The government of Japan on Sunday signed an exchange of notes with Maldives, pledging USD 7.6 million (approximately MVR 117 million) to increase the operational capability of Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF)’s Coast Guard.
The agreement was signed by Ambassador of Japan to Maldives Keiko Yanai and Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid at a special ceremony held at the foreign ministry, attended by senior officials of the ministry, MNDF, Embassy of Japan, and Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA).
Intended to enhance the Coast Guard’s operational capabilities in carrying out humanitarian operations, the grant will be used to finance the procurement of communications equipment for the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) as well as Search and Rescue professional dive gear.
Among the communications equipment to be procured are Inmarsat, high power HF transmitters, electronic charts, high end IP phones, and servers and software applications for the MRCC’s main and subregional centres and Coast Guard vessels. The professional dive equipment will include recompression chambers, high pressure air compressor, gas storage systems, remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV), underwater scooters and body recovery tools.
According to the Japanese embassy, a significant milestone of the grant assistance will be the introduction of a recompression chamber to the general public for the first time in Maldives.
Moreover, specialised trainings on operating the dive equipment and their maintenance will be conducted as well.
Speaking to the press after the signing, Minister Shahid highlighted that the Coast Guard attended to an average of 390 distress calls every year, saving approximately 900 lives. Noting the high sea traffic density within and close to Maldivian waters, Shahid underscored the Coast Guard’s struggle with insufficient resources and capabilities.
“Furthermore, in order to maintain a free and open Indian Ocean, and to enable peace and prosperity in the region, our close collaboration on issues ranging from combating piracy and narco-trafficking, to countering violent extremism must remain high on the agenda for bilateral cooperation”, he said.
“The assistance extended by the Government of Japan is a much needed and timely boost to the capabilities of the Maldives Coast Guard, which I am sure, will go a long way to ensure the safety and security of all within Maldivian waters and its EEZ”.
“Japan has yet again demonstrated its generosity to the Maldives, and its commitment to not just strengthen our bilateral relations, but to make a difference in the lives of the Maldivian people”, he added, highlighting the continuing support extended by the Japanese government to Maldives in various areas, including the USD 47.5 million loan agreement signed with JICA in September, Japan's largest concessional loan extended to the island nation in history.
Ambassador Yanai stated that efforts to provide the grant assistance were put into motion following her visit to MRCC and seeing its limited resources.
Noting that it took almost a year to finalise the grant, she thanked the efforts of the Japanese embassy, Coast Guard and foreign ministry, expressing confidence that the equipment procured would highly boost Coast Guard’s capabilities.
“Our commitment reflects the growing partnership between the Government of Japan and the Government of the Maldives and our strong wish to work together to promote bilateral relations and to address regional and global issues”, she said.
The grant assistance was provided under the Japanese government’s economic and social development programme, to strengthen relations with Maldives in the field of disaster response and rescue. Previously in October 2019, Japan donated 21 paramedic ambulances valued at USD 1.4 million to Maldives, which were distributed to 21 islands across 15 atolls.