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This paper outlines some basic proposals for developing good order at sea. It suggests that the key to promoting cooperation and establishing an effective maritime conflict prevention system lies in developing wider maritime awareness in the region, including a greater appreciation of the complexities and problems of marine environmental management. In effect, this is similar to the need perceived in the U.S. for maritime domain awareness as an essential element of Homeland Security. It recognizes that comprehensive knowledge of what is happening at sea is an essential element of maritime security although at a regional level, this knowledge and understanding can only be acquired through cooperative activities. Few coastal States possess sufficient capability to meet their maritime monitoring and information needs from their own resources.
There have been several initiatives in regional forums over the years related to developing maritime knowledge and information exchange. However, due largely to the lack of both commitment and resources, few of these have matured into effective operational systems. The paper describes some of these initiatives and the problems that have prevented their full implementation. A major problem has been the failure to recognize the interconnected nature of the maritime environment and the need for cooperation to maximize the common good of Ocean Security.
A possible way ahead involves a "building block" approach to achieving a higher level of maritime awareness, including an appreciation of the benefits of cooperation. This might be a three-tiered approach starting with some basic initiatives to promote maritime awareness and information sharing such as inter-agency and multilateral regional security workshops and marine information directories, and then moving through digital databases to an ultimate objective of real-time maritime surveillance and information exchange. These activities might lead to, or be associated with, the implementation of more ambitious arrangements for cooperative maritime security such as the ocean peacekeeping project developed by researchers at the National Institute for Defense Studies in Tokyo between 1996 and 2000. However, this paper suggests that coast guards may be more preferable than navies for implementing such a project.
Maritime awareness is generally lacking in the region at present but is fundamental to the implementation of a stable maritime regime and an effective regional response to terrorism and piracy. An action plan to build an effective maritime conflict prevention system might start "small" with some modest awareness building activities as suggested in this paper.