By Salma El Shahed
The fight against piracy in the Gulf of Aden faces tough challenges because countries still refuse to share intelligence, a senior ranking British naval officer has said on Monday.
Commodore Keith Blount told the International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX), in Abu Dhabi, that while counter-piracy operations had seen significant advancement, some countries were still withholding intelligence for political reasons – even when they were operating in the same areas as other states.
“The Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, they are all conducting counter piracy in a perfectly effective way but the information flow between us is not as good as it could be because there are other factors preventing it from being the case,” he said during a panel session at this year’s IDEX conference.
But he said an increase in “quantity and quality” of data collected by modern technology may act as a double-edged sword.
“I think there are plenty of opportunities – probably more opportunities than threats… but I do worry a little simply about the availability of information,” he said.
He said as the amount of information relayed to naval vessels increased each day with technological advancements, it became harder to separate the important intelligence from less important data.
“In my experience the number of times we missed an important piece of information actually went up rather than down,” Blount said explaining: “because the really important stuff was getting buried, in the unimportant stuff.”
But he added that there had been great improvement in maritime security in the region, because there had not been a successful pirate attack since mid-2012.
Asked to define maritime situational awareness, he said: “true maritime situational awareness depends on your understanding of the region.”
“Your understanding of culture to a degree, understanding of history, understanding weather patterns, patterns, the ability to instinctively spot the known from the unknown,” factors which he said have aided GCC navies in better-navigating local waters.
“In my position as the deputy commander of the combined maritime forces, I have noticed how much better the GCC navies are at operating, and knowing where to operate inside the Gulf than some of the larger navies because they have saturated themselves in that understanding for generations.”