An APEC counter terrorism forum has agreed that greater sharing of technical information is required to better protect sea lanes and ports from terrorist attacks. This increased cooperation is also expected to facilitate greater regional compliance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.
The forum also agreed that once implemented, the ISPS Code would not only enhance security, but would likely facilitate a higher volume of cross border trade.
These conclusions were reached at the Second Secure Trade in the APEC Region (STAR) Conference in Viña del Mar, Chile, on March 5-6. The conference was attended by over 300 senior business and government representatives. The Final STAR Conference Report has now been released and posted online (www.apec.org)
The Working Group on Maritime Security, that met at the conference, looked at a range of issues relating to international technical assistance on maritime safety and security matters.
Delegates at the conference discussed the ISPS Code in depth and concerns were raised regarding steps that economies are taking to meet the 1 July 2004 deadline for implementing the Code. These include ways to apply ISPS Code requirements to sensitive areas such as LNG, LPG, chemical vessels and small craft.
The STAR Conference agreed that it was imperative that all economies have the appropriate laws and regulations in place to fulfill ISPS commitments. The forum noted that failure to do so would lead to a reduction in the level of maritime trade, the closure of port facilities and a decrease in port-related business operations for economies failing to introduce new rules in the near future.
Following presentations from international organizations such as the International Maritime Organization and APEC Member Economies, the conference agreed that there are opportunities to share information on implementing programs that would increase maritime security.
Several economies are extending maritime security assistance to other APEC Member Economies. Australian assistance already provides a significant boost to the capacity of maritime security in a number of developing economies. Canada is providing financial support to the IMO's Maritime Security Trust Fund to assist APEC economies to prepare themselves for international assessments and maritime security standards. The United States also announced a major initiative to help APEC economies meet the requirements of the ISPS code by 1 July. APEC's Transport Security Group will be co-ordinating these donor efforts at its next meeting in Beijing in April.
The conference also expressed significant interest in the Geographic Information System (Grafimar) developed by the Chile Maritime Authority to enhance regional safety and security. Chile has offered to make information on the Grafimar system available for implementation in other APEC Member Economies.
The STAR Conference is a forum for senior business and government representatives from around that Asia Pacific Region. The conference aims to identify and discuss counter terrorism issues relevant to business and trade and to ensure that expanded security measures do not undermine APEC's trade agenda.
Other areas that were discussed by the STAR Conference include Air Transportation Security, Business Mobility and Financial Intelligence Units.
Following the success of the inaugural STAR Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, last year, the Second STAR Conference took place in Viña del Mar, on March 5-6. Recommendations from the conference will be presented to APEC Officials, Ministers and Leaders for policy consideration.