By Ayman Adly
Marine security experts have stressed the need for broader regional and international co-operation among the stakeholders for addressing the maritime security challenges in the region.
They also called for adopting advanced technical solutions for early detection of potential risks.
Inaugurating the Qatar Maritime Security – Coastal & Border Surveillance Conference (QMARSEC) ¬†in Doha yesterday, HE the Minister of State for Defence Affairs Staff Major General Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah highlighted the importance of the event. He said ¬†the adoption of sophisticated technology was an essential component of Qatar National Security Shield (QNSS) project, ‚Äúwhich is considered a quantum leap for securing Qatar‚Äôs borders‚Äù.
Speaking at the opening session of QMARSEC, Commodore Keith E Blount of UK Royal Navy ¬†said the region covered ¬†a large marine area, which included a number of vital spots and passageways such as the Suez Canal, the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Gulf. Commodore Blount, who is also the deputy commander of Combined Maritime Forces and UKMCC Bahrain, said : ‚ÄúThese are key trade routes and involve various challenges to maintain effective security control over them. For instance, more than 15 huge oil tankers pass through the Strait of Hormuz on a daily basis.‚Äù
He said international efforts in the field had been rewarded as the number of piracy incidents had fallen considerably. ‚ÄúThere have been only ¬†two piracy attacks recently and that too with zero success. However, there are various other risks that have to be constantly monitored to avoid early detection of potential risks and this requires all stakeholders to maintain effective coordination and communication.‚Äù
He said that around 40 different countries, with 35 warships and 30 unmanned underwater vehicles, had taken part in a recent naval exercise in Gulf waters. ‚ÄúYet, there are more to achieve in terms of addressing natural, environmental and security risks, besides other criminal and terrorist activities.‚Äù
Staff Brigadier General (Sea) Ali Ahmed al-Badeed, director of Coastal Borders Security Department (CBSD) at the Ministry of Interior (MoI), said that QMARSEC would introduce the most sophisticated technological solutions in communication and surveillance at seas and coasts, besides the recent innovation in early detection of piracy activities which is part of QNSS project.
‚ÄúProtection of coasts is a joint responsibility and no single entity could assume it. All concerned parties should cooperate in this field and share information, whether on local, regional or international level. The easy flow and exchange of information is highly instrumental in maintaining effective coastal and maritime security,‚Äù he affirmed.
Regarding the creation of a regional GCC command centre, he said ¬†the idea was only a suggestion and it was still under study. If implemented, it would greatly ease the flow of related information among member states.
Similarly, Staff Major General Saad bin Jassim al-Khulaifi, Director of Public Security at MoI, said that QNSS is a comprehensive and unique project that covered ¬†all ¬†of Qatar, whether on land or sea. He also said that the phases of the project are proceeding well and the marine phase has already started in cooperation with Qatar Petroleum. ‚ÄúThe project is being ¬†jointly implemented by the Qatar Armed Forces, MoI and CBSD. There are also plans to purchase a number of different surveillance radars as part of the project.‚Äù