Academic journal article Contemporary Southeast Asia

From Dusk to Dawn? Maritime Domain Awareness in Southeast Asia

Academic journal article Contemporary Southeast Asia

From Dusk to Dawn? Maritime Domain Awareness in Southeast Asia

Article excerpt

Maritime security is not only a contested concept, it also involves very different activities. (1) One of the major clusters of activities is that of information sharing. This domain has become central to coordinating national and international maritime security responses and to developing regional maritime security regimes. As America's National Research Council's Committee of the 1,000 Ship Navy phrased it, information sharing should be understood as a "key enabler". (2) It is a foundational practice, and has the potential to strengthen trust and confidence among maritime security actors. This in turn allows for joint law enforcement operations or even improved security relations between states in more general terms.

In the past decade various networks and centres for information sharing have become operational. Many of these are US-led efforts, such as the maritime security reports by the Office of Naval Intelligence, the Office of Global Maritime Situational Awareness or initiatives under the Maritime Partnership Concept. (3) Increasingly, however, regional initiatives have been developed, especially in the piracy prone areas of Southeast Asia, the Western Indian Ocean and West Africa. They have become important tools not only to tackle piracy, but to address maritime insecurity more broadly. Southeast Asia has spearheaded the development of regional MDA systems. The region has developed centres for information sharing which are both regional--in that they focus on Southeast Asian maritime zones--as well as global, since they work closely with nonlittoral states and the global maritime players. The centres based in Singapore--the Information Sharing Centre (ISC) of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) and the Information Fusion Centre (IFC) operated by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN)--, and Malaysia--the Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB)--have become prototypes for how to organize regional information sharing. For the emerging architecture in other regions, such as the Western Indian Ocean as well as West Africa, these centres have become main reference points. Understanding how these centres work, and whether and how they can complement each other in a larger architecture, is hence a vital task in order to improve a core dimension of maritime security provision. Scrutinizing these centres is also fruitful in academic terms, given that the centres represent a form of everyday practical international security cooperation which has hardly been studied. The centres imply that security actors engage in joint projects and interact on an everyday basis, which in turn might provide the preconditions of more sustained security interaction in the form of maritime security communities. (4)

This article presents a detailed analysis of the three regional Southeast Asian centres, and is divided into three parts. Following this introduction, part one discusses the challenges that information sharing networks and centres face. It foregrounds the importance of social and political aspects and suggests investigating information sharing by asking three questions: Among whom is information shared? What type of information and data is shared? And how is the information interpreted to gain shared understandings of the situation at sea? In the following section, each of the three Southeast Asian centres is discussed in the light of these questions. I argue that the centres should be understood as performing a range of different functions in a broader system. In the conclusion, I review the Southeast Asian system by addressing its efficacy and demonstrate how the overall system, rather than an individual centre, can serve as an international role model for organizing regional information sharing.

Understanding Information Sharing

"Information sharing" is a rather generic term. It refers to the transmission of data, information or knowledge across space and between individuals and organizations. …

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