Members of Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) Navy board a ship on July 9, 2019 as part of a visit, board, search and seizure drill during exercise Resolute Response (RR) 19. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dawson Roth/Released)

BEIRUT — The Lebanese government has endorsed a national maritime strategy for the first time, one that calls for strengthened sea borders and better maritime surveillance, Breaking Defense has learned.

The broad strategy was approved by the government on Tuesday and includes the use of €7 million ($7.6 million USD) in aid from the European Union to support the effort. The strategy comes as Lebanon contends with extensive illegal immigration in which migrants attempt to reach Europe via Lebanese waters.

The strategy, obtained by Breaking Defense, deals with civil and commercial concerns, but presents specific security challenges, like limited abilities in the areas of securing marine communication cables, performing search and rescue missions, and intervening and intercepting threats to maintain maritime security and safety, as well as the inability to prevent unauthorized electronic interference and jamming. It also calls for updated legislation to keep pace with international maritime laws. Otherwise, it directs government bodies to come up with their own updated maritime policies.

It’s unclear precisely what the EU’s $7.6 million will go towards, but former Lebanese navy commander and strategic expert Nazih Baroudi told Breaking Defense it could mean the EU will “provide technical support in terms of training and providing some naval equipment,” but not enough funding to cover the maintenance needed for the navy’s vessel’s operations.

Baroudi pointed to a larger government plan, a five-year plan introduced in 2023, that he said would have better provided for the navy — but which was never implemented.

“If the Lebanese naval forces [are equipped well] they can ensure control of maritime borders,” Baroudi said.

Baroudi highlighted that beyond the migration issue, the strategy comes at a key time for Lebanon in the maritime domain, while it is exploring potentially extracting oil and gas deposits off its shores — potentially lucrative revenue streams that require security.

Though broad, the new strategy is the first Beirut has ever formalized and covers the 240-kilometer coastline as well as southern naval borders established two years ago in a landmark agreement with Israel. The strategy noted that the northern naval borders with Syria are not demarcated yet.

As Breaking Defense previously reported, the Lebanese navy has made large pushes to secure the naval borders, from establishing surveillance towers along the coastline to taking delivery of three patrol boats and Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBS) as military aid from the US.