Leaders of Quad nations unveil security initiative to track dark ships in Indo-Pacific

The leaders of the Quad nations—Australia, India, Japan, and the United States—on Tuesday unveiled a maritime security initiative that will allow the member countries to monitor illegal fishing, track ships with their automatic identification systems (AIS) switched off, and other activities across the Indo-Pacific region.

The so-called Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA), according to the White House statement, will offer a near-real-time, integrated, and cost-effective maritime domain awareness picture and also transform the ability of partners in the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, and the Indian Ocean region to fully monitor the waters on their shores.

“The benefits of this picture are vast: it will allow tracking of dark shipping and other tactical-level activities, such as rendezvous at sea, as well as improve partners’ ability to respond to climate and humanitarian events and to protect their fisheries, which are vital to many Indo-Pacific economies,” the White House said.

President Biden and his fellow Quad leaders welcomed the announcement from the Tokyo summit, which will see an investment in IPMDA over five years. IPDMA will harness commercially-available data using existing technologies. Through a combination of AIS and radio-frequency technologies, Quad partners said they can provide an unprecedented common thread of activities. The White House noted that because of its commercial origin, this data will be unclassified, allowing the Quad to provide it to a wide range of partners. Consultations on this opportunity with partners in the region should begin immediately, and as the initiative proceeds, the Quad will identify future technologies of promise.

Adis Ajdin

Adis is an experienced news reporter with a background in finance, media and education. He has written across the spectrum of offshore energy and ocean industries for many years and is a member of International Federation of Journalists. Previously he had written for Navingo media group titles including Offshore Energy, Subsea World News and Marine Energy.


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