Australian Customs Service
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Output 3 - Civil maritime surveillance and response

Maritime surveillance

The target for civil maritime surveillance coverage for 2004–05 was 145.62m sq nm. The shortfall of 4.7 per cent can be attributed to a number of factors including:

Coastwatch works closely with its surveillance contractors to minimise the impact of any crewing limitations and to ensure obligations to high priority client tasking are met.

Calculation of surveillance coverage

 Coastwatch Dash 8

Coastwatch Dash 8.

The figure for square nautical miles patrolled is derived from a standing formula that incorporates:

The surveillance coverage figure is indicative only. A more accurate figure cannot be derived as previous Coastwatch systems have not been able to assess accurately the impact of such factors as transit times to and from planned surveillance areas, target investigation factors and actual time on task spent in visual or radar mode.

The development of the Coastwatch Command and Support System and subsequent enhancements to the system provided more accurate and comprehensive data, particularly the ability to give a more accurate assessment of the impact of transit time on surveillance coverage figures.

The introduction of the Surveillance Information Management System, in conjunction with the new surveillance contracts in July 2007, will provide further data on the impact on surveillance coverage. For the purposes of year-on-year trend analysis, Customs will continue to provide a total surveillance coverage figure using the same assumptions as in previous years.

Coastwatch risk assessment methodology

Coastwatch has developed and implemented a Common Risk Assessment Methodology (CRAM). Each of Coastwatch’s major clients contribute to CRAM:

CRAM was developed to provide clients with a risk assessment process that permits all client risks to be considered against a common unit of measurement. These scores guide the strategic planning of Coastwatch surveillance flights and inform the nature and frequency of surveillance to be programmed.

The output from CRAM is a calculated rating priority for each client in the maritime areas surrounding Australia. This is achieved by identifying clients’ area-specific risks, applying a severity assessment to weighted factors (economic, environmental and social) for each identified risk, to generate a consequence value. The likelihood of the risk occurring is then assessed and applied to the consequence value to determine the risk score. All client risk scores for an area are added to derive an area risk score, or CRAM score, which can be used as the basis on which deployments of Coastwatch assets can be prioritised. CRAM is updated quarterly to reflect changes in threats.

Use of satellites for surveillance

Coastwatch further examined the use of satellites in maritime surveillance. Defence Science and Technology Organisation and Defence Imagery and Geospacial Organisation were closely consulted. The examination found that satellites have limitations in detecting and identifying smaller targets, particularly in high traffic surveillance areas. Long periods of heavy cloud cover remain a significant impediment to optical satellites. Satellites are, however, a valuable tool in areas of low vessel traffic where target vessels are larger.

Coastwatch uses radar satellites with good effect in areas where the requirement is to locate relatively large vessels, typically steel trawlers in excess of 30 metres, and to monitor vessels movements over a number of days. Satellites are also used by Coastwatch in areas such as Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Christmas Island and other offshore areas.

Following the signing of a treaty between Australia and France on cooperation in the maritime areas in the Southern Indian Ocean, Coastwatch contracted a French company to provide satellite coverage of the Heard and McDonald Island Exclusive Economic Zone. The satellites provide imagery representing total coverage of the Heard and McDonald Island Exclusive Economic Zone over a fortnightly period. This year, these satellites provided coverage equivalent to 4.86m sq nm of Australia’s Maritime Zones.

High frequency surface wave radar (HFSWR)

In conjunction with Defence, Customs is undertaking a trial to evaluate the effectiveness of a HFSWR system in improving surveillance coverage of offshore high-threat approaches to Australia.

The HFSWR can detect surface vessels and low-flying aircraft beyond the visible horizon, unlike conventional radars that are limited to line-of-sight operations. The Australian version of this system is a derivative of the Jindalee (over-the-horizon radar) research and has the potential to deliver 24-hour wide-area coastal surveillance of aircraft, ships and boats travelling in the Torres Strait.

The trial will test and evaluate the future surveillance potential of the radar, using it to complement other surveillance assets and systems.

A 440m receiver array is on Dauan Island in the northern Torres Strait. The transmitter is on the uninhabited Koey Ngurtai (Pumpkin) Island, to the north of Badu Island, in the middle of Torres Strait.

The Government signed Indigenous Land Use Agreements with the Dauan and Badu Island communities in February 2004. Under the voluntary agreements, local communities were provided with employment opportunities during the preparation of the sites and during the construction phase. In addition, several residents will act as caretakers of these remote sites.

The radar array was handed to the Commonwealth for the commencement of the operational phase of the trial in February 2005.

Figure 23: High Frequency Surface Wave Radar proposed coverage

Figure 23: High Frequency Surface Wave Radar proposed coverage

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle trial

As part of its 2004 election commitments, the Government allocated funding of $0.6m for a trial by Customs of a small sized long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle.

The trial will test the suitability of the technology for maritime surveillance and reporting arising from Coastwatch targeting. The unmanned aerial vehicle will be deployed to identify, verify and validate target data derived from the HFSWR and other sources.

Customs is also working closely with Defence in support of its implementation of the Government decision to trial the deployment of an unmanned aerial vehicle in the North West Shelf area.

Maritime surveillance contracts

Customs is undertaking a tender process to replace contracts for delivery of aerial surveillance of Australia’s maritime zones which expire on 30 June 2007.

Tenders were sought for two services. Service A includes surveillance services over the inshore and offshore zones of the AEEZ and remote areas, complemented where feasible by a wide-area surveillance capability for use predominantly south of the Tropic of Capricorn. Service B caters for provision of helicopter services for the Torres Strait.

The request for tender for the services forecasts an ongoing investment in border protection approaching $1b over 12 years.

It is anticipated that the successful tenderer for Services B will be announced in July 2005 and for Service A in late 2005.

Joint Offshore Protection Command

On 20 July 2004, the Government established the Taskforce on Offshore Maritime Security, led by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. It comprised members from Defence and Customs, and consulted widely with government agencies and various industry representatives in both Australia and overseas.

In December 2004, the Prime Minister John Howard announced a number of initiatives, including the establishment of the Joint Offshore Protection Command (JOPC), to further strengthen Australia’s offshore maritime security.

Under new JOPC arrangements, Customs retains responsibility for civil maritime surveillance and regulatory roles and the Australian Defence Force (ADF) takes on responsibility for:

JOPC uses assigned Customs and ADF assets to execute a particular operation and, at the end of the operation, returns control of the asset to the ADF or Customs. Assigned assets are operated in accordance with Rules of Engagement promulgated by the Chief of the Defence Force and by the CEO of Customs. 

JOPC tasks include:

A JOPC Offshore Powers Legislation Study team convened in June 2005 to undertake a project seeking clarification and further development of the legal authority to undertake counter terrorism measures in offshore areas. The Study is headed by Professor Stuart Kaye, Dean of Law, University of Wollongong and comprises legal and operations representatives from both Defence and Customs. The Study will provide its conclusions and recommendations to the Commander JOPC by 30 August 2005.

Members of the JOPC team, left to right: John McAree,  Conor Annesley, LCDR Mark Sorby, Ian Polson, Group Captain Ian Pearson

Members of the JOPC team, left to right: John McAree,
Conor Annesley, LCDR Mark Sorby, Ian Polson, Group Captain Ian Pearson

Customs and Defence team – Joint Offshore Protection Command

On 30 March 2005, the Minister for Justice and Customs and the Minister for Defence formally opened the Headquarters of the Joint Offshore Protection Command (JOPC). The Headquarters is co-located with Customs Coastwatch in Canberra and comprises staff drawn from both Customs and the Australian Defence Force. A number of staff are in the north of Australia.

The Command has a joint accountability structure, being responsible to the Chief of the Defence Force for its military functions and to the CEO of Customs for its civil functions. To support this approach, the Director-General of Coastwatch, a Rear Admiral seconded from the Royal Australian Navy, is also the Commander of JOPC. JOPC operates under a Directive to the Commander of JOPC signed by both the CEO Customs and the Chief of the Defence Force.

The Command draws on the full range of Defence and Customs capabilities and makes the best use of available resources to achieve the implementation, coordination and management of offshore maritime security. It is an important step in ensuring that any terrorist threat to Australia’s maritime assets and coastline can be detected and defeated.


Augmented security patrols—Timor Sea and North West Shelf

The objective of augmented security patrols is to:

Four augmented security patrols were conducted in the Timor Sea and North West Shelf. Assigned surface assets came from Customs and Defence, supported by designated Coastwatch aircraft flights. Affected industry members were alerted through the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.

The patrols successfully tested communications, procedures and protocols between Coastwatch and Defence assets, and with oil and gas installations.

Australian Maritime Identification System (AMIS)

A key problem identified by the Taskforce on Offshore Maritime Security was the lack of centralised coordination and integration of all information relevant to the maritimedomain held by a number of Commonwealth and State agencies.

JOPC proposes to establish AMIS as a mechanism for seeking, analysing and managing information on vessel identity, crew, passengers, cargo, location, course, speed and intended port of arrival. The establishment of AMIS will provide a centrally coordinated and integrated approach to the gathering of the maritime information that is already collected by a number of Australian Federal, State and Territory agencies. This collection of information on known and forecast vessel movements and the management of the data will assist in providing more targeted surveillance within Australia’s maritime zones.

Operations and Program Advisory Committee (OPAC)

OPAC is the senior consultative body providing whole-of-government advice to the Director General Coastwatch. OPAC comprises senior representatives from the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, the Australian Federal Police, Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, the Department of the Environment and Heritage, the Department of Defence, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, the Department of Industry Tourism and Resources, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Customs. Chaired by Director General Coastwatch, OPAC meets quarterly.

Strategic directions and service delivery of the Civil Maritime Surveillance Program are major issues discussed. OPAC also reviews operational outcomes and provides advice on the extent to which they meet the needs of individual agencies.

OPAC also oversees the Coastwatch Planning Advisory Sub-Committee and the Regional Operations Planning and Advisory Committees.


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