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Naval Chiefs of India and Philippines Sign SOP for White Shipping Information Exchange

Chief of the Naval Staff and Commandant of Philippine Coast Guard signed the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for exchange of White Shipping Information on 23 August 2023.  The signing of the SOP between Philippine Coast Guard and Indian Navy would facilitate the operationalization of information exchange on merchant shipping traffic, which will contribute to enhanced maritime safety and security in the region.

What is white shipping and how does it help in India’s maritime security?

  • White shipping information refers to exchange of relevant advance information on the identity and movement of commercial non-military merchant vessels.
  • The seas around India abound in vessels of various types ranging from small inland fishing crafts to larger fishing vessels, coastal crafts carrying personnel and cargo and merchant ships of all shapes and sizes that carry various types of cargo.
  • Being aware of the identity of these vessels is imperative to preventing any potential threat from the sea from impinging on the coastal and offshore security of the country. The 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack is a case in point. Indian Navy has thus been working towards achieving complete Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) along with all other concerned agencies like the coast guard, customs, ports, fisheries, etc.
  • The seas of the entire world are inter-linked and vessels can sail routinely around the globe in pursuit of cargo. Thus, a vessel that is in Indian waters today maybe sailing towards a distant destination and similarly several vessels set sail from ports around the globe could be bound for India.
  • Having advance information of the vessel, its destination and planned itinerary, etc. is thus extremely helpful towards collating an effective MDA as it can then be properly identified when detected. This information is likely to be available with the country from whose port it sails. The information is equally relevant for the destination country and those it passes enroute.
  • Thus, the mutual exchange of such information, called white shipping information, is extremely useful for all concerned.
  • India has signed white shipping agreements with several countries including United States and Singapore and is seeking similar agreements with more countries as part of its ongoing effort to develop an effective regional MDA.

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