YCAPS fellow Scott Edwards visited the UK’s Joint Maritime Security Centre (JMSC), where he presented work on an upcoming report focused on Southeast Asia’s maritime security coordination architectures. The report, written with I Gusti Bagus Dharma Agastia, Alexia Bouallagui, Kasira Cheeppensook, and Amparo Pamelo Fabe is sponsored by the Blue Security Program.
The JMSC is the UK’s coordination centre for maritime security. Bringing together the National Maritime Information Centre and (now renamed) Joint Maritime Operations Coordination Centre, the JMSC shares information across government, strategizes on maritime security, and can coordinate the assets from multiple UK departments and agencies. It has some similarities to regional architectures analysed in the report, such as Indonesia’s Maritime Security Agency (BAKAMLA), Philippines’ National Coast Watch Centre (NCWC) and Thailand’s Maritime Enforcement Command Centre (MECC). The JMSC has overcome many challenges of coordination identified in the report, but still shares challenges in common with some of these bodies, including the lack of a strong legislative framework providing a clear mandate. Such areas were highlighted in the discussion as opportunities for mutual learning.
While much of the scope of the JMSC’s current work is on British home waters (which includes the British Overseas Territories), the JMSC plays a regional role. It serves as the focal point for ReCAAP, for example. Its footprint in the Indo-Pacific remains limited, however, despite the region being one of five areas of interest in the JMSC’s international engagement plan. Instead, much of the work related to maritime security is done by the Foreign Office, Ministry of Defence, National Crime Agency, and Department for Transport – without sustained structures coordinating activity. There are opportunities for this to change. Common funding streams for maritime security programmes are beginning to cohere the UK’s approach to the region, and the JMSC is embarking on its first round of capacity building programmes in other regions that could provide the basis for more coordinated approaches to maritime security relationships and activities.