Address - Formal Opening Session of the second Expert Meeting of the North Atlantic Coast Guard Forum.
H.E. Ragna Arnadottir,
Minister of Justice of Iceland
Formal Opening Session of the second Expert Meeting of the North Atlantic Coast Guard Forum,
Reykjavík, 10 March 2009
Admirals, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen.
It is both an honour and pleasure to open the second Expert Meeting of the North Atlantic Coast Guard Forum.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my warm welcome to our guests from overseas to this meeting. Your presence here as leaders of civil maritime agencies underlines the importance of the tasks that lay before you in the coming days.
I hope your stay here will be both profitable and enjoyable.
Ever since its foundation in 1926 the Icelandic Coast Guard has been a multi mission-maritime agency. The main tasks of the Coast Guard are based on the need for a general policing of the ocean
Its primary role is law enforcement at sea including fisheries patrol, and assistance to law enforcement ashore. The Icelandic coast guard also provides security and rescue services at sea, to aircraft and on land.
In security matters, as Iceland has no armed forces, Iceland depends on contributions from civil law enforcement institutions that are also reliable cooperative partners with our neighbouring countries.
The Icelandic Coast Guard has throughout the decades enjoyed close cooperation with other maritime agencies in neighbouring countries.
With this in mind and with the aim to ensure that the Icelandic Coast Guard would be able to be an active and reliable contributor in multinational cooperation in enhancing maritime safety, maritime security and environmental protection in the vast ocean area in the North Atlantic, several decisions were taken following the departure of the US armed forces from Iceland in 2006 which aimed at enhancing the capacity of the Icelandic Coast Guard:
- Firstly to purchase a new fixed wing coast guard aircraft scheduled to be operational in 2009,
- Secondly to build a new 4000 ton patrol vessel, scheduled to be operational in 2010.
- Thirdly to sign a bilateral collaboration agreement with the Norwegian government on a joint Norwegian-Icelandic tender for the purchase by both countries of specially-designed long-range search and rescue helicopters, three of them for the Icelandic Coast Guard. Furthermore, close collaboration between the two countries is planned on the future operation of these helicopters.
- We have also worked to identify ways and means to expand day-to-day cooperation between our coast guard and other agencies in operations supporting maritime surveillance, fisheries management, environmental protection, search and rescue, and maritime security.
It is my privilege as minister of Justice to undertake superior administration of the entire activities of the Coast Guard. Due to the turbulent economic situation we are facing, it is also a huge challenge.
Today we all have to face significant issues and many of them relate to security in the North Atlantic.
The opening of new sea routes due to climate change, increased maritime traffic including oil and gas tankers as well as cruise ships, and increased energy transportation across the North Atlantic are all issues we are familiar with. The changing conditions in the Arctic region and the implications for the maritime security in the North Atlantic are certainly the most important challenges we are facing.
Please let me quote the North Atlantic Coast Guard Forum charter: “ The North Atlantic region faces a wide range of trans-national maritime threats to economic prosperity and citizens’ well-being. The safety and economic security of the NACGF Members depends substantially upon the secure use of the world’s oceans. Secure use of the oceans is required in order to achieve the objectives of maintaining vibrant maritime commerce and to counter threats from terrorists, trans-national criminals, and other dangerous elements.”
These were the main reasons we strongly believed to be imperative to establish a multilateral Forum which would provide a framework for North Atlantic Coast Guards to improve mutually beneficial cooperation and coordination that will enhance maritime safety, security and environmental protection throughout the North Atlantic.
When the North Atlantic Coast Guard Forum was formally established in Sweden in October 2007 by 18 countries we saw that as an extremely important opportunity to bring together representatives from North Atlantic countries to facilitate multilateral cooperation on matters related to combined operations, such as illegal drug trafficking, marine security, environmental protection, information exchange, illegal migration and search and rescue.
In particular we welcomed the creation of seven working groups on these issues that form the pillars upon which the North Atlantic Coast Guard Forum rests.
As we are faced with an economic recession of unprecedented proportions, cooperation and coordination within the North Atlantic Coast Guard Forum is of immense importance. Please let me quote again from the Charter:
“To achieve maritime security, the NACGF intends to promote international efforts that enhance the security of the maritime commons while preserving freedom of the seas for legitimate purposes. Success cannot be achieved by any one country acting unilaterally, but requires a partnership of nations willing to maintain a strong, united international front. These elements are common to the collaborative approach used by the Forum to achieve maritime security in the North Atlantic region.
I am pleased to note that the North Atlantic Coast Guard Forum underlines co-operation and partnership in its continued endeavours to ensure security in the North Atlantic.
I wish you success in your deliberations and discussions and I am indeed looking forward to learning from your conclusions.
I declare this second Expert Meeting of the North Atlantic Coast Guard Forum - formally open.