Senior leaders and policy makers from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam gathered virtually and in person in Tumon, Guam, this week to collaborate and expand maritime law enforcement partnerships.
Together, the U.S. Coast Guard and Philippine Coast Guard co-hosted the Southeast Asia Maritime Law Enforcement Initiative Commanders’ Forum Tuesday through Thursday.
The intent of the annual forum is to enhance regional stability by promoting maritime safety, security cooperation, coordination and information sharing. This year, the forum focused on counter drug trafficking; Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fisheries; and the strategic use of maritime domain awareness tools to counter these and other transnational security threats.
“No single nation can be as effective alone as we can together in the fight against threatening and illegal transnational maritime activities,” said Rear Admiral Peter Gautier, deputy commander of U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area. “International and intergovernmental cooperation is essential to safeguarding coastal regions and our shared waters. Forums like this one are vital to strengthening our collective ability to illuminate illicit behavior at sea, promote effective maritime governance and law enforcement, and build capacity and capability.”
During the forum, representatives from each member country shared their key maritime security priorities and outlined challenges they are facing with transnational drug trafficking, IUU fishing and maritime domain awareness. International experts on maritime crime, fisheries, cyber and other related subjects provided status updates and summaries of their topic areas to the group. Midway through the event, participating countries broke out into smaller groups to propose new initiatives for addressing current threats, and commanders of each country’s law enforcement agency gathered together to discuss the issues at their levels.
Rear Adm. Ronnie Gil Gavan, commander of Philippine Coast Guard Maritime Security and Law Enforcement Command and co-host for this year’s SEAMLEI commanders’ forum, highlighted the importance of maintaining stronger partnerships among regional maritime law enforcement agencies.
“Partnerships and collaborations start from relationships, and SEAMLEI proves to be a great incubator of such among like-minded agencies in the region,” Gavan said during his welcome speech.
The forum wrapped up Thursday evening, leaving representatives from each of the six participating countries with enhanced information, ideas and contacts to take home and incorporate into their own maritime law enforcement strategies and operations.