Quad offers technology to track dark ships in Indo-Pacific

On May 24 for the Tokyo Summit, the leaders of the Quad nations—Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, will advance an ambitious and diverse agenda, including through a major new initiative to improve maritime domain awareness across the Indo-Pacific: the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA). 

In close consultations with regional partners, IPMDA will offer a near-real-time, integrated, and cost-effective maritime domain awareness picture. It is designed to work with regional partners to respond to humanitarian and natural disasters, and combat illegal fishing.

This initiative will transform the ability of partners in the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, and the Indian Ocean region to fully monitor the waters on their shores and, in turn, to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific. 

Quad countries are committed to contributing to the region’s maritime domain awareness—a fundamental requirement for peace, stability, and prosperity—through an investment in IPMDA over five years. The partnership will innovate upon existing maritime domain awareness efforts, rapidly bringing emerging technologies to bear for the greater good of the Indo-Pacific community.

IPMDA will build a faster, wider, and more accurate maritime picture of near-real-time activities in partners’ waters. This common operating picture will integrate three critical regions—the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, and the Indian Ocean region—in the Indo-Pacific. 

The benefits of this picture are vast: it will allow tracking of “dark shipping” and other tactical-level activities, such as rendezvous at sea, as well as improve partners’ ability to respond to climate and humanitarian events and to protect their fisheries, which are vital to many Indo-Pacific economies. IPMDA will do so by:

  • Harnessing commercially-available data using existing technologies. Through a combination of Automatic Identification System and radio-frequency technologies, Quad partners can provide an unprecedented “common thread” of activities. Because of its commercial origin, this data will be unclassified, allowing the Quad to provide it to a wide range of partners who wish to benefit.
  • Extending support for information-sharing across existing regional fusion centers, such as the Information Fusion Center-Indian Ocean Region, based in India; the Information Fusion Center, based in Singapore; the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, based in the Solomon Islands, and the Pacific Fusion Center, based in Vanuatu, both of which receive support from Australia.

Quad partners will begin immediate consultations on this opportunity with partners in the region. As the initiative proceeds, the Quad will identify future technologies of promise, allowing IPMDA to remain a cutting-edge partnership that promotes peace and stability throughout the region.

Photo credit: iStock/ daniele russo

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