Maritime safety and security within the Indian Ocean are set to increase and will benefit Seychelles as two centres dealing with and coordinating maritime information exchange signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Tuesday.
The MoU was signed by the director of the Seychelles-based Regional Coordination Operations Centre (RCOC), Sam Gonthier, and done virtually by the director of the India-based Information Fusion Centre - Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR), Rohit Bajpai.
Effective for two years from the date of signing, the agreement aims to promote maritime safety and security collaboration, as well as exchange cooperation of personnel, information, technology, and best practices.
Both parties will be able to share information and develop capabilities through training in operational information-sharing, maritime domain awareness, and sharing of best practices through the conduct of seminars, workshops, and or tabletop exercises on maritime security, safety, and information sharing.
Gonthier said that since the pirates in the Indian Ocean have changed their operations from piracy to drug and human trafficking, the collaboration will allow for more presence in the region, and benefit Seychelles.
"We have seen an increase in drug trafficking, illegal migration, human trafficking, and illegal wildlife trade, as well as IUU (Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated ) fishing. Having more partners in maritime security means that we get more information coming in, allowing us to know where these illegal vessels are and respond. We already have partners such as the EUNAVFOR, the UK as well as all the signatory countries. India has a lot more vessels than all the partners put together and as such, they can help us with patrolling when we need such," said Gonthier.
He said that as Seychelles has a vast territory of 1.4 million square kilometres ,"we are unable to patrol all this territory and as such with new partners, we have the ability to patrol more."
In his address at the virtual signing of the MoU, IFC-IOR's Bajpai acknowledged the pivotal role being played by RCOC in coordination with the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre towards strengthening the regional maritime security architecture in the western Indian Ocean region.
He outlined that with "the Indian Ocean's status as an international trade highway becoming more significant than ever before" the number of challenges that accompany this are also increasing.
"Maritime security in the Indian Ocean region necessitates continued collaboration and information sharing," he said.
In 2018, seven neighbouring states of the western Indian Ocean signed two agreements to establish an architecture for maritime security to promote collaboration and improve maritime security in the region.
This led to the establishment of the Regional Coordination operation Centre and the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre based in Madagascar. The MAZE agreements as they are called, make provision for partnership with the wider region.
It is within this context that the MAZE Agreement steering committee approved the signature of an MoU with the IFC-IOR in December 2021.
Gonthier shared that countries such as Somalia, Yemen, Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola, and Namibia are also interested in entering the MAZE Programme.