Maritime Safety & Security

The Indian Ocean region faces many traditional and non-traditional maritime safety and security (MSS) challenges including:  

  • Piracy 
  • Armed robberies at sea  
  • Terrorism  
  • Illegal trafficking of humans, drugs, weapons and wildlife 
  • Crimes in the fisheries sector including illegal, unreported and unregulated  fishing  
  • Degradation of ocean health including pollution from land and vessels 
  • Unlawful exploitation of marine resources and  
  • Climate change with its related repercussions. 

Ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), is also of primary importance to the prosperity and security of the region. 


The IORA Action Plan 2022-27 sets out the strategic goals of the Maritime Safety and Security Priority Area.  This involves promoting MSS in the Indian Ocean Region through effective coordination between Member States and relevant international organisations for sharing of expertise and resources, strengthening regional cooperation to address Trans Boundary challenges, and ensure freedom of navigation in accordance with International Law, including UNCLOS, while ensuring collaboration across IORA Working Groups on common areas of interest. 


Working Group for Maritime Safety and Security (WGMSS) 


The WGMSS engages maritime officials and experts across IORAs Member States to promote regional cooperation by facilitating practical coordination amongst stakeholders.  The WGMSS develops and implements activities through its Work Plan in line with the strategic goals of the IORA Action Plan 2022-27.  The WGMSS Terms of Reference set out how the WGMSS operates.  The WGMSS focuses on four thematic areas and three objectives as outlined below.  


The 4 thematic areas of the WGMSS are:  




The objectives of the WGMSS are: 


  1. Building the foundation for a collaborative IORA MSS framework based on the respective needs and priorities of IORA's 23 Member States; 


  • To establish a common understanding between IORA Members States of the collective MSS risks, threats and opportunities in the Indian Ocean region;  
  • To foster cooperation among IORA Member States in respect to MSS in collaboration with Dialogue Partners and other stakeholders as necessary;  
  • To define standardised structures and processes for practical coordination in MSS; and promote and enhance effective coordination and complementarities with existing mechanisms in the region and beyond;  
  • To advance implementation of the MSS Blueprint;
  • To coordinate with the IORA Working Group on Disaster Risk Management on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) activities in the maritime domain and other IORA Working Groups as required 


2. Establishing an integrated policy approach on MSS, including through capability enhancement and capacity building; and 


  • To build a partnership within the framework of IORA for the strengthening of capacity and capability as well as institution building in the domain of MSS;  
  • To facilitate dialogue and exchange of information on opportunities, challenges and best practices;  
  • To encourage Member States and Dialogue Partners to offer training and capacity building programmes as per the specific needs of Member States;  
  • To coordinate and cooperate in order to deconflict capability enhancement and capacity building efforts under the IORA construct to ensure synergies and complementarities of various initiatives taken in this regard;  
  • To enhance Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) among IORA Member States. To encourage the sharing of expertise and resources to manage risks to the safety of vessels and the marine environment of the Indian Ocean region. 


3. Establishing a coordinated regional vision for MSS in IORA to address existing and emerging issues. 


  • To strengthen regional cooperation to address transboundary challenges, including piracy, armed robberies at sea, terrorism, trafficking in persons, people smuggling, irregular movement of persons, illegal mining activities, illicit drugs trafficking, illicit trafficking in wildlife, crimes in the fisheries sector, and environmental crimes such as dumping at sea and pollution;  
  • To ensure that countries in the region can exercise freedom of navigation and over flight in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS, as constitution for the Oceans;  
  • To evolve a framework for exchanging agreements and initiatives in MSS among like-minded stakeholders;  
  • To evolve IORA as a platform for peaceful discussions and negotiations on all issues pertaining to MSS;  
  • To work towards reliable, uninterrupted and safe movement of people, goods, resources and energy supplies throughout the Indian Ocean region;  
  • To enhance cooperation with relevant international organizations and agencies to support the IORA WGMSS in addressing common MSS challenges;  
  • Form collaborative links with the UN offices and agencies, the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, Heads of Asian Coast Guard Agencies Meeting, Djibouti Code of Conduct, Indian Ocean Commission and other relevant regional arrangements on MSS; enhance cooperation  
  • To develop suitable early tsunami warning mechanism for coastal and marine communities of the Indian Ocean Region; 
  • To sensitize Member States on the need to harmonise domestic legislation to combat piracy, unlawful acts against the safety of maritime navigation and other maritime crime. 


Leadership of the Working Group on Maritime Safety and Security (WGMSS)  


The WGMSS was chaired by Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka from 2018 till October 2023 when it was transitioned to the Commonwealth of Australia as Chair of the WGMSS, with the Republic of India as Coordinating Country for Maritime Safety and Security.  


Latest news
The Indian Ocean Rim Association participated at the Fourth Bay of Bengal Maritime ...
Past Events
Workshop on Comparative Study on the Implementation of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in the Indian Ocean & Maritime Dialogue for the Law Enforcement agencies, 30 October to 01 November, Mirissa, Sri Lanka.
Workshop on Cooperation on Maritime Safety, 24-28 July 2023 (Online)
The Third WGMSS followed by a Workshop on Cooperation on Maritime Security, 20 – 23 March 2023, Colombo, Sri Lanka
IORA Workshop on Maritime Assistance and Search and Rescue and Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX), 29 August to 01 September 2022, Seychelles
IORA Workshop on Maritime Assistance and Search and Rescue and Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX), 05 to 08 September 2022, Bangladesh
Ms. Teelotma Ghoorah, PMP®
Programme Officer
Shivraj Dhuppe