PROTECTING THE FREEDOM OF THE SEAS

The Sri Lanka Navy successfully conducted their 8th Galle Dialogue (8th International Maritime Conference) under the theme ‘Greater Maritime Visibility for Enhanced Maritime Security’. This year’s conference had more than 50 countries represented with maritime defence experts and academics. The event was held at the heritage embellished Galle Face Hotel on the 9th and 10th October.

Sri Lanka being an island is bestowed with a coast line of 1,340 Km and an EEZ (exclusive economic zone) of almost 200 miles, which makes patrolling our deep seas a daunting challenge: one which the navy has done well to safeguard.

With international trade reaching new realms of prosperity the ocean provides a pathway to commerce. Today 90% of international cargo is sent by the sea. Therefore protecting and patrolling the vast domain of the ocean is conducive for the economic success of every country.

In his opening remarks Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Travis Sinniah said, ‘In today’s economy the oceans have an increased significance requiring all countries to be able to participate in the global market place. Shipping is the heart of the global economy, but it remains vulnerable. International commerce could be at risk at the key trading hubs as well as at the strategic chokepoints.

The right of vessels to travel freely in international waters, engage in innocent transit passage and have access to ports is an essential element of international security. We need to protect the freedom of the seas and maintain a rule based international order, so that power is not misused, threats to peace and stability from friction between countries are managed through negotiation based on International law and the threat of violent non-state actors addressed by global action.”

Admiral Sinniah a highly decorated officer who played a pivotal role in eradicating the floating armouries of the LTTE during the years of conflict also added, “We recognize a requirement in establishing a worldwide common Maritime Domain awareness organization, which will be an integrated information-sharing grid, aiding in detecting and tackling threats emanating from the sea in real time. The aim is to generate a common operational picture of activities at sea through an institutionalized mechanism for collecting, fusing and analyzing information from technical and other sources.

This gathering will acknowledge that the basis for effective deterrence is awareness and knowledge of the threat, along with the capability of interdiction. Real time awareness grants one the advantage of time and space in detecting, deterring, interdicting and defeating the adversary.

These challenges to our security and economic livelihood require a new mindset – one that sees the total threat and takes all necessary actions through an active, layered defense-in depth and the initiative to have the capacity for sustainable deployment to guard the sea.

Rear Admiral Donald Gabrialson of the US Navy directed out attention to the importance of the ocean in determining the world’s climate, also mentioning that three billion people depended on the seas. Ancient cultures and civilizations were connected by the sea.

Today there can be a state where there is maritime blindness which will only tend to facilitate drug smuggling, illegal migration by boats, poaching, armed robbery, terrorism, gun-running and piracy. Unavailability of technology and a culture of secrecy are factors that bring on maritime blindness. Every navy must mitigate and stop piracy in their territorial waters.

Admiral Scott Swift, Commander of the US Pacific Fleet opined, “Cooperation is critical in the maritime domain, where the collective challenges we face require collaborative, inclusive solutions.

It comes as no surprise that the same seas that connect us and provide immense opportunities for national prosperity and improved quality of life can also transmit distant frictions and fractions that impinge on security conditions nearer to home.

Considering that the Indian Ocean covers more than 20 percent of the world’s surface, in excess of 28 million square miles, the practical benefits of multilateral cooperation become immediately apparent”.

Thus the safety of the seas is mandatory for our nation. 

 

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