Maritime security and defence
Maritime security and defence
• As an island nation the UK is dependent upon the safe passage of energy, food and manufactured goods through British ports. It should therefore be a Government imperative, across all departments, to maintain the secure passage of British trade.
• During 2011, Somali pirates made a total of 231 attacks on merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden and wider Indian Ocean. At any one time about a dozen ships and several hundred seafarers are being held captive and for ransom. Despite a substantial international military operation to combat the piracy threat a solution to this complex problem is not yet evident..
• International shipping, carries over 80% of world trade and 92% of British trade, while UK ports move 582 million tonnes of cargo and over 5.38 million containers annually.
The UK has had a well-established national maritime security strategy since 1990s and, the International Ship and Facility Security (ISPS) Code (2004) built on pre-existing national arrangements. Globally the Code now provides a pragmatic regime of consistent baseline security measures across the world fleet and the ports it serves.
A wide range of additional international and national instruments, such as the amendments to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation Convention and the World Customs Organisation’s SAFE Framework (a global supply chain security initiative), have addressed maritime interdiction rights. Approaches had to be followed whereby cargo and supply chain security could be improved without adverse effects on efficiency or trade flows. Both set-up and running costs were, and continue to be, carried by industry.
Somali piracy is a current and real problem but at the same time other maritime threats to shipping from piracy and other illegal activities continue to proliferate and threaten UK trade, ships and seafarers around the world. Longer-term strategic defence concerns exist – particularly in view of the UK’s high-level dependence on seaborne imports, and the resilience of British ports and associated infrastructure.
As with the shipping industry, British ports have to comply with legislation originally introduced in the Aviation and Maritime Security Act passed in 1991. Both ports and ships are subject to a stringent inspection regime operated by Maritime and Land Transport Security, the. security arm of the Department for Transport. Many are part of the multi-agency threat and risk assessment groups which bring together all the agencies and organisations relevant to port security. Ports are being consulted on new port security regulations which will implement the EU Security Directive.
In defence terms, state-on-state war, individual state failure, terrorism and rogue states all – from time to time – have an impact on shipping, and almost every conflict including as we have seen in the Arab Spring, will have a maritime dimension.
The globalisation of shipping often makes it very difficult to identify the ‘national interest’ in any one cargo or ship. The safety of UK seafarers and/or UK passengers is always seen as being of paramount importance in any security or conflict situation.
ISPS Code & National Maritime Security Committee – In July 2004 the ISPS Code came into force and introduced a range of measures and procedures to prevent acts of terrorism on board ships and in ports. The Code made clear that it was a fundamental responsibility of (contracting) governments to set security levels and the mandatory Part A of the Code defined three security levels for international use. Threat levels are issued both to ships and to port facilities. There exists a common national and industry interest in keeping UK levels of regulatory or security intervention to their lowest level to provide a secure and regular flow.
Ship and port owners and operators meet and discuss issues of common concern in the National Maritime Security Committee (NMSC) which is chaired by the Department for Transport. The committee currently works through both a shipping and ports panel.
Shipping Defence Advisory Committee – The Chamber shares joint chairmanship of the Shipping Defence Advisory Committee (SDAC) with the Ministry of Defence. The Committee has a live and current agenda and work items are progressed by the SDAC Working Group. Current issues include piracy, both worldwide and specifically in the Indian Ocean, ship tracking and information sharing, and longer term concerns relating to energy security and other aspects of trade defence. The Committee has a restricted membership. At recent meetings port interests and the Lloyd’s Insurance Market have been represented.
A priority for SDAC is to maintain support for the current European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) counter-piracy Operation Atalanta which has its headquarters at Northwood and is operational in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia. It was established in December 2008 with a renewed mandate till December 2014.
UK dependence on shipping – More than 90% of all UK trade is moved by sea representing 6% of total world seaborne trade. Recently public attention has been diverted from the stark fact that the Britain, as an island nation, remains totally dependent on sea borne trade for its prosperity and economic growth. The UK’s economic well-being depends entirely on the continuing free and unimpeded flow of trade through British ports. UK import growth is currently forecast to grow by 135% by 2030.
Many manufacturing industries rely on a ‘just in time’ and ‘just what is needed’ principles and any interruption to this can have dire consequences on the supply of the end product. For example, disruption to trade routes for the food industry would cause grave consequences for supermarkets and restaurants, as UK suppliers would be unable to meet the country’s demands for all but a brief period of time.
Contingency plans and an indigenous capability to protect these supply routes are essential in the face of extant and emerging security challenges.
The implementation of the EU Security Directive in the UK is complicated by the number of port locations and whether these can exist as independent Port Security Authorities or whether they will need to combine. Regulations have still not yet been issued.
Energy security – The UK is becoming increasingly reliant on energy imports coming from increasingly distant sources in a global market where the trade in – and competition for – energy supplies is set to increase.
As the world economy continues to grow and living standards improve, global demand for energy will continue to increase. The declining UK Continental Shelf production of both oil and gas is already being replaced by imports, and future energy trades will become dependent on specific shipping lanes and supply routes of increasing length. According to Government figures, by 2020 we may be reliant on overseas resources for 80% of our energy.
MARITIME SECURITY AND DEFENCE ISSUES – KEY AUDIENCES AND ACTIVITY
• Seek continued governmental support for the vital counter-piracy operation in the Indian Ocean and for capacity building and other measures to resolve the Somali piracy crisis and to address piracy threats in other region such as the Gulf of Guinea.
• Avoid governmental initiatives which endanger seafarers or UK trade interests such as the move to ban ransom payments.
• Promote the significance of trade to the UK and the country’s resilience through the media, coupled with the new Oxford Economics study.
• Encourage a continued ‘light regulatory’ approach to further security regulation, proportionate to risk should be encouraged through close liaison with the National Maritime Security Committee.
• Keep national threat levels at the lowest appropriate level.
• Identify common issues and maintain dialogue with Government on national resilience.
• Promote the joint industry/MOD Shipping Defence Advisory Committee as forum for discussion of all (non-commercial) defence items.