Pakistan’s Maritime compulsions are countless; its geostrategic location, the hegemonic ambitions of its eastern neighbor, presence of international Naval Forces IMES vicinity and extent of piracy till Gulf of Oman (GOO) add to the current maritime security matrix. The country is blessed with over 1000 km long coastline and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covering about 240,000 Sq. Km. In addition, extension of continental shelf (50,000 Sq. Km) was also approved by United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) in 2015. Pakistan carries out 95 percent of its trade and 100 percent of its oil imports through the sea, making the maritime sector the bedrock of Pakistan’s national economy. Pakistan’s trade through sea routes, especially the POLs imports are growing thus the importance of maritime security in order to safeguard the maritime interests of Pakistan will continue to increase in future. The three commercial ports of Pakistan constitute the trading nucleus of Pakistan in which Gwadar port is gradually coming up to the desired operational state. Any act of terrorism or sabotage by the non-state actors on this infrastructure can result in severe economic and security repercussions like increased insurance premiums, risk surcharges besides tarnishing country’s image in the International maritime community.
Maritime security is an integral part of comprehensive national security. Post 9/11, the concept of maritime security has come under unprecedented focus worldwide due to increase in probability of Maritime Terrorism; Piracy; Narco-Arms and Human Smuggling; IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated) Fishing and Toxic Waste Dumping and sources of environmental degradation. These threats/ challenges have the potential to create strategic effects due to heavy international reliance on maritime trade.
With this context, Joint Maritime Information Coordination Center (JMICC) is a national platform to deal with all maritime related activities occurring in Pak Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), primarily for information sharing and inter department/ agency coordination. JMICC is an integral part of Pakistan Navy and is located at Manora, Karachi. The center structures its work in six domains i.e Maritime Terrorism ,Piracy, Organized Maritime Crime, (in particular smuggling of people, narcotics and weapons), Illegal exploitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone (in particular fishery crimes), Marine Pollution Search and Rescue. It hence covers the full breadth of maritime governance and law enforcement tasks, and is neither focused exclusively on security, nor limited to a particular issue. It maintains Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) through quick sharing of information amongst all concerned stakeholders and coordinate proactive response in order to counter illicit activities in the AOR.
Since its establishment in 2013, JMICC has come a long way in maintaining requisite level of info-sharing as well as interactions with various national as well as regional stakeholders relevant to the maritime domain of Pakistan. Over a short span of 6 years, 48 national agencies have become the stakeholders connected with JMICC which significantly assists in achieving Maritime Domain Awareness.
It needs no further emphasis that Maritime security requires focused attention due ever-changing dynamics of threat as well as associated challenges. Accordingly, JMICC is not only making earnest efforts but so far had made significant strides to facilitate all National LEAs in maintenance of good order at sea.
Besides creating a local tactical picture, JMICC also enhanced its coverage by partnering into strategic linkages with other information sharing portals including Information Fusion Centre of Singapore and Virtual Regional Maritime Traffic Centre of Italy. Due to its greater reach and mobility, the Pakistan Navy endeavors to supplement the efforts of the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency in maintaining order at sea within the country’s maritime zones. Many related initiatives in coordination with International Maritime Bureau and its Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur, European Union Naval Forces (EU NAVFORs), Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa, UKs Marine Trade Operations (UKMTO) office in Dubai and the Maritime Trade Information Sharing Centre (MTISC) for the Gulf of Guinea have helped significantly in consolidating maritime security chain.
Besides, JMICC also runs an impressive community engagement programme, to work with the “grass root level”. Staff members regularly visit coastal villages and engage with elders as well as the fishermen folk. Regular visits to listen concern of the coastal community and discuss the problem areas. Much of the information that JMICC draws on comes from such human resources. The local knowledge and experience is particularly useful as an early warning mechanism, but also allows for the quick transmission of information in particular in those areas where there are no other means of surveillance. Community engagement for JMICC also includes engagement with the seafarers. By adopting a forward looking approach JMICC staff also interact with Pakistan Seafarer association and the marine training academy regularly. Recently, collaboration with JMICC, Pakistan Maritime Security Agency has launched Assistance, Anytime, Anywhere at sea (AAAS) android based mobile App to facilitate maritime communities in case of any emergency situation. The user can generate an SOS request or report a maritime incident with a single click on his mobile.
The increase in maritime threats and challenges that are trans-boundary in nature poses a new challenge to maritime security agencies, where no single entity has the necessary resources to deal unilaterally with the maritime threats/challenges by itself. The key to dealing with the full range of security matrix in the maritime domain lies in strong inter-agency cooperation and greater collaboration. Such efforts include accurate and timely information sharing among all stakeholders on a multilateral basis for implementing preventive measures or to cue necessary operational responses when required. JMICC with the support from all stakeholders will continue to play a key role in fostering collaboration to overcome the full spectrum of maritime threats and challenges.