New Delhi : Chiefs of coast guard agencies of 17 Asian nations will meet here in October this year when they are expected to discuss issues ranging from piracy in the region to law enforcement, maritime crimes and disaster management.
The meeting on Oct 1 and 2 will be hosted jointly by the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and the Japanese Coast Guard under the auspices of Nippon Foundation, a Japan-based non-profit organisation working in the field of maritime security, education and public health.
The eighth edition of the Heads of Asian Coast Guard Agencies Meeting (HACGAM) will be the first time the forum meets in South Asian region since it began in June 2004 with a meeting hosted by Japan.
"HACGAM is an apex level forum facilitating congregation of all the major coast guard agencies of Asian region. This initiative was developed initially in 2004 to discuss cooperation among the member organisations to combat piracy in the region," an Indian Coast Guard statement said here Thursday.
"However, the scope of discussions has been expanded to include law enforcement, maritime security, disaster prevention and relief and capacity building. Presently, there are more than 20 member organisations from 17 countries that are part of the initiative," it said.
"Ahead of the eighth edition of HACGAM, a working-level meeting (WLM) was held in New Delhi in the last two days to discuss the agenda and prepare the documents," it added.
The process of cooperation amongst the Asian coast guard agencies was initiated by Japan consequent to the capture of the pirated vessel MV Alondra Rainbow by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard in November 1999.
Subsequently, a series of regional senior experts meetings of coast guard agencies of Asia were held on combating piracy and armed robbery against ships.
The fourth such meeting held in Pattaya, Thailand, in February 2004 recommended conducting the meeting of the heads of coast guard agencies in 2004.
Accordingly, the first HACGAM was conducted at Tokyo, Japan, that year.
Among the members of the HACGAM are Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and Hong Kong.
"Further, it was also agreed that the scope of discussions may not be restricted only to piracy issues, but may also include all coast guard related issues," the ICG said.
"The HACGAM is conducted every year and seven such meetings have been conducted till date. The last meeting was held at Hanoi, Vietnam, in October 2011," it said.