Rising maritime security issues across Pacific Island countries has led to consultations by the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) Secretariat in Suva, Fiji to find ways to deal with these issues.
Last week, a team from the PIF Secretariat was in Vanuatu carrying out consultations with government and private sector organizations.
Mr. Viliame Wilikilangi, regional security advisor to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Suva says one of the main topics of the consultations was maritime security.
“Our focus on maritime security, which is something we’ve identified across a number of countries in the region is around the issue of border security and being able to have enough maritime domain awareness regarding the movement of small craft vessels, fishing vessels in and out of our various economic exclusion zones,” he tells Kizzy Kalsakau of 96 BuzzFM’s Vanuatu Nightly News.
He says one of the policies too that they are currently consulting on is the Bekatau Plus Declaration. Under the Bekatau Plus Declaration is a commitment the leaders made last year at their 48th meeting in Samoa to increase regional cooperation and coordination on information sharing and maritime security to achieve a more safe and secure region as a whole.
“So, I guess we would be interested to really hear from Vanuatu, particularly from the police, the VMF excetera, on what would be some of their thinking on how we can improve maritime security as a whole, not only for Vanuatu, but contributing to maritime security for the region as a whole.
“One of the big things we are identifying is that due to the lack of capacity and the lack of capability that our countries have to be able to properly monitor our maritime boundaries, which are really big, we just don’t have the assets or a capability to be able to do this. So, it’s about having proper information and having some sort of regional mechanism to be able to assist us in securing our borders.”
Some countries, certainly Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and the Republic of Palau have these Blue Boats come from Vietnam to do illegal their waters. So, that’s an example of some of the maritime security issues that we are facing, Mr. Viliame Wilikilangi says.
“Vanuatu has had issues in the past with yachts coming in with drugs and you know it is along some of the transshipment routes from the US to Australia and also to New Zealand. So, these are concerns we are really trying to look at and have these reflected in the policy.”