Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR March2013 Contents 16 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter MARCH 2013
very sovereign country with an ocean
coastline, whatever its system of
government, sees international recognition
for - and domestic protection of - its
maritime borders as a very high priority.
Tensions currently being observed between China
and Japan over sovereignty claims for some small
islands in the East China Sea could have serious
military consequences arising from a miscalculation
by either country.
Similarly the Spratly Islands in the South China
Sea are subject to territorial claims by five countries.
There is an underlying economic motive as this sea is
home to a wealth of natural resources, fisheries, trade
routes, and military bases, all of which are at stake in
the increasingly frequent diplomatic standoffs.
Australia is not experiencing international tensions
over its maritime borders but has a long running
problem of asylum seekers risking the sea voyage
in unsafe vessels from Indonesia and other nearby
countries to land on Australian territory. It does
not help that the national response has become
politicised and subjected to bitter debate between
the Government and the Opposition.
With over 100,000 refugees and displaced
persons in camps across Malaysia and Indonesia, this
method of attempting to enter Australia by sea is likely
to continue in the future. The public are fed up with
this situation and are looking for long-term solutions
rather than short-term bickering by politicians.
Despite political tensions in Canberra, Australia’s
Customs and Border Protection Service, through its
Border Protection Command (BPC), continues to
achieve success in the challenging task of controlling
of the country’s maritime borders and ensuring
maritime security within the EEZ.
BPC is responsible for coordinating and controlling
operations to protect Australia's national interests
against maritime security threats such as illegal
exploitation of natural resources; illegal activity in
protected areas; irregular maritime arrivals (asylum
seekers); prohibited imports/exports; maritime
terrorism; piracy, robbery or violence at sea;
compromise to bio-security and marine pollution.
These operations, especially those associated with
asylum seekers, create morale problems for staff in
the front line, with burn-out rates similar to those
experienced in war.
The total area of BPC responsibility covers an area
of 11 million square nautical miles and equates to
approximately 11 percent of the Earth’s oceans. Given
the enormity of the area, surveillance is prioritised
using an intelligence-led risk-based approach that
takes into account the real or perceived security
threat and potential impact.
A Rear Admiral, seconded from Defence as
Commander Border Protection Command (CBPC)
currently David Johnston - has operational control
of both ADF and Customs and Border Protection
assets assigned to civil maritime security operations.
CBPC exercises this command through deputies
located in two headquarters – Border Protection
Command Headquarters in Canberra, which
coordinates Customs and Border Protection assets
via the Australian Maritime Security Operations
Centre, and through HQ Joint Task Force 639 in
Darwin, which coordinates the ADF assigned assets.
There are regional bases in Cairns, Darwin, Broome
and Thursday Island.
About 80% of BPC staff are seconded from
Customs, 15% from the ADF and the balance
from other agency stakeholders. Canberra-based
management include the Chief of Staff; Command
Legal Officer; and Directors for Governance and
Command Support, Operations, Intelligence,
Strategy Engagement & Counter Terrorism and
An earlier article in APDR March 2011 “Border
security: Good Operations and Bad Government
Policy – Australia’s Border Protection Command”
gives more information on the creation and
initial challenges faced by BPC. It is available
via the search engine on APDR’s website www.
MARITIME BORDERS GEOFF SLOCOMBE // CANBERRA
Cape Class Patrol Boat
21/02/13 5:54 PM
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