Indian Coast Guard participated in the 19th Heads of Asian Coast Guard Agencies Meeting (HACGAM) from 05-08 Sep 2023 at Istanbul, Turkey. A four-member ICG delegation led by DG Rakesh Pal, Director General Indian Coast Guard took part in the annual event of the independent forum with 23 members of Coast Guard Agencies and 02 associate members in the form of ReCAAP (Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia and UNODC (The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).
19th HACGAM: Addressing Critical Maritime Issues and Fostering International Cooperation
The 19th Heads of Asian Coast Guard Agencies Meeting (HACGAM) convened to address pressing issues related to maritime law enforcement, safety and security of life at sea, marine environment protection, and the illicit trafficking of drugs, weapons, and humans at sea. The event witnessed the participation of the heads of Coast Guards from all member nations, setting the stage for meaningful discussions and cooperation.
Origins of HACGAM: Promoting Regional Coast Guard Cooperation for Safe and Secure Asian Seas
The HACGAM, an offshoot of a Japanese initiative, was established to foster cooperation among regional Coast Guards. It was inspired by the capture of the pirated vessel MV Alondra Rainbow by the Indian Coast Guard in November 1999. This initiative aimed to ensure and promote safe, secure, and clean seas in the Asian region.
19th HACGAM: Key Discussion Points
During the three-day High-Level Meeting in Istanbul, a wide range of critical maritime issues was discussed, with a focus on finding collaborative solutions. The key agenda items included:
- Maritime Law Enforcement: Participants deliberated on strategies to enhance maritime law enforcement and ensure the rule of law prevails at sea. This included discussions on addressing piracy, illegal fishing, and other transnational maritime crimes.
- Safety and Security of Life at Sea: The safety of seafarers and passengers was a top priority, with talks centering on improving search and rescue operations, enhancing maritime communication, and boosting preparedness for natural disasters at sea.
- Marine Environment Protection: In light of the growing environmental challenges in the region, discussions revolved around preventing and mitigating oil spills, protecting marine biodiversity, and reducing pollution in Asian waters.
- Illicit Trafficking of Drugs, Weapons, and Humans at Sea: The forum explored ways to combat the illegal trafficking of drugs, weapons, and humans at sea, with an emphasis on intelligence-sharing and joint operations to dismantle criminal networks.
19th HACGAM: Strengthening Asian Maritime Cooperation through Dedicated Working Groups
At the end of the Heads of Asian Coast Guard Agencies Meeting, a collective determination to enhance maritime cooperation in the Asian region was affirmed. To ensure a targeted and purpose-driven approach, HACGAM features four dedicated Working Groups, each tackling distinct maritime challenges. These Working Groups include:
- Search and Rescue (SAR) Working Group: The Indian Coast Guard currently chairs this group, demonstrating its commitment to improving search and rescue capabilities in the region and ensuring a swift response to maritime emergencies.
- Environmental Protection Working Group: This group focuses on safeguarding the marine environment, addressing pollution incidents, and preserving the fragile ecosystems in Asian waters.
- Controlling Unlawful Acts at Sea Working Group: Counteracting illegal activities at sea, including piracy and smuggling, is the primary mandate of this group, which seeks to enhance maritime security.
- Information Sharing Working Group: Effective information-sharing mechanisms are crucial for collaborative efforts. This group concentrates on improving intelligence-sharing among member states to combat maritime threats effectively.
The successful conclusion of the 19th Heads of Asian Coast Guard Agencies Meeting marks another step forward in promoting regional maritime security and cooperation. The Indian Coast Guard’s active involvement and leadership in various Working Groups highlight its commitment to ensuring the safety and security of Asian waters.