Sri Lanka: The ‘Galle Dialogue International Maritime Conference 2018’ organised by the Sri Lanka Navy for the ninth consecutive year commenced yesterday at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo.
President Maithripala Sirisena graced the occasion as the Chief Guest at the inaugural session.
State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene, Defence Secretary Kapila Waidyaratne, PC, Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne and a number of local and foreign delegates graced the occasion. Navy Commander Vice Admiral S. S. Ranasinghe received the Chief Guest to the conference held under the theme ‘Synergizing for collaborative maritime management’.
The Galle Dialogue International Maritime Conference was organised by the Sri Lanka Navy since 2010 under the patronage of the Ministry of the Defence.
The purpose of this conference is to provide a common platform for stake holders of national and international repute to discuss and deliberate maritime related issues. Moreover, specifically enhance the cooperation of maritime security and sharing of knowledge and information amongst them.
President Maithripala Sirisena in his message on this occasion said a conference such as this, has special significance for nations such as Sri Lanka engaged in the rapid expansion of maritime activities. “Sri Lanka is geographically located close to a very important international maritime route and is working towards becoming a naval hub in the Indian Ocean. Hence, I strongly believe the deliberations at this conference will be immensely useful for Sri Lanka to progress towards achieving the desired objectives.”
Delivering the welcome address, Navy Commander S.S. Ranasinghe said the first seminar was held in 2010 with the intention of sharing Sri Lanka’s experiences of countering maritime terrorism, particularly irregular warfare at sea and lessons learnt, with the rest of the world, after eradicating 30 years of terrorism that plagued the island.
Thereafter, subsequent conferences set the stage to discuss maritime security challenges and ways of overcoming them through constructive, collaborative and cooperative partnerships.
The Galle Dialogue was attended by 146 delegates representing 52 countries and 22 international organizations as well as defence industries.
The Navy Commander noted; “Since our region is very much prone to natural disasters, it is important to discuss Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief. Further, Maritime Domain Awareness in terms of maritime security is also very significant in this forum to have a dialogue.
“Being an island nation located in a central position of the Indian Ocean, adopting a Blue Economy is not optional but mandatory for Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has advantages, but also faces challenges due to its position. The major advantages for a Blue Economy include a unique geographical position, high accessibility to ocean resources from a lengthy coastline around the country, closeness to major sea lanes, sovereignty over a significant area of sea compared with the country’s land resources, a diverse range of coastal and marine ecosystems and a high potential for tourism and recreation industries,” he said.
However, he pointed out that these opportunities also have challenges attached to them. The oceans around the country are highly contested by global powers and being a small player in a global political arena, he warned that Sri Lanka therefore, has to take a cautious path.
“Approximately 80% of the pollution in the oceans comes from land, and coastal zones are especially vulnerable to pollutants. Plastics are also particularly problematic with enormous floating rubbish patches forming in the oceans. Climate change and its related impacts, such as ocean acidification, are affecting the survival of some marine species. Coastal development is destroying and degrading important coastal marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, sea grass meadows and mangroves. We need clean and healthy oceans to support our own health and survival, even if we don’t live anywhere near them,” the Navy Commander said.
He highlighted the necessity of protecting our future generation by giving them the best opportunity to live in a peaceful and uncorrupted environment. Therefore, he said, maritime strategies must be developed as collective strategies to address common issues.
“This could be achieved by sharing resources, knowledge, technology and mutual understanding among each other,” he said, adding that great power competition with maritime power projection could be used as a tool for helping nations instead of an individual attempt to achieve their strategic objectives.