Australia, India Complete Maritime Exercises

By MarEx 2015-09-23 14:35:48

India and Australia completed the AUSINDEX-15, the first bilateral maritime exercise between the nations on September 21. The military exercises took place at Visakhapatnam and aims to strengthen ties between Australia and India.

The AUSINDEX-15 consisted mainly of anti-submarine drills and Royal Australian Navy (RAN) deployed three warships, a Collins-class submarine and an Australian Air Force P3C Orion. India provided its INS Shivalik, a stealth frigate, the INS Ranvijay, a guided missile destroyer, INS Shakti, a fleet tanker and an Indian Navy P8I maritime patrol aircraft.

China’s aggressiveness in the region appears to be the primary motivator of the exercises, which Australia and India intend to hold every two years. In July, two Chinese submarines were spotted near Sri Lanka and Pakistan, and the Chinese have also established 16 offshore platforms near disputed maritime territories.

In a statement, RAN rear admiral Jonathan Mead said: “India remains one of Australia’s key security partners in the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific. We have mutual interests in promoting peace and prosperity in the region.”

In June, India, Japan and Australia participated in trilateral maritime dialogue in New Dehli. The talks were attended by Indian foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Japanese vice foreign minister Akitaka Saiki and Australian secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Varghese.

Maritime security, freedom of navigation and maritime cooperation were the primary topics discussed.

India will also participate in trilateral maritime exercises with the U.S. and Japan in the Indian Ocean next month.

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The Drug Ship and Mysterious Death of UN Official

By MarEx 2015-09-23 14:13:35

A U.N. official involved in the investigation of the Höegh Transporter, which was detained at Kenya’s Port of Mombasa last week, was found dead in his Kenyan hotel room.

Shamus Mangan, an Australian, was a U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime detective tracking the Höegh Transporter, which the agency believed was transporting drugs.

Local authorities said that Mangan was discovered by hotel employees with blood in his mouth, but no apparent physical injuries. Locals said that Mangan, 41, was probably murdered due to his role in the investigation of the Singapore-flagged auto carrier.

The ship’s crew has been arrested are being questioned by authorities.

The Höegh Transporter was transporting nearly 4,000 military vessels from Mumbai, which were to be used for U.N. peacekeeping missions in South Sudan. On September 17, Kenyan soldiers detained the ship and shut down the Port of Mombasa after receiving a tip that the vessel was transporting drugs and firearms.

Kenyan officials revealed they discovered cocaine inside the tires of the vehicles as well as more than 40 rifles, including nine M-16s, and nine NATO-grade machine guns hidden in the truck’s compartments.

East Africa is a key export route for Afghan narcotics shipments bound for Europe and maritime forces have attempted to slow the flow of drug transport in the region. Mombasa serves as the main gateway for imports and exports in the region and East Africa has been a key export route for narcotic shipments bound for Europe.

The vessel is still being guarded by Kenyan authorities and is likely to be blown up for carrying drugs and illegal weapons into the country.

Click here for MarEx’s previous report on this situation.

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India Drops Plans Granting Ports Increased Autonomy

By Reuters 2015-09-23 11:17:24

India will change existing laws governing ports to make them more profitable and efficient, the shipping minister said on Wednesday, putting on hold a plan to turn them into corporate entities under pressure from trade unions and political parties.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley earlier this year announced a plan to corporatize ports, widely seen as an attempt to raise revenues by listing them.

Nitin Gadkari said the government has moved to amend existing laws to make the ports’ management more independent and professional so that they can be efficient and bring down turnaround times of ships at the 12 major ports in the country.

The government’s failure to move forward on the port corporatisation plan follows a similar retreat on efforts to ease land acquisition laws to build roads and ports.

A longstanding plan to harmonise taxes across all of India’s 29 states by April 2016 is also now in question as opposition groups seeks to block the reform agenda.

“When we tried to implement corporatization of ports, the trade unions raised objections. Some political parties tried to make mileage out of it, disregarding national interest and development,” said Gadkari, a businessman-turned politician who is spearheading reforms in infrastructure.

“We have decided that instead of making them corporate bodies, we will change existing laws, and see what else we can do in other areas to improve efficiency,” he said.

Under the plan unveiled in February, the government planned to convert the trusts which manage the ports into companies under the Companies Act, giving them greater operational autonomy including pricing and raising of funds.

Some of the trusts date back centuries such as the Bombay Port Trust established in 1873 as the main gateway to India. In 2014 the World Bank said that India’s ports faced a challenge to meet the needs of one of the world’s fastest growing major economies and have been slow to embrace modernisation of management structures.

Gadkari said his administration aimed to reduce the turnaround time of ships at Indian ports from four days to two days in line with international standards. Some ports such as Hong Kong turned around ships in 10 hours.

India aims to expand annual capacity of its ports to 2,000 million tonnes by 2018 from 1,450 million tonnes now, shipping secretary Rajive Kumar said.

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