Coast Guard Assists in Dedication of Maldives Port Security Organization

NALAGURAIDHOO, Maldives — A new organization dedicated to Indian Ocean regional port and maritime security was inaugurated here today by the Maldivian President and seven of his ministers with help from the U.S. Coast Guard.

The South Asia Regional Port Security Cooperative (SARPSCO) brings together stakeholders from Bangladesh, Comoros, India, Madagascar, the Maldives, Mauritius, Oman, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Delivering a keynote speech, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Craig E. Bone said it is important for the region to work together on port and maritime security to save lives and prevent economic damage by thwarting criminal and terrorist acts before they occur.

“If crimes such as illegal fishing, human smuggling and the transportation of illegal cargoes and drugs can not be collectively combated, then neither can terrorism and piracy,” Bone said.

Admiral Bone added that any disruption of the maritime flow of oil supplies in the Indian Ocean region would have disastrous economic consequences. Half of the world’s international maritime traffic is in the Indian Ocean region.

Bone said the organization of SARPSCO “sends a clear message and a warning to terrorists and criminals in the South Asia and Indian Ocean region that they will be detected, they will be interdicted and their activities will not be tolerated.”

The four-day inaugural meeting of SARPSCO, titled “Partnering for a Safer Sea Conference,” hosted by the Maldives Ministry of Transport and Communication, will conclude Thursday May 22.

Leading the U.S. delegation is the Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Robert O. Blake, Jr., who said, “Cargo containers and international seaports pose potentially attractive targets for terrorists,” in his keynote address to the conference.

“A successful attack against a port could cripple a nation’s economy and disrupt international shipping worldwide,” Blake added.

Ambassador Blake cautioned that there “is no perfect formula” for port security, “but the best approach involves close cooperation of all players — military, government and private sector.”

The ambassador predicted this topic will be an area of real interest during the next several days of discussion at the SARPSCO conference, which is being facilitated by U.S. Coat Guard Activities Far East.

The President of the Republic of Maldives, His Excellency Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, delivered the opening address, saying SARPSCO “with its broad representation is an excellent opportunity to chart a new framework for regional cooperation in this vital area.”

U.S. Coast Guard Activities Far East, headquartered at Tokyo, is one of only two overseas Coast Guard commands and responsible for international port security, maritime safety and engagement throughout a 41-nation Asia-Pacific region.

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