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Bangladesh, U.S. and regional organizations discuss shared maritime domain awareness goals

U.S. Navy Lt. Lauren Chatmas/Command Destroyer Squadron 7

The Bangladesh and United States navies came together to improve cooperation when dealing with crises at sea through improved maritime domain awareness (MDA) during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Bangladesh 2020.

The web-based training included knowledge exchanges from U.S. Navy MDA professionals, nonmilitary experts from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Bali Process Regional Support Office (BP-RSO) that focused on addressing challenges such as irregular human migration and smuggling, maritime crimes at sea and natural disasters. (Pictured: A ship from the Bangladesh Navy meets with USNS Millinocket in the Bay of Bengal as part of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Bangladesh 2020.)

MDA is the understanding of factors within the global maritime domain that may affect its security, safety, economy or environment. Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7, emphasized the importance of MDA and coordinated efforts by regional partner nations and agencies to share information to ensure safe and secure seas.

“Combined maritime security operations by regional partners are essential for maintaining a Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” Kacher said. “The combined teamwork of the U.S. Navy, our Bangladesh partners, U.N. representatives and other like-minded organizations committed to maritime domain awareness during CARAT Bangladesh underscores our shared goals in today’s complex maritime security mission.”

This is the first year UNODC and the BP-RSO have supported CARAT Bangladesh. Both organizations’ expertise provided the Bangladesh and U.S. navies a better understanding of the international rules and norms associated with operational challenges of a complex maritime security mission. Through a robust virtual roundtable, Bangladesh and U.S. personnel participated in tailored specific topics of interest developed by UNODC, the BP-RSO and Naval Information Warfare Center-Pacific personnel. Emphasis was placed on the importance of strengthening internal capacity to adhere to the accepted international standards and legal duties when encountering irregular threats at sea. The global pandemic is likely to exacerbate maritime challenges of irregular human migration, migrant smuggling, human trafficking and forced labor at sea.

Established in 1997, UNODC offers interregional practical assistance on combating maritime crime, human trafficking and migrant smuggling. Marina Yakunina, program officer-in-charge for the UNODC office in Bangladesh, expressed the importance of strong working relationships among international partners and the U.N. to counter maritime crime.

“Thanks to the strong support of member states and the dedicated work of its staff, UNODC continues to provide successful technical assistance to combat maritime crime, including trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, through its interregional approach,” Yakunina said.

According to Lt. Jason Figgeroa, MDA expert for Destroyer Squadron 7, improved maritime domain awareness is a key objective in the Bangladesh-U.S. security relationship because both navies recognize the importance of combating maritime threats, including illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, human trafficking, smuggling, transnational crime and environmental threats.

“Interacting side by side with our Bangladesh partners during the symposium, with scenarios and lessons tailored by UNODC and BP-RSO, provided an extraordinary learning opportunity for everyone involved and underscored the importance of adhering to international norms for free and open seas for everyone,” Figgeroa said.

Bangladesh marks the second CARAT exercise in 2020, following CARAT Brunei in the South China Sea in early October. The CARAT exercise series, celebrating its 26th anniversary, is designed to address shared maritime security concerns and strengthens partnerships among regional navies. Bangladesh has been a participant since 2011.

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