Strengthening maritime security through cooperation

  • 10 Nov. 2014 - 11 Nov. 2014
  • |
  • Last updated: 01 Dec. 2014 16:42

Threats to maritime security are complex and diverse, including piracy, the trafficking of humans, weapons and narcotics, dumping of toxic waste and illegal fishing. It is a global concern that is of increasing strategic importance for the international community.

Officials from NATO and the European Union (EU), as well as representatives from academia, addressed the challenges of maritime security at a workshop on 10 and 11 November in Geneva, Switzerland.

Mr Michel Soula, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Operations, said, “If we aim to bolster globalisation for the benefit of all, if trade at sea is to continue unmolested, and if the world is going to feed and fuel itself in the 21st century – then internationalised maritime security is an obligation, not a choice.”

Robust measures

Participants discussed options for implementing NATO’s Maritime Strategy as an effective tool in the efforts to maintain robust maritime security. They agreed that information-sharing among NATO and EU member and partner countries would help to ensure a robust maritime security effort. Delegates also examined the issue of protracted maritime conflicts, focusing on the Mediterranean and the Baltics.

There is merit in facilitating an exchange between experts from NATO member and partner countries to consider and explore the risks and opportunities for building trust to further enhance maritime security”, said Dr Eyup Turmus from the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme.

NATO’s role in maritime security

Maritime security is rising on NATO’s agenda and Allies are increasingly determined to implement the Maritime Strategy – an objective set at the Wales Summit in September 2014. This encompasses a complete revamping of NATO’s maritime forces, an extensive multi-year programme of maritime exercises and training, and the enhancement of cooperation between NATO and its partners, with other international actors and, in particular, the European Union.

So far, NATO’s current maritime operations have demonstrated the Alliance’s ability to achieve strategic objectives in vastly different contexts. Under Operation Active Endeavour, NATO ships are patrolling the Mediterranean and monitoring shipping to help deter, defend, disrupt and protect against terrorist activity. The operation evolved out of NATO’s immediate response to the terrorist attacks against the United States of 11 September 2001. Since 2008, NATO has also helped to deter and disrupt pirate attacks and protect humanitarian aid shipments off the Horn of Africa. And in 2011, Operation Unified Protector delivered power from the sea and comprised a major maritime arms embargo on Libya.

The workshop was co-organised by the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University in the UK and the Small Arms Survey in Switzerland, with support from the NATO SPS Programme.