The Maldives is facing a growing number of maritime threats, including piracy, illegal fishing, human-trafficking, drug-smuggling and gun-running. However, the archipelago is developing its ability to protect against any threat that may reach its shores, DefenceWeb reports.
To this end it has established joint maritime patrols with India and is setting up a coastal radar system and information-sharing network.
In a paper released during the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) in Cape Town last week, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) detailed the threats, challenges and responses to the issue of maritime security. Due to its location in the Indian Ocean, the 1 190-island nation functions as a natural barrier between maritime traffic transiting through strategic gateways into the Indian Ocean such as the Malacca Straits, Strait of Hormuz and Bab-el Mandeb.
As a result, the Maldives faces a number of transnational criminal and piracy threats, including human-trafficking, drug-smuggling and gun-running.
Although drug-smuggling routes have been known to cross the Maldives for many years, extensive crimes mentioned above are not exclusively known to target the nation. However, the Maldives has experienced an influx of skiffs floating into its waters since December 2009. Today there are 40 suspected Somali nationals in the Maldives waiting to be extradited back, according to the IONS document.
The Maldives is also feeling the shift in piracy operations within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In May and November of 2010 two merchant ships encountered pirates within the Maldivian EEZ – one was attacked and the other chased by pirates.
Recently, on March 26, 2012, a Bolivian flagged bulk-carrier, the MV Eglantine was hijacked inside the EEZ. To date no Maldivian vessels has been approached suspiciously nor been affected by piracy directly.
Apart from security threats, the Maldives also faces pollution and illegal fishing problems, which is of concern as it dependent on its natural beauty and resources to generate economic growth.