Maritime domain awareness

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Maritime domain awareness (MDA) is defined by the International Maritime Organization as the effective understanding of anything associated with the maritime domain that could impact the security, safety, economy, or environment.[1] The maritime domain is defined as all areas and things of, on, under, relating to, adjacent to, or bordering on a sea, ocean, or other navigable waterway, including all maritime-related activities, infrastructure, people, cargo, and vessels and other conveyances.

United States[edit]

In the United States, the Secretary of the Navy is the DoD Executive Agent for maritime domain awareness.[2]


In Canada, the 2004 National Security Policy resulted in the establishment of Marine Security Operations Centers (MSOCs) responsible for supporting a national response to maritime security threat. The East Coast MSOC is in Halifax, the West Coast MSOC is in Victoria, and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway MSOC is in Niagara.[3]

European Union[edit]

The European Union took a decision in 2008 to improve the integration and interoperability of member states' maritime safety, security, border control, environmental protection, fisheries and law enforcement systems in order to create a Common Information Sharing Environment for the EU maritime domain.[4]


In the Philippines, the National Coast Watch System (NCWS) was originally designed to improve maritime domain awareness in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, but has been extended over the entire island country's territory.[5]

South Africa[edit]

In March 2012, the South African Navy announce the establishment of two MDA centers, one in Cape Town for the west coast and one in Durban to cover the east coast.[6]


NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi government will establish a National Maritime Authority (NMA) to ensure cohesive policy-making and effective coordination on coastal security among the multiple authorities dealing with maritime issues in the country.

It was the NMA that caught the eye of many in the defence establishment. The concept of an apex federal maritime body is not new. It was strongly recommended after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, and even figured on the agenda of the Cabinet Committee on Security in the shape of a maritime security advisory board (MSAB) with a maritime security advisor as its chief.

But the then UPA government had junked it due to turf-wars, among other reasons. Even the 2001 GoM report on reforming the national security system had underlined the need for "an apex body for management of maritime affairs for institutionalised linkages among the Navy, Coast Guard and ministries of central and state governments".

Though a slew of coastal security measures have been taken since 26/11, from a fledgling coastal radar network to state marine police stations, experts feel port and coastal security in India is still far from becoming impregnable.

The 15 or more agencies involved, ranging from Navy, Coast Guard, customs, intelligence agencies and port authorities to the home and shipping ministries, state governments and fisheries departments, often work at cross-purposes. "A full-time federal body like NMA is needed to clear the clutter," said an official.

After 26/11, the UPA regime in August 2009 did constitute the national committee on strengthening maritime and coastal security against threats from the sea (NCSMCS), with the cabinet secretary as its chairman. "While NCSMCS has done some good work in monitoring implementation of coastal security measures as well as coordination with different stakeholders, it has met barely 9-10 times since then... much more needs to be done," said a top official.

The national maritime domain awareness (NMDA) project, basically an integrated intelligence grid to detect and tackle threats emanating from the sea in real-time, for instance, is yet to take concrete shape. Its aim was to generate a "common operational picture of activities at sea through an institutionalised mechanism for collecting, fusing and analysing information from technical and other sources like coastal surveillance network radars, space-based automatic identification systems, vessel traffic management systems, fishing vessel registration and fishermen biometric identity databases..[7]