7 May 2018

East Africa: New Maritime Security Agreements Between Indian Ocean Countries

Four agreements pertaining to enhanced state coordination for maritime security in the western Indian Ocean were signed during a ministerial conference hosted by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) and the government of Mauritius, with the support of the European Union, an observer member of the IOC.

The event was convened to address common threats like piracy and illegal fishing faced by states in the western Indian Ocean region. For instance, $13 billion was lost to maritime piracy in the western Indian Ocean in 2013, and losses as a result of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing amount to $400 million annually according to the IOC.

Two of the agreements fall under the regional Maritime Security (MASE) programme. The first will ensure the exchange and sharing of maritime information through the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre based in Madagascar. State coordinated actions at sea through the Regional Centre for Coordination Operations based in the Seychelles feature in the second deal.

In a statement, Hamada Madi, secretary general of the IOC, reflected on the importance of political will in steering cooperation so that each member state can "fully take advantage of a new growth based on the potential of our oceans". Attorney General Maneesh Gobin, who replaced Minister of Foreign Affairs Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo as the official representative of Mauritius, said that "the new frontier of our development, of that of the islands of the region and of the big region of eastern and southern Africa, is this ocean which we share". Gobin equated ensuring the future of "our countries" with "the securitisation of our maritime spaces".

One hundred and eighty representatives, including defence, interior, and foreign affairs ministers from 25 countries and high-ranking officials of multilateral institutions from 17 regional and international organisations having interests or missions deployed in the region, attended the event.

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