Quad partners help Indo-Pacific countries monitor waters

U.S. Coast Guard cutter and fishing vessel at sea (U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 1st Class Nate Littlejohn)
U.S. Coast Guard and Fijian law enforcement officers board a fishing vessel off the coast of Fiji on April 18. The United States and its Quad partners are helping other Indo-Pacific nations monitor waters in their economic zones. (U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 1st Class Nate Littlejohn)

A partnership of Indo-Pacific nations is helping other countries across the region use satellite technology to monitor their waters, prevent illegal fishing and better respond to humanitarian and natural disasters.

The Quad partners (the United States, Australia, India and Japan) announced their support for the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) at their Quad Leaders’ Summit in Tokyo on May 24.

Through the IPMDA, the Indo-Pacific nations will share technology to enable countries to monitor their maritime boundaries and international sea lanes via low-Earth-orbit satellites that identify ships by their radio traffic and automated tracking systems.

This new program “will allow tracking of ‘dark shipping’ and other tactical-level activities, such as rendezvous at sea,” according to the White House. It will “improve partners’ ability to respond to climate and humanitarian events and to protect their fisheries.”

Anthony Albanese, Joe Biden, Narendra Modi and Fumio Kishida walking past another man (© Evan Vucci/AP Images)
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, President Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, right, at the Quad Leaders’ Summit on May 24 in Tokyo (© Evan Vucci/AP Images)

Nations sometimes lack resources to effectively monitor their exclusive economic zones — which extend 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) from a country’s coast. As part of the IPMDA, partners will work through regional fusion centers throughout the Indo-Pacific to enable partner countries to monitor their waters in near real time.

The Quad is also helping other Indo-Pacific nations to:

  • Develop green shipping corridors and clean energy.
  • Enhance supply chain resilience and develop open and secure 5G telecommunications networks.
  • Fight COVID-19, with 257 million vaccine doses donated to Indo-Pacific countries so far.
  • Build infrastructure, with more than $50 billion in investment over the next five years.

The maritime monitoring program builds on other U.S. efforts that use satellites to help Indo-Pacific nations respond to disasters. The United States deploys satellite equipment to enable text messaging in areas with limited connectivity to disseminate alerts and other information.

Former Australian Prime Minister and Asia Society President Kevin Rudd said May 26 that the Quad’s support for this new maritime domain awareness initiative will help island nations in the Indian and Pacific oceans preserve their fish stocks and other maritime resources.

“I know from my own experience that this is welcome across the small island countries of the Pacific,” Rudd said.