Asia-Pacific authorities agree to enhance regional maritime safety

By Edu Lopez

Maritime experts from 17 countries and six international organizations have agreed to enhance strategic approach to regional cooperation on maritime safety, security, marine environmental protection and search and rescue at the conclusion of the 11th Asia-Pacific Heads of Maritime Safety Agencies (APHoMSA) forum in Manila.

The 11th APHoMSA forum issued the Manila 2010 Statement acknowledging the significance of active participation and information sharing among the Asia Pacific countries.

The forum also encouraged unified efforts to reinforce maritime safety, maritime security, marine environmental protection and search and rescue tasks.

It encourages wider participation of Asia-Pacific countries in future APHoMSA fora and recognizes that APHoMSA members share a common understanding and interest on safety of ships and offshore platforms, effective methods of addressing marine pollution, importance of addressing security concerns, and opportunities for greater collaboration on maritime issues.

They also noted the importance of fostering a safety culture with operators being encouraged to take greater responsibility for the safety of their ships and crew.

The forum called for coordinated efforts among countries of the Asia Pacific region and the need to address the problem of piracy off the Coast of Somalia, Gulf of Aden, Horn of Africa and the Western Indian Ocean.

The Manila 2010 Statement also declared the following:

– Underscores the importance of implementing the Long-range identification and tracking of ships (LRIT) System and notes that IMO is establishing the distribution facility for the provision of LRIT information to security forces in the Gulf of Aden and the western Indian Ocean.

– Reaffirms the role of the IMO in developing global regulations as opposed to unilateral or regional measures), and emphasizes the implementation of IMO conventions.

– Recognizes the role of human element in maritime security and safety and encourages countries to consider ratifying and applying key ILO instruments, including Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC, 2006), ILO Convention 185 (Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention, 2003), and ILO Convention 188 (Work in Fishing Convention, 2007). Regional cooperation is encouraged in this regard.

– The current alarming shortage of maritime professionals. Improving the perception of the general public on the maritime industry and its profession is of paramount importance in attracting new maritime industry recruits and sustaining development of the maritime industry.

– Agrees that the annual APHoMSA forum plays a vital role in promoting the safety of life and property at sea at the global and regional levels.

– Acknowledges the crucial role of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing Center (ReCAAP ISC) and other partner organizations in decreasing the incidents of piracy and sea robbery in the Asia Pacific region.

– Notes that lessons learned in oil spill response contribute to the review and revision of applicable regulations.

– Commits to promote safe, efficient and environmentally responsible transportation systems and to continue to promote education and training in the maritime community.

– Acknowledges that in addressing the challenges of promoting safety of life at sea, marine environmental protection, maritime security, maritime search and rescue, and the effective conduct of law enforcement, the primary key is the integration of efforts and cooperation of concerned agencies.

– Recognizes the challenges to maritime safety, maritime security and marine environmental protection as the competition for use of the marine environment and shipping increases.

– Enhances IMO’s capacity-building initiatives in the region through the Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme (ITCP) and the need for IMO to focus on Pacific Island Countries and Territories.

– Agrees that Tripartite Technical Expert Group and Cooperative Mechanisms are important platforms for maintaining navigational safety and environmental protection of Straits of Malacca and Singapore as it reflects the commitment to navigational safety, marine environmental protection and facilitation of the movement of ships in the Straits.

The next Aphomsa Forum will be hosted by South Korea in 2011 and Vietnam in 2012. The Philippine Coast Guard hosted this year’s meeting and was chaired by Commandant Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo PCG.

(Manila Bullettin)

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