Chile Hosts Its First Pacific Naval Workshop
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo May 25, 2017The Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) was held in Chile for the first time since its inception in 1988. The event, which took place April 25th–27th in Santiago, was supported by the Chilean Navy and led by Rear Admiral Guillermo Lüttges, deputy chief of the General Staff of the Chilean Navy. This important international forum brought together representatives from 17 member countries and six observer nations. Member countries included Australia, Canada, Chile, South Korea, the United States, France, Japan, Peru, and Thailand, among others. Colombia, Bangladesh, the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, and Mexico attended as observers. While the symposium takes place every other year, the workshops are held annually. The goal of WPNS is to provide an open forum for navies that have a strategic interest in the Pacific Ocean to exchange ideas and experiences on naval topics. The symposium allows for the exchange of information related to surveillance and security of maritime spaces in the Pacific Ocean, as well as training, exchange of personnel, and demonstration of capacities. Chile has been a member of WPNS since 2010. “It was an honor for the Chilean Navy to organize WPNS. Additionally, it was an enormous opportunity to contribute to our country’s international reputation and to strengthen our ties to other navies that share the same theater of operations, the Pacific Ocean, the largest in the world,” Captain Alberto Soto, head of the Planning Department of the Chilean Navy, told Diálogo. “It is very important to emphasize that the workshop took place in Chile. That is an acknowledgment of the status that Chile and its Navy have in terms of coordination and presence in the Pacific Ocean,” Miguel Navarro, security and defense analyst at the Chilean National Academy of Political and Strategic Studies, told Diálogo. The future of security During the symposium, the delegations reviewed activities scheduled for 2017 and 2018. In addition, the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) was updated, an achievement worth noting. The agreement was reached during the 2014 WPNS and provides security measures and methods for avoiding mutual interference, reducing uncertainty, and facilitating communication between navy vessels and airplanes operating in the Pacific Ocean. These vessels sometimes have unplanned interactions that involve multiple languages and different protocols in an environment where not all parties operate with unified procedures. “The participating navies agreed to work on a possible update to the terms of reference that govern how CUES works,” Capt. Soto said. CUES is a means of communication for maximizing security at sea. “This code reflects the desire of all actors involved to avoid uncomfortable or potentially risky situations from a technical or political point of view, which can occur on the open seas between different navies,” Navarro added. In this context, the Disaster Response Operations Guide (DROG) was updated. DROG is a tool that consolidates a huge amount of available information from WPNS navies to confront large-scale disasters. It was edited based on the experiences of several countries at the symposium, including Chile, which shared the lessons learned by its Navy during the rebuilding of the Talcahuano Naval Base after it was hit by a tsunami in 2010. For example, the experience gained by the Chilean Navy in its salvage operations at Talcahuano Naval Base – rebuilding capacity, refloating docks, and saving vessels thrown onto land by the tsunami - were incorporated into DROG. The largest navies from the Asia-Pacific region agreed on a July 30th deadline for submission of comments to be considered for approval at the 2018 workshop. “It’s still far from complete,” Capt. Soto said. “In any case, we have to understand that these types of documents are living publications and always subject to evolution and update.” In addition, navy committees agreed to submit at the next workshop a proposal to create an International Consolidation Center, headquartered at Callao, Peru. The initiative was proposed by the Peruvian Navy to help ensure timely information distribution, promote collective awareness of cross-border threats to maritime security, and effectively manage the multifaceted challenges of countries in the South Pacific. Moving forward, the Asia-Pacific navies decided to meet next year in Busan, South Korea, so that their commanders-in-chief could ratify the proposals and documents arising out of WPNS 2017. “The work that was done in the workshop contributes to our achieving better bilateral and multilateral coordination, addressing challenges jointly, and the increase of mutual trust between the countries comprising WPNS,” Capt. Soto said. The shared challenges facing the navies participating in WPNS include topics related to freedom of navigation and the unrestricted use of the oceans for movement of merchandise and people. “That includes, of course, piracy throughout Asia-Pacific region, an area where there has been a resurgence of the phenomenon, which affects everyone equally,” Navarro added. Maritime piracy affects the main navigation routes and puts the lives of sailors and merchant marines from around the world in danger. Hundreds are abducted every year according to a report published on the INTERPOL website. “Piracy is a complex subject on which every country ought to cooperate,” Navarro concluded.