime Administration, then intervened to talk about his difficult period of captivity when he was in the hands of pirates, giving us to understand the human reality of piracy. 

Ondrej Vosatka, CMR programme manager, DG for International Development and Cooperation of the European Commission, made a presentation of the CRIMARIO II project. He underlined that with this project, EU wants to offer partner countries a way to strengthen cooperation on maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean rim and Southeast Asia countries. Apart from the IORIS platform, additional activities will be provided to increase law enforcement capacities, encouraging cross sectorial and interregional approaches in maritime surveillance and policing. The project will bring support to the creation of a regional platform for communication among law enforcement agencies.

The conclusion of the workshop underlined the importance of transparent cooperation and a trusting dialogue between regional officials and partners concerned with preserving good maritime governance in the Indian Ocean. The continuation of the CRIMARIO project and its extension to the eastern Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia requires the pursuit of this dialogue and feeding it regularly.

The inauguration of the AIS coastal network provided by CRIMARIO was held separately on December 18th,2019. See dedicated article.