At a time of heightened tension in the South China Sea, the Maritime Institute of Malaysia (MIMA) and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) convened a group of navy and coastguard officers from claimant states in the region on 21-23 March for a training course in a recently internationally agreed coordinated means of communication known as the ‘Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea’
It was the first time that working level officers from the naval and coastguard services of Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines have come together to train and conduct simulation exercises in a standard operating protocol for handling encounters at sea.
China was represented by the China Institute of International Studies and sent signals that it is willing to participate in future trainings.
CUES is based on internationally recognised and respected maritime laws and procedures. It is voluntary and non-binding and was agreed by 21 nations at the West Pacific Naval Symposium in 2014.
In a series of meetings held in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Beijing among experts and practitioners from China, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines convened by HD in 2015, CUES was identified as a useful platform to establish a set of processes for responsible behaviour and clear communication at sea.
At the third experts meeting on confidence building in the Spratlys, co-hosted by the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing in December 2015, the Maritime Institute of Malaysia proposed to undertake the first regional training course on CUES, to include coastguard as well as naval officers.
Speaking at the training session, which was facilitated by the Contraves Training Centre in Cyber Jaya, Malaysia, MIMA Director General Dato’ Chin Yon Chin said: ‘We believe that the operationalisation of CUES amongst Spratly claimants will serve as a confidence builder to neutralise tension in the South China Sea.’
HD’s Asia Regional Director, Michael Vatikiotis added: “The training is an opportunity to go beyond meetings of experts and put into practice a potential way to manage tension. It is especially significant that coastguard officers are joining their naval counterparts in this first training and simulation exercise.”
The two-day training involving 22 middle-ranking officers offered basic training in CUES and a series of table top exercises using state of the art bridge simulators provided by the Contraves Training Centre in Cyber Jaya.