The CGPCS Technical Sub Group on Maritime Situational Awareness (MSA) was established following the 15th plenary meeting of the CGPCS held in Djibouti in November 2013, which agreed that “a technical sub group of WG1 will consider future information sharing requirements in the maritime domain and present a paper on the anticipated challenges and potential solutions for discussion by WG1 in early 2014.”
Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) agreed to convene this sub group and facilitate mapping of the issues. Three meetings were held in February, May, and September of 2014, resulting in two documents titled ‘Initial Findings’ and ‘Final Findings’, and a 2 page summary showing the current and planned information sharing framework in the Western Indian Ocean. At the 17th plenary meeting of the CGPCS held in Dubai in October 2014 the WG Counter Maritime Piracy and Mitigation Operations agreed that MSA should be included in the work plan of the WG. As part of its ongoing support to the CGPCS and with support from Chairmen of the WG Counter Maritime Piracy and Mitigation Operations, OBP organized the subject workshop in Brussels, Belgium on 29-30 January 2015. Approximately 30 representatives from governments, international and regional organizations, military agencies, the maritime industry, and civil society participated in the workshop. The workshop was funded by OBP, and was hosted by the CGPCS WG Counter Maritime Piracy and Mitigation Operations and OBP. Previous meetings of the sub group had identified three types of information, or building blocks, needed for a comprehensive MSA framework. These information types formed the foundation for discussions during the workshop: (1) Maritime Traffic Awareness; (2) Maritime Threat Awareness; and (3) Maritime Response Awareness.
The participants to the workshop concluded that the continuous efforts over the past six years from industry, national and regional authorities and the proactive synchronization of the three coalitions and independent deployers through the SHADE process have created “the world’s most comprehensive Maritime Response Awareness system” and that the common goal now is to create and ensure a comprehensive, sustainable MSA framework in the Indian Ocean. To achieve this goal, participants concluded, it will require the sustained commitment by Industry, International Community and Countries in the region; developing a better appreciation and understanding of regional aspirations and retaining the legacy (lessons learned) and expertise for an adequate MSA framework. The importance of adequate Maritime Situational Awareness cannot be underestimated. It is a central requirement to ensure free and safe shipping and a fundamental precondition for national and regional authorities, not only to counter-piracy, but for maritime security in general. But to establish and sustain a comprehensive MSA is positively challenging as it requires vision, long-term commitment and a combined and shared effort of a multitude of stakeholders. The work of the Technical Sub Group on MSA is in this regard of the utmost importance. The full report of the Workshop will be available shortly through the CGPCS website.