U.S., Pacific Islands Look to Enhance Maritime Partnerships

At a U.S.-Pacific Islands forum summit meeting at the White House on Sept. 25, President Biden renewed America’s commitment to enhancing the nation’s partnership with the Pacific Islands and their respective governments.

President Biden announced a new slate of activities in conjunction with the event. Among those tied to the maritime industry are:

Expanding the United States Coast Guard Presence in the Pacific: The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Harriet Lane is scheduled to arrive in region in late 2023 as the first ever USCG Indo-Pacific support vessel dedicated to collaborating with Indo-Pacific partners.

By the end of 2023, USCG assets will have been deployed for a total of 380 days of operations supporting Pacific Island countries’ sovereignty this year, according to the White House.

Enhancing Ports and Customs Security: Working with Congress, the United States intends to provide $3 million to support Pacific partners’ ability to strengthen port security and customs, counter-trafficking, and anti-money laundering efforts, officials have said.

The State Department International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) funded Advancing Port Enhancement and Customs Security program has said that it intends to expand Homeland Security Investigations’ ongoing $400,000 border security programming in partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration to work with criminal justice institutions, particularly customs and border officials, to enhance the capability of ports, deploy airport screening equipment and further support capacity-building for law enforcement in Fiji, Kiribati and Samoa.

Supporting Maritime Limits and Boundaries: The U.S. State Department has come out in support of the participation of Pacific Island countries in the Centre for International Law (CIL) of the National University of Singapore and the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS) workshop on Resolving Complex Maritime Boundaries to enhance their legal capabilities in order to negotiate and establish their own maritime limits and boundaries in the face of sea-level rise and “threats to a free and open Pacific.”

Enhancing Maritime Domain Awareness: As part of the Indo-Pacific Quad-supported Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) initiative, the United States has said that it intends to provide, working with Congress, $11.4 million to support the IPMDA-Pacific pilot.

“IPMDA-Pacific intends to bring cutting-edge maritime domain awareness technology to the Pacific Islands, and to facilitate coordination on maritime law enforcement and information analysis between the FFA, the Oceania Customs Organization, the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police’s Pacific Transnational Crime Network, and their member Pacific Islands,” the White House said.

The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) funded initiative aims to work with regional institutions to accelerate information analysis and exchange; build capacity for in-country information collection to support analytical efforts; and strengthen interoperability and mutual legal assistance networks between regional bodies and in-country transnational crime units, according to federal officials.