The 2014 Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) got underway in Perth on March 26 as ‘the weight’ was officially handed from outgoing chair the South African Navy (SAN) to the Royal Australian Navy.
IONS, which was established in 2008, is a voluntary initiative that seeks to increase maritime cooperation among navies of littoral states of the Indian Ocean region.
In the opening session, Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Ray Griggs thanked the SAN for its stewardship over the past two years.
“I would like to pay tribute to the South African Navy and to its Chief Vice Admiral Johannes Mudimu,” he said.
“As our most recent chairman he has played an important part in ensuring that we are able to establish what I believe will be one of the most significant pieces of maritime security architecture in our region.”
Representing VADM Mudimu, Rear Admiral Sedge Pillay said since IONS was established there had been many opportunities to discuss and develop a common understanding of the issues relevant to “this vast ocean area that we share”.
“Furthermore, we have confirmed the common aspirations of those present to make it safe and secure to the benefit of all nations.”
VADM Griggs said the combined efforts of the three previous chairs, India, the United Arab Emirates, and South Africa, had led the organisation to a crucial point in its evolution.
“If there was ever an incident which shows us, the mariners of the Indian Ocean, the need for this symposium, I think it’s the search for Malaysian Airlines 370,” he said.
“This combined search effort has shown the importance of collaboration and cooperation, and it has underscored the importance of developing habits of cooperation … if we have the habit, then the mechanics of cooperation become easier.”
VADM Griggs went on to discuss issues surrounding the theme of the symposium.
“In thinking about what theme to give this symposium, I was searching for something that was going to be of equal importance to all member states and all observers.
“Hence, the symposium’s theme is ‘Protecting the Ability to Trade in the Indian Ocean Maritime Economy.’”
He said the ability to trade and to connect with the global maritime trading system was Australia’s “economic centre of gravity” and protecting that ability was paramount.
“I suspect the importance of good order at sea and our collective role in maintaining it will be a recurring theme of the next two days,” he told the IONS member and observer nations at the symposium.
Representing the Minister for Defence Senator David Johnston, Senator Michaelia Cash spoke about the importance of strong regional relationships.
She said forums such as IONS allowed participating members to find new opportunities to develop even closer relationship.
VADM Griggs said Australia had strongly supported IONS since its inception, and as such it was a particular honour to assume the chair of the organisation.
Representatives from 36 navies are attending the symposium which runs until March 28.
Press Release, March 27, 2014; Image: Australian Navy