Nation States Must Unite to Secure International Commerce, Security and Freedom of the Seas.
Bigger Ships, More Cargo
More than 90 percent of the worlds commerce still travels by sea.
This figure is expected to rise as a result of the proliferating effects of an increasingly globalized economic reality. Cheap labor and raw materials have already dramatically shifted the worlds manufacturing base to emerging markets and geopolitically unstable regions.
In spite of the international trend in commercial shipping toward fewer but larger vessels, commercial ship building is at an all-time high, with demand exceeding yard capacity and a global order backlog in excess of $200B USA. Yards in Scandinavia, Western Europe (Italy, France & Germany) and particularly Southeast Asia have emerged as the primary contractors.
To move goods to and from port facilities, huge infrastructure investments in new multi-modal transport systems are underway or already active such as at the port of Long Beach, California. These new systems provide increased off-loading efficiency of shipping containers from vessels to rail cars and then trucks using an integrated and unified logistics system employing sophisticated computerized monitoring and RFID (radio frequency identification device) tracking.
Protecting the sea lanes and securing our port facilities will remain vital today and for the foreseeable future if we are to ensure the flow of commerce and provide stability and sustainability to a rapidly globalizing world economy.
New Threats, New Missions . . .
The rapid maritime threat deployment capability of non-nation and hostile nation states such as Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hizbullah, North Korea & Iran (amongst others) creates new challenges and new missions for combatant commanders of coalition naval assets. While some of these threats are familiar such as piracy, narcotics seizure and human trafficking, others are less so such as suicidal small craft terrorism incidents (like the attack on USS Cole in Yemen) and mine-laying in commerce-critical littoral waters.
Non-nation states that engage in hostile acts expose significant gaps in sea lane protection mission capabilities. These self-radicalizing Islamic and Communist organizations are educated, resourceful & persistent. They subscribe to an unfamiliar ideology that integrates radical interpretations of religion with self-preservation and expansionism interests. This ideology is the antithesis of the western position of separation of church and state. More than 90 percent of Americans are unable to grasp and relate to these fundamental differences in cultural and religious integration.
Non-nation states that engage in hostile acts expose significant gaps in sea lane protection mission capabilities.
Also worth mentioning are the threats to global commerce disruption created by natural phenomenon such as hurricanes, typhoons, rogue waves and geothermal activity. At particular risk to natural phenomena induced disruption/destruction is the gasoline refinery infrastructure concentrated in the Gulf of Mexico.
Nearly 40% of the worlds oil supply passes through a narrow water passage known as the Strait of Hormuz. At its narrowest the strait is only 21 miles wide. There are two 1-mile-wide channels for marine traffic that are separated by a 2-mile-wide shield zone. The Strait is the only sea passage to the open ocean for large areas of the petroleum exporting Persian Gulf States. This makes the Strait of Hormuz one of the worlds most important strategic military locations. The defense and patrol of the straits falls under the jurisdiction of a multi-national force principally led by air and naval forces directed by USCENTCOM (US Central Command headquartered in Tampa FL.)
Another strategic waterway is the Bosphorus Strait. The world’s narrowest strait used for international navigation, it connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara (which is connected by the Dardanelles to the Aegean Sea, and thereby to the Mediterranean Sea). It is approximately 30 km long, with a maximum width of 3,700 meters at the northern entrance, and a minimum width of 700 meters between Kandilli and Aşiyan; and 750 meters between Anadoluhisarı and Rumelihisarı. The depth varies from 36 to 124 meters in midstream.
To protect this vital commerce passage, Turkish Naval officials created the Black Sea Naval Cooperation Task Group (now the Black Sea Harmony Program). Comprised of a coalition of littoral nation states including Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria, the multi-national naval force provides active and on-demand security in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions 1373, 1540 and 1566. These sanctions became active post 9/11 with the mission of countering global terrorism, asymmetrical threats and disrupting criminal activity.
To protect this vital commerce passage, Turkish Naval officials created the Black Sea Harmony Program.
The mission scope is inclusive of sea line communication interdiction, primarily through ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), and supports a substantial program of tracking and boarding suspected civilian vessels underway at sea in the region. Today, the Turkish Navy under the command of Admiral Yener Karahanoglu operates the most modern, capable blue and brown water naval assets in the Black Sea including frigates, corvettes, a MCM (mine counter measures) command ship, MCM vessels (such as the Aydin class mine hunter), Kilic class fast patrol boats, Gur class submarines and S-70 Seahawk naval helicopters purchased from the United States Defense Security Cooperation Agency.(http://www.dsca.mil/)
The 1000 Ship Navy
The requirement for international cooperation is now more critical than ever. The United States Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Mullen (recently promoted to the position of Chairman Joint Chief of Staff) has already laid out an ambitious global maritime partnership initiative for maritime security and awareness, comprised of naval assets from coalition nations across the globe. This 1000 ship Naval force would be capable of unprecedented military superiority and global reach created by nation states with a shared interest in protecting global commerce, security and freedom of the seas.
United States Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Mullen has already laid out an ambitious global maritime partnership initiative.
As the Black Sea Harmony Program has already proven, the significant challenges of providing effective C4ISR integration capability across legacy naval platforms can be achieved, creating an effective solution to conventional and asymmetrical littoral threats. To realize the deterrence and force capability benefits of Admiral Mullens vision, global naval assets will need to unite into a visible, reassuring and highly interoperable presence, engaging in a holistic and cohesive approach to regional threat assessments and response.
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