NEWS | Nov. 9, 2020

U.S., Bangladesh, Regional Organizations Discuss Shared Maritime Domain Awareness Goals

By Lt. Lauren Chatmas

The U.S. and Bangladesh navies came together to improve cooperation when dealing with crises at sea through improved Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) during a web-based roundtable as a part of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Bangladesh 2020.

The training included knowledge exchanges from U.S. Navy MDA professionals, and non-military experts from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the Bali Process Regional Support Office (BP-RSO), that focused on addressing challenges like irregular human migration and smuggling, maritime crimes at sea, and natural disasters.

MDA is the understanding of factors within the global maritime domain that may impact its security, safety, economy, or environment. Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7, emphasized the importance of MDA and coordinated efforts by regional partner nations and agencies to actively share information to ensure safe and secure seas.

“Combined maritime security operations by regional partners are essential for maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Kacher. “The combined teamwork of the U.S. Navy, our Bangladesh partners, UN representatives, and other like-minded organizations committed to Maritime Domain Awareness during CARAT Bangladesh underscores our shared goals in today’s complex maritime security mission.”

This is the first year UNODC and the BP-RSO have supported CARAT Bangladesh. Both organizations’ expertise provided the U.S. and Bangladesh navies a better understanding of the international rules and norms associated with operational challenges of today’s complex maritime security mission. Through a robust virtual roundtable, U.S. and Bangladesh personnel participated in tailored specific topics of interest developed by UNODC, the BP-RSO, and Naval Information Warfare Center-Pacific personnel. Emphasis was placed on the importance of strengthening internal capacity to adhere to the accepted international standards and legal duties when encountering irregular threats at sea. Focusing on current events, the global pandemic is likely to exacerbate maritime challenges of irregular human migration, migrant smuggling, trafficking-in-persons, and forced labor at sea.

Established in 1997, UNODC educates and offers interregional practical assistance on combatting maritime crime, trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants. Marina Yakunina, programme officer-in-charge, UNODC office in Bangladesh, expressed the importance of a strong working relationship between international partners and UN to counter maritime crime.

“Thanks to the strong support of Member States and the dedicated work of its staff, UNODC continues to provide successful technical assistance to combat maritime crime, including trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, through its interregional approach,” said Yakunina.

The BP-RSO brings together relevant policy knowledge, technical expertise, and operational experience to develop practical initiatives that address people smuggling, trafficking in persons, and related transnational crime.

“The Regional Support Office to the Bali Process continues to support efforts to strengthen operational capacity of States to protect migrants at sea,” said Jake Sharman, co-manager (Australia), BP-RSO. “The RSO welcomes our engagement with the U.S. Navy and other key partners to explore cooperative approaches to confront the scourge of people smuggling and trafficking of persons in our region.”

According to Lt. Jason Figgeroa, MDA expert for Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, improved awareness of the maritime domain is a key objective in the U.S.-Bangladesh security relationship, as both navies recognize the importance of combating maritime threats, including illegal, unregulated, unreported fishing, human trafficking, smuggling, transnational crime, and environmental threats.

“Interacting side-by-side our Bangladesh partners during the symposium, with scenarios and lessons tailored by UNODC and BP-RSO, provided an extraordinary learning opportunity for everyone involved, and underscored the importance of adhering to international norms for free and open seas for everyone,” said Figgeroa.

Bangladesh marks the second CARAT exercise in 2020, following CARAT Brunei in the South China Sea, 5-9 Oct. The CARAT exercise series, celebrating its 26th anniversary, is designed to address shared maritime security concerns and strengthens partnerships between regional navies. Bangladesh has been a participant since 2011.

With nearly a half century of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Bangladesh, the two countries continue to work closely together to advance a shared vision of a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and secure Indo-Pacific region. CARAT Bangladesh 2020 underscores this shared commitment.

ESG 7/Commander, Task Force 76 and DESRON 7 conduct advanced planning, organize resources, and directly support the execution of CARAT and other engagements, in support of theater security cooperation in South and Southeast Asia.