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This report examines how Pacific island countries (PICs) and Indian Ocean island states (IO island states) are managing and prioritising their maritime security challenges. These islands, which we call the ‘Indo-Pacific island states’, face an intricate offshore tapestry.

In particular, this report suggests that most of the maritime threats and risks facing the Indo-Pacific island states are increasing. That’s in part because of the general lack of effective maritime security identified in this report.

The report describes the current geopolitical environment of the Indo-Pacific island states and how we should understand maritime security in the context of island states. It examines the core maritime security concerns of the PICs and IO island states and considers points of commonality and divergence in island state perspectives on maritime security and major-power competition. The report provides key recommendations for Indo-Pacific island states and for countries, such as Australia and its partners, that wish to more effectively engage with the island states on maritime security.

Main recommendations:

For Indo-Pacific island states

  • Strengthen national resilience through building national institutions
  • Develop and implement national maritime security strategies
  • Build maritime surveillance capabilities
  • Develop a formal tasking program for the patrolling of remote islands and coastal areas
  • Build national maritime domain awareness systems
  • Strengthen institutional resilience through regional norms
  • Review interagency operational and staff training for maritime security
  • Collate relevant maritime laws and ensure that they are easily accessible and understood

For Australia, Japan and other like-minded countries working with Indo-Pacific island states

  • Give coastguards a key role in maritime security and safety cooperation in the Indian Ocean
  • Establish a ‘Quad’ of coastguards to coordinate regional capacity building
  • Step up Australia’s maritime security capability-building efforts among selected IO island states
  • Assist the development of national and regional MDA systems
  • Develop framework disaster management arrangements
  • Shape the narrative on environmental security
  • Help strengthen regional institutions for Indo-Pacific island states
  • Provide support for infrastructure development
  • Build capacity for the blue economy


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