07 May, 2009
Hon Pau Karalus, Minister for Transport,
Captain John Hogan,
Madame Acting Secretary for Transport, Ms ‘Eleni Mone,
Experts from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,
The Executive, Secretary and Members of Pacific International Maritime Law Association,
Maritime Law Officers and Legal Experts and Maritime Administrators,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
On behalf of the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga, may I offer to you a warm "Malo e lelei", and welcome you to the Kingdom of Tonga.
Ladies and gentlemen it is a great pleasure for me to be making these introductory remarks and welcoming you to this workshop for Pacific Island Countries on developing an integrated approach to maritime security through criminal and international law.
As you are all aware, and I am sure it will be alluded to regularly in this workshop, the issue of maritime security has been pushed to the forefront of the international stage with the recent piracy incidents off the cost of Somalia and the Arabian gulfs.
I am sure you will agree with me that our region may not be immune from these incidents, and it is only a matter of time where some fishermen may be pushed to a corner by the dire financial and economic times or other factors and decide to carry out daring acts of piracy in our waters.
We support the efforts made in this workshop because maritime security is now no longer a national matter, but rather more importantly regional and international, for the obvious reasons of a common heritage in the Pacific Ocean, our integrated cultures and close proximity.
I understand the workshop will be emphasising on the 1988 Convention on the Prevention of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (also known as SUA), and its 2005 Protocol.
I also understand that the 2005 Protocol adds new offences including the unlawful and intentional use of:
For the purposes of intimidation of populations or compelling Governments or organisation, uses weapons against a ship, discharges dangerous contents from a ship, or use a ship to cause, death, serious injury or damage:
- transporting explosives or radioactive material to cause serious injury or damage
- transporting BCN weapon
- transporting material for production of nuclear explosives not under IAEA safeguards;
- transporting technology that may be used in production of BCN weapons
- transporting those who have committed offences against the SUA
- killing persons in connection with an offence, being an accomplice, or abettor to the commissioning of an offence
On first reading of these offences on has the view that these offences seem isolated from our shores. However we must realise that is a mistaken view and that our Pacific Ocean may be used as a transit point, or our ships may be used as a medium of transport, or our seafarers may be involved in the transport of illicit weapons. We therefore have an obligation to contribute by establishing a common net to protect the region and the international community to keep our Pacific Ocean from being used in that way.
Here in Tonga we have yet to provide legislation for these maritime offences. However recent development in policies has given maritime security a boost as a priority.
We are processing a new Maritime Zones Bill to consolidate our legislation on defining our maritime zones, continental shelf and the exploration and preservation of those zones.
We also plan to file our submission with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf next week ending years of preparation.
Our Fisheries Management Act has also been successfully enforced in detecting and prosecuting illegal, unlawful and unidentified foreign fishing vessels in our waters.
We are also exploring other ways to expand our patrol fleet to monitor and keep safe our waters by tapping into resources from our larger and more resourceful neighbouring countries.
With those brief introductory remarks, I hope you have clear and frank discussions in our efforts to develop an integrated approach to maritime security.
I hope we can learn from each other and we can all move forward together as brothers and sisters of the Pacific.
I look forward to reading the recommendations that will be produced at the end of the workshop, and which no doubt will be presented to the upcoming meeting of Forum maritime ministers here in Nuku'alofa.
May I also invite you to please take time to enjoy your time in the Kingdom, and I look forward to meeting you all over social surroundings tomorrow evening.