The Regional Maritime Security Operations Workshop: Enforcement challenges and humanitarian issues in maritime setting

In our globalised world, open borders inevitably facilitate transnational crimes, making it necessary for national, regional and international law enforcement bodies to cooperate with each other. They face a variety of challenges, from upholding environmental and trade laws to preventing trafficking, especially protecting people at sea. The Regional Maritime Security Operations Workshop (MaSO), hosted by the Royal Malaysian Police (RMP) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), helped States navigate these challenges better.

The week-long workshop brought together 35 senior officials from the police forces, coastguards, maritime and border control agencies, as well as the navies of 13 countries from the Asia Pacific region to discuss their obligations and powers under national law, the customary laws of the sea and relevant international law.

Credit: Royal Malaysian Police

The workshop not only emphasised issues related to maritime security, it also encouraged participants to address the humanitarian consequences of transnational crimes. The overwhelming response to the workshop's three editions so far proves that enforcement agencies are keen to learn more about protecting people at sea.

Hosting the workshop for the second time in Malaysia, Deputy Director of Internal Security and Public Order Department (Operations) of RMP, Dato' Zainal Abidin Bin Kasim, expressed his pleasure at the expanding partnership between the RMP, especially the marine police force, and the ICRC. He also highlighted the workshop's role as a space to discuss the humanitarian impact of maintaining maritime security and encouraging enforcement agencies to comply with national and international standards.

The head of ICRC's regional delegation in Malaysia, Biljana Milosevic, stressed that while States use MaSO to bring attention to their priorities and challenges, the ICRC hopes that the workshop also creates space for discussing the humanitarian issues that accompany these challenges. "The ICRC stands ready to provide the desired experience and expertise to address these concerns and help shape the relevant laws and policies," Milosevic added.


For this, the workshop brings in facilitators who are experts at various national and international institutions including the Eastern Sabah Security Command, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, Royal Malaysian Navy, Maritime Institute of Malaysia, Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter-Terrorism, National Defense University of Malaysia, Malaysian National Security Council and the International Criminal Police Organization.

First held in Thailand in 2017, then Kuala Lumpur in 2018, MaSO's third edition serves as an excellent platform for experts and representatives from enforcement agencies to share their knowledge of best practices for tackling the humanitarian impact resulting from transnational issues.