Emran Rashid Khan
THE importance of maritime sector in the development of a nation is well known. History bears testimony to the fact that only those nations have progressed and made their mark on the world scene who have developed their maritime sector and adopted maritime strategy as the dominant strategy. With more than 95 percent of Pakistan’s trade transported via sea routes, it is imperative for us to give due focus and attention to the maritime sector. Besides trade, the hitherto untapped vast living and non-living resources in our Exclusive Economic Zone can greatly contribute to our economic development. For all these developments to take place, peaceful and safe environment is essential.
The biggest challenge to maritime security is inter-agency coordination between a host of organizations and departments associated with maritime sector working under separate hierarchical command structures. I am glad that Pakistan Navy realized this weakness in our maritime security mechanism and took the lead of creating Joint Maritime Information Coordination Centre (JMICC) providing horizontal linkages between various agencies involved in the maritime sector.
One of the many initiatives that JMICC has undertaken to actively engage with maritime sector of Pakistan since its inception, Exercise Tafheem is one of the oldest. A series of exercise “Tafheem” was introduced in 2013to explain existing JMICC working procedures to its stakeholders. Due to positive response by the participants, the practice was continued. Each year the list of participants grew and so did the scale and scope of the event.
Tafheem is a table top exercise conducted on biannual basis with an aim of bringing together maritime stakeholders from diverse maritime sector of Pakistan. Inspiration of title “Tafheem” is derived from its Urdu meanings i.e. “Explanation.” The exercise has been rightly named, for it explains the information sharing procedures to the participants and identifies room of improvement. Thereby, the overall goal is to gain better understanding and build trust among various maritime stakeholders. It is obvious that for smooth working with stakeholders, better understanding of the procedures is of vital importance.
Objectives set forth for this exercise are:
1. Apprise all stakeholders with the standard “Info Sharing Procedure.”
2. Refine SOPs in accordance with the valuable inputs obtained through discussion/conduct of exercise.
3. Practice information sharing w.r.t maritime challenges.
4. Spread awareness regarding fishing policy, search and rescue information sharing, illegal/unregulated fishing / shipping, maritime pollution and other maritime challenges through simulated scenarios.
5. Identify different grey areas related to maritime domain through valuable inputs of stakeholders.
6. Spread awareness regarding various initiatives by various organizations/ stakeholders.
7. Discuss the simmering issues in maritime domain and get input from all stakeholders for positive response. In addition, lectures/ presentations are also a regular feature of this exercise. The topics are carefully chosen prior conduct of the exercise and most relevant stakeholder is requested to convey the useful information to the participants. The lectures are kept interactive and geared towards practical aspects of the issue at hand. This gives a deeper understanding to participants about the inner workings of various maritime organizations.
Starting from humble beginnings back in 2013, the latest edition of exercise Tafheem had participation of over 90 reps from over forty organizations. These included participants from diverse maritime sector of Pakistan ranging from shipping, fishing, law enforcement, private entities, NGOs and defense forces. Top brass of organizations such as Pakistan National Shipping Corporation, Anti-Narcotics Force, Pakistan Meteorological Department, Pakistan Maritime Security Agency, Pakistan Coast Guards, Port Authorities, BYCO Petroleum, Edhi Foundation in addition to various prominent figures from private sector and fishing community participated in the recent exercise which was indeed a great accomplishment for JMICC.
The motto of JMICC is ‘Together we can’ and exercise Tafheem reinforces this commitment of the centre on regular basis. More importantly, it rejuvenates the fact that the JMICC’s goal of inclusivity is shared by maritime community of Pakistan which is a matter of pride for the centre.