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RAN ships at night

Navy security training centre set for Territory

By Anthony Bergin

The Morrison government will soon commence building a maritime security training centre in Darwin to facilitate training of navy for maritime operational boarding tasks. The new facility would broadly support the creation of an Indo-Pacific Maritime Law Enforcement Centre (IMLEC) in Darwin to cater for the professional development requirements of the Australian Border Force and regional coastguards.

The past decade or so has seen a significant growth in both the size and use of coastguards and other civil maritime law enforcement (MLE) forces in the region. But many regional states have limited capacity to respond to national and regional civil maritime security challenges, especially in maritime domain awareness.

Strengthening civil MLE is necessary to assist the states of the Indo-Pacific in managing common challenges such as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, drug trafficking, people smuggling, marine pollution and search and rescue. Building MLE capacity will increase the safety and maritime security of Indo-Pacific states. Currently there is no dedicated institution focussed specifically on providing professional training and education for officers from regional MLE agencies.

The Centre would operate innovative MLE programs to build partner capacity, promote profes-sionalism in MLE agencies and strengthen regional co-operation to better meet civil MLE challenges. It would include a research capability focussed on exploring technologies and best practice to enhance MLE capacities across the region.

Some coverage of maritime safety and marine environmental protection would also be included given that these activities can often be roles of regional MLE agencies.

IMLEC could be an independent organisation or possibly a centre within Charles Darwin University. Some students would be self paying. But crucial to the success of the centre as a facilitator for integrating MLE training across the Indo-Pacific would be sponsors ranging from national maritime authorities, national governments and various regional and international bodies, such as Interpol and IMO.

The centre should be located in Darwin given its status as the gateway to South-East Asia and would underline Australia’s strong links to the region. Darwin is a rapidly growing centre of maritime activity supporting Defence, the Australian Border Force, the offshore oil and gas industry, commercial fishing, ship repair and maintenance, and marine tourism.

Professional civil MLE development in Darwin would afford IMLEC’s participants the opportunity to see firsthand Australia’s whole-of-government civil MLE arrangements.

Operational engagement by IMLEC course members in Darwin would be invaluable to the generation of a shared understanding of regional civil MLE challenges. IMLEC would promote the combined, joint, intra-governmental, inter-agency and multinational approach to the conduct of regional MLE operations drawing on the very best expertise and skills.

Now is the right time for the region to provide a dedicated one-stop centre for peer-to-peer MLE learning and foster a sense of regional co-operation in meeting maritime law enforcement challenges.

For Australian Border Force staff there is the possibility that some of the ABF training that’s now conducted at the ABF College in Neutral Bay in Sydney might be undertaken in Darwin.

Originally published by: The Australian on 31 Oct 2020