Brian Sims

Maritime security strategy targets latest physical and cyber threats

THE UNITED Kingdom’s position as a world-leading maritime nation has been emboldened by a new National Strategy for Maritime Security devised by the Government that will enhance capabilities in technology, innovation and cyber security. The new five-year strategy “redefines” maritime security as upholding laws, regulations and norms to deliver a free, fair and open maritime domain.

With this new approach, the Government rightly recognises any illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and environmental damage to the UK’s seas as a maritime security concern.

In order to enhance the UK’s maritime security knowledge, the Government has established the UK Centre for Seabed Mapping, which seeks to enable the UK’s world-leading seabed mapping sector to collaborate on collecting more and better data. Seabed mapping provides the foundation dataset that underpins almost every sector in the maritime domain, including maritime trade, environmental and resource management, shipping operations and national security and infrastructure within the industry as a whole.

The UK Centre for Seabed Mapping has also been registered as a UK Government voluntary commitment with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

By working with the newly-established UK Centre for Seabed Mapping, which is being administered by the Hydrographic Office, central Government will be able to draw from a better quantity, quality and availability of seabed mapping data. As a key component of the Critical National Infrastructure, that data underpins the UK’s maritime security, prosperity and environment objectives.

Strategic objectives

Unveiling the five-year strategy, Grant Shapps (the Secretary of State for Transport) has set out the guiding principles for the UK Government’s approach to managing threats and risks at home and around the world.

Shapps explained: “Mankind has better maps of the surface of the moon and Mars than of our own ocean. To ensure the UK’s maritime security is based on informed and evidence-based decisions, we must build our knowledge of this dynamic ocean frontier.”

The Secretary of State continued: “Our new maritime security strategy paves the way for both Government and industry to provide the support that’s needed to tackle new and emerging threats and further cement the UK’s position as a world leader in maritime security.”

Working with industry and academia, the Secretaries of State from the Department for Transport, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence will focus on five strategic objectives:

*protecting the homeland: delivering the world’s most effective maritime security framework for the UK’s borders, ports and infrastructure

*responding to threats: taking a ‘whole system’ approach to bring world-leading capabilities and expertise to bear in responding to new and emerging threats

*ensuring prosperity: ensuring the security of international shipping and the unimpeded transmission of goods, information and energy to support continued global development and economic prosperity

*championing values: championing global maritime security underpinned by freedom of navigation and the international order

*supporting a secure and resilient ocean: tackling security threats and breaches of regulations that impact on a clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically-diverse maritime environment

Proactive approach

Sarah Treseder, CEO at the UK Chamber of Shipping, explained: “A proactive maritime security strategy is essential for keeping trade routes and energy supplies secure, and especially so for an island nation. The commitment to improve collaboration, both with industry and Governments across the world, will assist in delivering a more secure maritime environment and help to provide confidence for the shipping community.”

Tim Edmunds, co-director of the SafeSeas Network and Professor of International Security at the University of Bristol, noted: “The new National Strategy for Maritime Security comes at a critical juncture for the UK’s maritime sector. Maritime security is key to delivering the UK’s ambitions in terms of foreign, security and defence policy, as well as for blue economic growth and environmental sustainability.”

Edmunds added: “SafeSeas and the University of Bristol are privileged to be part of this effort. We’re delighted that our research was able to inform the strategy process. We look forward to engaging with UK maritime security actors and assisting with the National Strategy for Maritime Security’s implementation process.”

Mark Simmonds, director of policy and external affairs at the British Ports Association, said: “UK ports work closely with Government and law enforcement to facilitate nearly half a billion tonnes of trade and the safe passage of tens of millions of passengers every year, while at the same time bearing down on threats to our collective safety and security. We look forward to strengthening that relationship as we help to deliver on these strategic objectives.”

Simmonds concluded: “The new UK Centre for Seabed Mapping is a huge step forward for the maritime sector. It will help everyone better understand the UK seabed and serve as the foundation for numerous benefits, including more informed management of the marine environment.”

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