During the recently concluded bilateral summit meeting held in Nagoya, Japan between H.E. Maithripala Sirisena, the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and H.E. Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan reconfirmed the importance of maintaining the freedom of the high seas and maritime order based on the rule of law.
The joint media statement issued following the bilateral meeting between the two leaders stated that ‘as a part of strengthening maritime cooperation between the two countries, both leaders also acknowledged the importance of the steady progress of the Project for Maritime Safety Capability Improvement, worth approximately 1.8 billion Yen, that includes the provision of two patrol boats’. The Japanese government has so far donated patrol boats to Coast Guards of countries such as Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam.
The two patrol craft expected to be given to the Sri Lanka Coast Guard (SLCG) in the near future is a very clear indication of the commitment of the two maritime nations in protecting the Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs), ensuring freedom of navigation in the high seas, and maintaining a well formulated architecture to ensure maritime order based on international rules and regulations.
The Japanese government in particular over the years has indicated its strong support to enhance maritime cooperation between the two nations. Frequent ship visits by the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) and the Japanese Coast Guard (JCG) ships to Sri Lanka is only one aspect in this regard and it is worth noting here that since year 2009, fifty five (55) port calls to Sri Lanka have been made by JMSDF and JCG ships to date.
In addition to these ship visits, the Japanese government has assisted the SLCG through the JCG to improve professional competencies of SLCG personnel especially in areas such as oil spill response management, maritime disaster prevention, law enforcement, and maritime search and rescue.
The SLCG conducted an oil spill response exercise at the Dikovita fisheries harbor January this year as a part of an advanced training conducted by the Japanese marine environment protection and oil spill measures experts from the National Strike Team of the JCG with the assistance from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
As a result of these initiatives over the years, the capacities and capabilities of SLCG has been improved to a greater extent. The JCG shares with the SLCG a very close working level cooperation and the SLCG has benefitted immensely in upgrading professional competencies of SLCG personnel.
As identified by the two leaders of the importance of further strengthening the maritime cooperation between the two nations, the Sri Lanka Navy and the SLCG will continue to work very closely with the JMSDF as well as with the JCG in achieving the maritime aspirations of the two nations.