The Australian Government is funding a civilian aerial surveillance service across the Central and Western Pacific region that include Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).
According to a press release from the Australian Government Department of Defence, the surveillance is part of the Australian Government’s $2 billion Pacific Maritime Security Program.
The program will be in conjunction with the Pacific Patrol Boat program. Palau and FSM are among the 12 nations in the Pacific that are part of the program. The other nations are Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
Palau operates the Australian donated Pacific patrol boat, PSS Remeliik. It is due for upgrade and replacement by 2020.
The statement said when fully implemented, the Pacific Maritime Surveillance Program Aerial Surveillance will provide up to 1,400 hours of aerial surveillance each year across the Central and Western Pacific through two dedicated long-range aircraft based in the region.
The surveillance, in conjunction with the Pacific Patrol Boat program will provide targeted maritime patrolling and enhance the ability of Pacific Island Countries to defend against regional maritime security threats such as illegal fishing and transnational crime.
Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne said the protection of oceans and regional resources is vital for all Pacific Island Forum countries and Australia.
“The Pacific Maritime Security Program is an important investment in regional security. Australia is committed to further strengthening the capabilities of Pacific Island countries so we can work together in support of our shared interests,” Minister Payne said.
“I reiterated this commitment with my Pacific counterparts on my visits to Papua New Guinea and Fiji and at the South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Auckland last year. I’m very pleased to see the aerial surveillance aspect of the Program get underway,” she said.
She said that the new program “is fundamentally changing the way the Pacific region identifies and responds to maritime security threats.”
The $10 million aerial surveillance service is fully funded by the Department of Defence. The aircraft tasking will be coordinated by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).
Defence has engaged Technology Service Corporation (TSC) to provide the aerial surveillance service.
TSC has previously provided aerial surveillance support to the Pacific region through the FFA in its largest annual surveillance operation.
Last week Palau also was provided a new patrol boat funded by the Japan’s Nippon Foundation to help boost fight against illegal fishing.
Palau is also getting help from new technology that will enhance the island nation’s maritime surveillance capacity.
According to a press statement from Vulcan Inc. a company of Microsoft Founder Paul Allen, is concerned about illegal fishing depleting global fish populations.
“Vulcan is developing a system that uses satellite imagery and data-analysis software to help countries spot and catch unlicensed fishing boats,” Allen said.
Called SkyLight, the new technology will also be tested in the African nation of Gabon. (Bernadette H. Carreon) [/restrict]