Written by Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp
When we think of national security, especially in the maritime environment, we often think of national defense and the work done by our Navy and Marine Corps. They provide for control of the sea by naval supremacy, deterring aggression, projecting power, and fighting and winning America’s wars. The Coast Guard is part of that, but we are more than a military service, and national security is more than national defense.
National security also includes economic, energy, environmental and port security, and Coast Guard missions ensure those elements of our national security in the maritime domain. Wherever human activity thrives, government has a responsibility to uphold the rule of law, ensure the safety and security of its people, and ensure environmentally responsible maritime activity. We call this “maritime governance” and it is an essential component of homeland security and the national security of the United States.
The Coast Guard, as the maritime arm of the Department of Homeland Security, is a leader in that broader understanding of national security in the maritime domain. However, we can’t do it alone, and rely upon strong partnerships to help us protect those on the sea, protect America from threats delivered by sea, and protect the sea itself.
For example, last week I spoke at the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners annual event in Oslo, Norway. INTERTANKO is a global tanker industry organization and we have a long history of working together as partners to accomplish our shared goals of safe transportation, clean seas, and secure and efficient movement of commerce.
As I stated in my remarks to them, we will always seek to prevent dangerous and harmful maritime activities through regulation, inspections and enforcement of standards. To that end we will continue to work closely with the private sector, including the maritime industry that we are responsible for regulating and governing. By listening to their concerns and input on international standards, including those for ballast water and emissions standards, we more effectively lead the U.S. delegation to the International Maritime Organization. This in turn results in improved maritime governance, and tank vessel performance is among the best of any segment of the maritime industry.
Maritime governance of the Arctic Ocean is also a growing concern as reduced ice coverage has the potential to alter worldwide shipping in the future, attract increased human activity and unlock access to vast economic potential and energy resources. Our mandate to ensure maritime safety, security and stewardship applies in the Arctic just as it applies in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean Sea.
Earlier this month President Obama issued the National Strategy for the Arctic Region. Shortly after, under the leadership of the secretary of Homeland Security, we released the Coast Guard Arctic Strategy. One key objective of our strategy is broadening partnerships since “no single agency or nation has the sovereignty, capacity, or control over resources necessary to meet all emerging challenges in the Arctic.” Given the expanse of the Arctic, we need a collaborative network of international and domestic partners to best collect, share and analyze maritime information. Thus, implementing maritime governance in the Arctic is a collective effort that includes international collaborative forums, drawing upon their cumulative authorities, capabilities and experience.
While in Norway I met with a variety of Norwegian officials as well as faculty from the Institute for Defence Studies. We discussed how the United States and Norway are literally and figuratively becoming more connected via the Arctic Ocean, and how this will require continued close coordination between our countries and other countries involved. Both countries are members of the Arctic Council, a high-level international forum that addresses Arctic issues.
Recently, all eight nations of the Arctic Council along with representatives of many of the Arctic’s indigenous populations signed the Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic. This agreement will improve procedures for preventing and responding to Arctic offshore oil spills, and it joins an earlier agreement by Council members to coordinate search and rescue operations. Both agreements focus on common risks and interests of member states, and provide the foundation for future coordination on other areas.
Strengthening our partnerships is more important than ever before. Our nation is making difficult but necessary decisions to put our fiscal house in order and we may be asked to do less with less, or at least do the same work with different means. But the need for maritime governance continues in order to achieve our shared goals of safe transportation, clean seas, and secure and efficient movement of commerce. Working as partners we will navigate “uncertain and stormy seas” together.