January 18, 2016
Sri Lanka is an important island country in the heart of Indian Ocean, which locates on the sea lane connecting between the Strait of Malacca and Middle East, and substantial partner country of Japan as an island country. The land area of Sri Lanka is about 80% the size of Hokkaido, northern island of Japan. Sri Lanka has 1,340km coast line, 21,000㎢ of territorial waters and 517,000㎢ of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and maritime related industries such as marine transportation (shipping), fishery and marine leisure, which account for 50 % of its GDP.
Once a natural disaster, a marine accident, an oil spillage from the vessels on the sea lane on Indian Ocean occurs, it may affect the safety and security of the vessel transport. Further, the seriousness of oceanic pollution by the accident and oil spillage may have huge effects to the fishery and maritime leisure in Sri Lanka.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency started to implement the Survey for developing outline design for the Project for Maritime Safety Capability Improvement, which aims at provision of patrol vessels to Sri Lanka Coast Guard under the Grant Aid, and to dispatch short term experts as Advisors for Maritime Disaster Countermeasures and Marine Environment Protection following the joint statement issued on the occasion of His Excellency Prime Minister Abe's visit to Sri Lanka in September, 2014.
Before commencing the advisors dispatch project to Sri Lanka Coast Guard, JICA in harmony with the Japan Coast Guard dispatched the survey teams in July, 2014, to identify the current organization structures and equipment of Sri Lanka Coast Guard. Three officers from the Japan Coast Guard joined the survey team and Commander Makoto TATSUMIYA, then director for international marine pollution and prevention, headed the JCG members. The team had fruitful survey during their one week stay to clearly understand the organizational structure, staff management and existing capacity for oil spill incident responses for preparing the curriculum and text for training.
In December, 2014, the first survey teams for the Project for Maritime Safety Capability Improvement were dispatched to Sri Lanka. The team was led by the retired vice admiral Toshitaka ISHIMA, current Senior Advisor of JICA, including the consultants who have variety of similar working experiences to provide patrol craft and vessels to the coast guard in other country under the Official Development Assistance (ODA) and had series of discussions with Sri Lanka Coast Guard. During their discussion, they had created the common picture on the patrol craft such as the specifications of the vessel, Search and Rescue related equipment, Fire Distinguisher and Oil Spill Combat equipment. Consultant team took notes on details of those requests made by Sri Lanka Coast Guard for reflecting their views for drafting the outline design of the vessels.
On January, three experts on Oil Spill Incident Response were dispatched. Captain Tomoyuki ISHIZUKA, Director of Marine Environment Protection and Disaster Prevention Division, Guard and Rescue Department of Japan Coast Guard, together with the Lieutenant Commander Ichiharu TANAKA, Team Leader of 3rd National Strike Team at Yokohama National Strike Team Station in 3rd Regional Coast Guard Headquarters of Japan Coast Guard and Lieutenant Toshimasa SASAKI, response officer attached to the same team with LCDR Tanaka. The first ever training course on Oil Spill Incident Management was held at Sri Lanka Coast Guard aiming at training the trainers, which include the basics of oil spill incident management, dangers of oils and how to handle the oils without making any side effects and secondary disasters. At last, they successfully conducted the joint tactical exercise with the fire brigade of Sri Lanka Port Authority, using the oil booms and absorbent belongs to fire brigade of port authority.
The first training course successfully developed more than 30 trainers in Sri Lanka Coast Guard, which include the Deputy Director General, commodore Ajith Samarasinghe. The trainers are very enthusiastic to absorb as much knowledge and capacities from the National Strike Team of Japan Coast Guard and successfully trained other 15 colleagues after they completed the training courses. Although the technical cooperation project is still under implementation, Sri Lanka Coast Guard is self-sustaining the knowledge and capacities to the successors in the organization to make them ready for the unpredictable disasters. In October 2015, Oil Spill Response Team of Sri Lanka Coast Guard appropriately coped with the fire and oil spill incident occurred at the Kaduwella Fishery Harbor. Soon after Oil Spill Response Team notified the fire incident of fishery boat, they have shifted necessary equipment, which JICA donated to Sri Lanka Coast Guard such as Oil Booms, Absorbent and other equipment, to the on-site and took protective measures to collect spilled oils from the fishery boat.
In December, 2015, the second survey teams for the Project for Maritime Safety Capability Improvement were dispatched. Their main objective is to discuss the draft outline design made based on the 1st survey with Sri Lanka Coast Guard. Since most of the Sri Lanka Coast Guard officials and staff were engaged in the conflict in the country till 2009, coast guard officers consider well about the small incident management including some troubles as if they can have clear image of how they can cope with those issues. They even consider the secondary and thundery countermeasures for securing the safety of vessel operation and raise lots of questions and comments on the draft. Japanese side were quite astonished with those practical considerations based on their experiences to secure the sustainable operations, which rarely seen in other countries.
In January 2016, the second batch of teams of experts on oil spill incident management will be dispatched for the Project on Maritime Disaster Countermeasure and Marine Environmental Protection. Unfortunately, the last training courses could not use the equipment, which JICA procured due to the necessary times for procurement under JICA's regulations, such as several types of Oil Booms, Gasoline Pumps for Fire Fighting as well as spreading out the oil dispersant. The next training courses mainly aiming at acquiring necessary knowledge and skills to fully utilizing that equipment and maintaining them for future incident management. Furthermore, we are expecting to conduct exhibition training at Colombo at the end of the training session to show the talented ability of Sri Lanka Coast Guard to relevant organization and Medias.
Although Sri Lanka Coast Guard is only five years from its inauguration, JICA is very proud that they are very talented and eager to acquire the new skills and knowledge. In addition, they are very much keen on how to utilize those skills and knowledge by giving training to their juniors by themselves.
Lieutenant Commander Tanaka of Japan Coast Guard said "the characteristic of Japanese and Sri Lanka are similar, I think. Especially the one joined in my training course steadily followed my guidance and revised the work when we made any kinds of comment for further improvement. They are very enthusiastic to acquire all the contents of training and try very hard to succeed the knowledge within their organization. SLCG started to make some communications with authorities' concerned and even started to organize joint tactical exercises with them during the absence of JICA Expert."
As the number of travelers drastically increasing in Sri Lanka these days, the tourist who come and enjoy marine leisure such as surfing, scuba diving, whale watching and dolphin watching also increases day by day. JICA is continue building strong relationship with Sri Lanka Coast Guard to further enhance the capacity of Sri Lanka Coast Guard to provide enjoyable beaches and sea with safety, security and serenity.