New aerial surveillance aircraft to monitor Pacific security and maritime borders

A new aerial surveillance programme funded by the Australian Government will be used by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) to address and monitor illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in members security and maritime domain. Picture: FT FILE

By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor in Nauru

YAREN, 04 SEPTEMBER (PACNEWS) – A new aerial surveillance program funded by the Australian Government will be used by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) to address and monitor illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in members security and maritime domain.

Pacific countries will now get 1,400 hours of aerial surveillance annually with the provision of two King Air 200 aircraft outfitted with state of the art sensor avionics and communications technology.

FFA’s Tevita Tupou said the aerial surveillance program is part of Australia’s 30 year commitment to Maritime Security Program in the Pacific.

“Operational control of the aerial surveillance program rests with the FFA and will provide 1,400 hours of surveillance each year in addition to the 400 hours maritime air surveillance assistance currently provided by our quadrilateral surveillance partners – Australia, New Zealand, France and the U.S, said Tupou.

He said participating member countries will the drive the scheduling and tasking of the aircraft based on regional risk assessment, national priorities, support for existing regional and multilateral operations and co-ordination with the patrol boats.

“The aircraft will only operate in a participating members Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) upon request and/or agreement of that member, said Tupou.

FFA has had discussions with the host countries of the aircraft Samoa and Vanuatu – as bases where they will operate from.

“At the recent Forum Foreign Affairs Ministers meeting in Samoa, they agreed to accord the aircraft uniform concessionary treatment similar to that provided to their own ‘State’ aircraft. These are some of the clearance processes like immunity and privileges that we need to agree to first.”

Tupou said apart from fisheries, surveillance and monitoring will also extend to drug trafficking and people smuggling…

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