Maritimes Crimes

Aim of MariTimesCrimes is to provide all information you need about maritime crimes and maritime issue. The blog focuses on all kind of aspect such as economical, environmental, and political. Besides recent news and investigation reports, you will find international treaties and sources you need to conduct your own analysis. And if you begin with the specific seaman language, our glossary will help you for sure.

In-Depth Articles

November 23, 2022NewsAs the global population swells to 8 billion people and beyond, finding natural resources to feed and house these people is increasingly challenging. While developed countries in North America and Europe cope with the switch to electric vehicles, people in developing countries still die from starvation and disease. Given the widening income gaps in modern countries like the United States, the current trajectory for global food security is not sustainable! The citizens of earth need a new way of looking at the planet as a “renewable resource” that cares for all people. Doing this requires the entire planet and not just surface land. The global effort to create a sustainable earth needs the Blue Economy, an economic model considering the world’s oceans as natural renewable resources. What is The Blue Economy? According to the United States Geological Service, 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by water. A staggering 96.4 % of the world’s water is in the oceans. Though the oceans are already taxed by pollution and overfishing, there is so much more for humans in the oceans than expected. Consequently, the world’s oceans represent the last frontier for exploration and for creating a sustainable economy. The United Nations (UN) introduced the blue economy ideology in 2012 at a world conference. In the wake of ocean exploitation, the UN started the blue economy to look at the oceans as sustainable resources. UN member states developed policies about global sustainability and spelled out 17 Developmental Goals. The 14th goal is Life Below the Water. The World Bank and the Blue Economy As the UN developed policies for climate change and the loss of natural resources, the World Bank developed monetary policies for the blue economy, even as many countries fell into financial crisis. The WB’s policies address social inequality and income disparity through the ProBlue program. This multilevel trust helps countries move towards the Blue Economy. ProBlue takes the established use of oceans for moving goods and fishing for food as starting points. Then introduces programs to the Blue Economy that support it. ProBlue is for the blue economy, what recycling is for the green economy but on a massive scale. An astounding 80% of consumer goods and raw resources travel on top of the oceans. Meanwhile, around 90% of the oceans’ estimated 1 million species haven’t been classified. Given the numbers, the blue economy has vast potential for supporting human exploration and exploitation. ProBlue envisions a sustainable blue economy that uses alternative sources of renewable energy. The Big Blue Planet and the Future In one way, green economy policies and initiatives see a bigger picture that now includes a blue economy. The green economy uses recycled consumer goods exclusively on 29% of the earth’s surface not covered by water. The blue economy uses lessons learned as the green economy continues searching for ways to help the planet. Thus, the blue economy is the next step in ensuring the green economy is sustainable for a futuristic planet that reverses global warming. The future big blue planet will be a very different planet with blue economy thinking. Water is a plentiful resource, yet people still die from famine and disease in drought-stricken countries. Blue economy programs and initiatives use the oceans as a renewable resource. This counters ongoing exploitative practices that decrease ocean resources. For example, giant ocean fishing nets catch and kill everything caught in the nets. Blue Economy is Earth Economy Developing countries will have access to technology developed for the blue economy, technology that treats resources as recyclable resources. Given 40% of the global population lives close to oceans, developing sustainable energy sources like wind and solar farms could represent a labor boost for some communities. Combined with desalinization plants, the blue economy puts the earth’s inhabitants on a path that reverses global warming. [...]
November 16, 2022News / PiracyOver the last three decades, the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) has developed into a maritime crime hotspot. Crude oil theft and piracy became commonplace, with highly-organized criminal networks selling stolen crude oil to clients across the world. The backdrop to this is decades of ethnic conflict and successive Nigerian governments finding it difficult to impose law and order across the Niger Delta. In the center of this conflict sits the Ijaw people, an ethnic group of around 4 million people with a proud maritime heritage. Background: the Maritime Heritage of the Ijaw in the GoG When Westerners first arrived in the GoG, the Ijaw people were among the first people they contacted. They had long been a maritime people, fishing and exploring all around the Niger Delta for possibly as long as 7,000 years. This made them ideal as go-betweens with people of the interior. By the early and mid-twentieth century, before Nigerian independence, the Ijaws had developed substantial corporations with fleets of merchant vessels and war canoes, escaping much of the heavy-handedness of the colonial powers. Black Gold In the Niger Delta With the coming of independence and the discovery of huge reserves of oil and gas in the Niger Delta, things changed for the Ijaw. Neglect by the Nigerian government and the presence of powerful corporations sent much of the Ijaw population into poverty, although many still remained in maritime careers, their skills becoming highly sought-after. Others trained in the petroleum industry. Perhaps inevitably, these conditions led to increasing inter-ethnic tensions, which, by the end of the 20th century, had developed into open conflict. Developing Conflict and the Ijaw Professional Diaspora By the early 1990s, the Ijaw and other minority groups in the Niger Delta had come to resent what they saw as their exploitation by oil companies granted licenses by a distant and uncaring central government. In 1998 the Ijaw Youth Council issued a declaration to oil companies, demanding they cease their activities and withdraw from Ijaw territory. This led to direct armed conflict with the oil companies as Ijaw activists and militias turned off pipelines and conducted sabotage against oil installations. This conflict remains mostly unresolved to this day and continues to impoverish the Ijaw as their most skilled people have left the country in large numbers, taking their maritime and petrochemical knowledge to nations across the Western world. Hope for the Future? In recent years, the Ijaw have mostly mellowed their positions, becoming advocates of peaceful resistance and brokering peaceful relations with other ethnic groups with whom they previously had disputes. In fact, they threw their weight behind the current governor of Delta State in the latest elections, a man of Itsekiri extraction, although an Ijaw candidate could easily have won the contest. This position comes from a desire that candidacy should not be based on ethnicity. Unfortunately, this has led to disagreement with the leaders of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who appear to be selecting candidates based on rotating between candidates from different ethnic groups. On this basis, Ijaw leaders rejected the results of the primaries for the 2023 gubernatorial election. Although this remains contentious, armed conflict doesn’t seem to be on the cards, and violence, in general, is at much lower levels than in previous years. The Niger Delta seems to be becoming more stable, and encouragingly, no piracy has been reported in the GoG for two consecutive quarters. [...]
November 9, 2022NewsAn inland sea covering an area of approximately 7100 hundred miles, the Sea of Marmara separates the Asian region of Turkey from the European region (Eastern Thrace) of Turkey. This landlocked sea connects with the Black Sea through the Bosphorous Strait in the northeast and links with the Aegean Sea through the Dardanelles Strait in the southwest. The Sea of Marma is also part of the Turkish Straits System. For decades, the Sea of Marmara has served as a critical waterway transportation route for the movement of gas and petroleum to Europe from western Russia and Asia. Prior to the escalation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 22, 2022, Ukraine had been a leading exporter of grain to Europe, the U.S., Africa, and many other world countries. The Black Sea Grain Initiative Just a few months after Russia invaded Ukraine and prevented Ukraine from transporting grain via the Sea of Marmara, the dramatic acceleration of global food insecurity demanded an immediate resolution to this crisis. On July 22, 2022, Ukraine and Russia signed the Black Sea Grain Initiative brokered by the United Nations and Turkey. The separate agreements signed by Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskiy re-established the exportation of Ukrainian grains and Russian fertilizer that had been sitting in Black Sea ports since the invasion began. The Black Sea Grain Initiative also reopened three Ukrainian ports essential for exporting grains: Yuzhny, Chernomorsk, and Odesa. Although the Black Sea Grain Initiative isn’t set to expire until the end of November 2022, considerable delays involving the transportation of Ukrainian grain are ongoing due to slower-than-normal cargo inspections. In addition, Russia is now criticizing the Black Sea Grain Initiative, complaining that their exports are deliberately being prevented from leaving ports. Putin has even said he may reject the extension of the initiative when it expires in November. Recent Developments Involving the Marmara Sea and Ukraine Grain Exports The Sea of Marmara is home to 16 harbors and ports critical to streamlining the export of grains. In September 2022, the Institute of Black Sea Strategic Studies discovered that ships carrying Ukrainian grain remained in the Sea of Marmara for up to 11 days waiting for inspectors. In October 2022, that delay increased to 15 or 16 days. An article published in Ukrainian Shipping Magazine on October 24, 2022, reported a “large traffic jam in the Sea of Marmara” due to inspection delays. At that time, over 100 ships were sitting in the Marmara Sea and 50 other ships were waiting to be inspected in the Black Sea. According to the head of the Institute of Strategic Black Sea Studies Andrii Klymenko, there are at least one and a half million tons of grain that will be unable to reach purchasers in a timely manner because of inspection delays. Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs believes it is the actions of Russia that are deliberately causing delays and traffic jams for Ukrainian grain-bearing ships. In addition, Ukraine’s MFA blames political motivations on the part of the Kremlin for preventing grain from being moved out of Marmara Sea ports. The Black Sea Grain Initiative included the organization of inspection teams (the Joint Coordination Center) by Ukraine, Turkey, Russia, and the United Nations. However, Zelenskiy has accused Russia and its inspectors of refusing to abide by the agreement for the past several months. The UN has called for “spot checks” of grain ships instead of full inspections to ease the bottleneck in the Marmara Sea but nothing has been accomplished yet to expedite inspections. [...]
November 2, 2022NewsThe creation of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is widely regarded as one of the major achievements of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (hereafter the Convention), “perhaps the most significant outcome of the Third United Nations Conference on the law of the sea“. The existence of the EEZ, a space already claimed by the States since the 1960s, was enshrined in the Convention entered into force in 1994. The Convention consecrates sovereign rights to the coastal State to exploit and manage resources in its EEZ, as well as jurisdiction over marine scientific research (MSR), establishment of installations and artificial islands and protection of the marine environment. The coastal State has an exclusive right to exploit this space for economic purposes and thus can benefit from the resources that its waters contain, up to 200 nautical miles from the baselines. Marine scientific research in the Exclusive Economic Zone The coastal State has jurisdiction in its EEZ over marine scientific research and can therefore regulate it. For foreign vessels wishing to conduct MSR in this area, the Convention establishes the principle of coastal State consent. This need for consent, coupled with the absence of a definition of MSR in the Convention, can give rise to abuse. In order to restrict the activities of foreign military or State vessels in their EEZs, some States may be tempted to invoke MSR to arrogate them the right to authorize such activities. While consent to MSR in the EEZ remains an important contribution of the Convention, States should not use it to impede the free movement of ships, State ships or warships in the EEZ. The principle of free navigation in the EEZs Indeed, the Convention expressly establishes the principle of free navigation for all States in the EEZ. It is therefore possible for a ship to travel in any area in EEZ; this also applies to warships, to the extent that there is no provision in the Convention to qualify this principle of freedom of navigation in the EEZ. Considering that the circulation and military activities of warships in EEZ could be subject to prior notification and/or authorization is clearly a restriction on the freedom of navigation, which is contrary to the Convention. Moreover, the provisions of the Convention relating to the high seas apply to the EEZ, insofar as they are compatible with the provisions relating specifically to the EEZ. On the high seas, the Convention’s freedom of navigation rule includes the right to carry out military manoeuvres and exercises, without any States questioning that point. Therefore, since the regime of the high seas is applicable to the EEZ as mentioned above, it logically follows that warships can sail in the EEZs without any type of restriction toward their activities and navigation. Despite this, some States in their EEZs significantly increase their surveillance and weapons capabilities, and disrupt the activities of foreign warships. These areas are thus becoming subject to excessive restrictions on the freedom of navigation for every States. It contributes to illegally “extend territoriality under the EEZ regime”. Some States giving themselves more rights on these spaces than the Convention allows them. The regime of the EEZ consecrated by the Convention is one of the best global compromise as it provides a welcome balance between competing State claims, securing resources exploitation by the coastal State and ensuring freedom of navigation for every States. [...]
October 12, 2022NewsDecember 2022 will mark the 40th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), concluded at Montego Bay, Jamaica, on 10th December 1982. This is an opportunity to take stock of the valuable contributions of this agreement, which can be seen as a “monumental achievement of the international community, second only to the Charter of the United Nations“. UNCLOS introduced many new features to the law of the sea, going beyond gathering the main principles of customary law. There are among the main innovations archipelagic waters, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the qualification of the seabed beyond national jurisdiction as a common heritage of mankind and, above all, the EEZ. The EEZ particularly reflects the complex balance of the Convention, which required many years of negotiations. It has made it possible to please both coastal States (especially developing ones) about their rights concerning the resources of their waters, and the major maritime powers attached to the freedom of navigation and trade. Like many other provisions of UNCLOS, the concept of the EEZ has been incorporated into international customary law, making it legally binding on all States. Furthermore, UNCLOS has helped to settle many maritime disputes. By clearly defining the different maritime spaces and their extent, it has helped to resolve disputes and to strengthen legal stability. The concept of the territorial sea is a particularly telling example; although it was conceived in the early days of the law of the sea, States had never managed to agree on its breadth. UNCLOS clarified this point and now the vast majority of States claim a territorial sea of 12 miles or less, including some that are not parties to UNCLOS. The Convention has thus become a guide to the behaviour of States on maritime matters. The UNCLOS is an innovative convention, a modern text that has not suffered from the past forty years. On the contrary, some provisions are even more relevant today: this is the case, for example, of the provisions concerning the exploration and exploitation of the seabed, for which the technological progress since the 1980s has made it possible. In addition, the Convention bears witness to the importance of environmental concerns for the negotiators, at a time when these subjects were less of a priority. As a result, the Convention includes a comprehensive section on the protection and preservation of the marine environment. In conclusion, UNCLOS is a modern treaty that has established itself as a framework convention for the law of the sea, around which the other components of the law of the sea revolve. Although subject to interpretation like any international treaty, a large majority of States respect its provisions, which keep the spirit of Montego Bay alive. This can be seen in the provisions of many subsequent treaties that refer to UNCLOS, showing the willingness of States to use it as a foundation without questioning its authority. However, some States are taking increasingly revisionist positions to serve their national interests. This is a serious threat and challenge to UNCLOS, which remains a symbol of successful multilateralism. We will continue the celebration of this 40th anniversary with two other articles to come, concerning current examples of the application of the law of the sea : warships in foreign EEZ and the Taiwan Strait. [...]
September 22, 2022NewsNamed after the czar who ruled Russia from 1682 to 1725, Peter the Great Bay near the Sea of Japan was declared a « historic bay » on 20th July 1957 by the Soviet Union. The USSR later claimed it as its internal waters in 1984, drawing a 106 nautical mile line from its adjacent coast to enclose the bay. Peter the Great Bay, a « historic bay »? The 106-mile closure line is 47 miles off Vladivostok, a major Russian naval base. Is the decision to draw such a line contrary to Article 10 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)? Under UNCLOS, the closure line cannot exceed 24 miles, unless it is a historic bay. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia continued to assert that Peter the Great is a « historic bay under international law ». In 1910, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) defined 3 criteria in the North Atlantic Coast Fisheries Case to characterise a « historic bay »: – Coastal State in a position to exercise one of the essential elements of sovereignty over the bay; – use of a continuing historic right over the bay; – admitted by treaty or international custom with other states. With regard to these conditions, the Bay of Peter the Great meets two criteria: Russia is able to exercise sovereignty and has used a continuing historical right over the bay. Nevertheless, this right has not been legitimised by any international treaty or customary law. Russian interpretation of innocent passage in territorial sea However, the Russian Federation not only claims Peter the Great Bay as « historic », but also develops its own understanding of innocent passage in territorial waters and therefore in the approach to this area. This conception illustrates Russia’s broad interpretation of coastal state sovereignty. Some other states have also developed similar views which are not in line with Articles 17, 18 and 19 of UNCLOS. The Russian Federation has defined specific requirements for passage through its territorial sea in its laws and regulations. One of the requirements for innocent passage through the territorial sea of the Russian Federation by warships or government vessels operating for non-commercial purposes is to send coordinate and time information to the nearest Russian coastal communication station one hour before the estimated time of entry into the territorial sea of the Russian Federation. This requirement is intended to ensure the safety of navigation in the waters concerned. Attempts to pass without fulfilling these conditions would be considered as actions violating the peace, good order and security of the Russian Federation, infringing its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Rather, they appear to infringe on the right of innocent passage which does not require these conditions to enter the territorial sea of a State. The necessary defence of freedom of navigation This qualification as a « historic bay » is not endorsed by the other states. For the United States, this claim is incompatible with the rules of international law as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982). In their view, the Russian Federation has attempted to claim more internal waters than it is entitled to claim under international law. The US Navy has conducted few “freedom of navigation operations” (FONOPS) in this area (USS MC CAMPBELL in 2018). But these FONOPS tend to demonstrate that these waters beyond Peter the Great Bay do not constitute Russia’s territorial sea for the US, which does not agree with Russia’s claim to consider Peter the Great Bay as a historic bay. France has taken the same position since 9th October 1957 and its official reaction to the Soviet Union’s declaration that it does not consider Peter the Great Bay a historic bay under international law. Furthermore, as elsewhere, France claims freedom of navigation on the high seas and the right of innocent passage in waters defined in a manner consistent with th This qualification as a « historic bay » is not endorsed by the other states. For the United States, this claim is incompatible with the rules of international law as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982). In their view, the Russian Federation has attempted to claim more internal waters than it is entitled to claim under international law. The US Navy has conducted few “freedom of navigation operations” (FONOPS) in this area (USS MC CAMPBELL in 2018). But these FONOPS tend to demonstrate that these waters beyond Peter the Great Bay do not constitute Russia’s territorial sea for the US, which does not agree with Russia’s claim to consider Peter the Great Bay as a historic bay. France has taken the same position since 9th October 1957 and its official reaction to the Soviet Union’s declaration that it does not consider Peter the Great Bay a historic bay under international law. Furthermore, as elsewhere, France claims freedom of navigation on the high seas and the right of innocent passage in waters defined in a manner consistent with the UNCLOS definition of the territorial sea. [...]
September 14, 2022Illegal Exploitation Of Natural Ressources / NewsThe Confiance class or Patrouilleurs Antilles Guyane (PAG) The fight against IUU (Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing) is one the main task of the French Armed forces in Guiana (FAG). Coveted fishy waters French Guiana coastline spreads over 234 mi (378 kilometres), offering the territory a 47,006 sq mi (121,746 km2) Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ). This area, abounding with fish and relatively abandoned by the local fishers, is surrounded by two less economically developed areas (Suriname and the State of Amapá, Brazil), where fishing activity is far more important. This situation creates a strong pressure on its resources, massively coveted by traditional, small-scale fishing vessels coming from neighbouring countries. On the coast, mostly in the territorial waters (TTW), the high value of the weakfish swim bladder on the Asian market strengthens the profitability of IUU fishing. Offshore, the red snapper, unexploited by French fishermen, is caught by angling by forty-five Venezuelan trollers, benefiting from licences granted by the European Union. Among those are meddling illegals, along with crabbers from Guyana, using fish traps. The French Forces in Guiana, a key role against IUU In response to this constant pressure, monitoring waters under French sovereignty and jurisdiction is paramount. The French Forces in Guiana (FAG) naturally rely on satellite and air assets for this purpose. Regularly, the maritime surveillance aircraft Falcon-50M is deployed from mainland, in order to cover the entire EEZ. These flights are complemented by those performed by aircraft of the French Air and Space Force in Guiana, CASA CN-235 and helicopters. Intelligence gathered by those observations provides guidance for the patrols achieved relentlessly by maritime assets sailing across French waters. French Navy’s Antilles-Guyane patrol ships (PAG) focus on the offshore and eastern fishing area, while inshore patrol vessels of the Gendarmerie Maritime mainly patrol along the coast. The FAG maritime component, supported by the air assets, realises more than 100 boardings on IUU vessels each year; a unique level of activity in French overseas departments. The very nature of each of those actions widely differs depending on the target. Crews of the biggest Brazilian ships regularly strongly oppose the boarding, by throwing heavy objects such as gas bottles, wooden planks, fireworks. The FAG respond to this violence with professionalism and firmness. Naval riflemen and commandos (French special forces) are often used against this kind of opposition. In addition to those specific means, the regular boarding teams of the maritime assets perform the majority of the boardings against compliant crews. In order to enhance the impact of those actions, the FAG maintain a close dialogue with the administrations in charge, ashore, of the legal finish: Gendarmerie Maritime, Police, and Prosecutors. The aim is to assert a firm response to illegal activities, in order to deter crews from offending again. The first step is the seizure of the catch and the fishing gear. If the offence is repeated or if the crew has resorted to violence, the ship itself can be seized and destroyed. Violent crewmembers are brought to justice and usually condemned to unconditional prison sentences. However, if the FAG are the main contributor, the repressive strand of the fight against IUU fishing in French Guiana is not the only response to the issue. The low exploitation of the fishery resources by the French fishermen, due to the weak development of this professional sector, is one of the roots of the problem of IUU fishing. The French Guianese fleet is composed by only a hundred of licenced vessels and around 400 professional fishermen, compared to 1200 in Suriname and tens of thousands in Brazilian northern States. Moreover, among those 400 fishermen, 90% are foreigners, as the young Guianese people are not interested in joining the profession. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the local, legal fishing activity has to be structured in order to regain a field left apart. In addition, strengthening an international cooperation with Guyana, Suriname and Brazil is paramount in order to enable a more effective struggle against their national vessels fishing illegally in French waters. Besides, improvement of the information exchange with those countries can help them to increase the knowledge of their fishing fleets in order to better control and prevent them to come to French waters. [...]
September 7, 2022NewsGlobal warming is progressively opening up the possibility of exploiting the so-called Northern routes, which would allow the Suez and Panama canals to be bypassed. Today, the Northern Sea Routes (NSR) are being developed as a priority. If this opportunity is financially interesting, it is mandatory to take into consideration the issue of traffic safety and the availability of emergency means. Arctic sea routes northeast passage and EEZS Active regional actors: Being aware of the stakes of air and maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) in the Arctic, the Member-States of the Arctic Council signed an agreement in 2011, defining areas of responsibility and identifying Rescue Coordination Centers. This agreement adds up to the Hamburg Convention of 1979, which requires each State to set up Search and Rescue (SAR) resources in its area of responsibility. Nevertheless, it seems that the resources dedicated to SAR are still very scarce compared to the vastness of the NSR. Search and Rescue delimitation Europe But material issues remain: Before considering rescue operations, sailing in high latitudes raises strong navigation safety issues, which need to be addressed in order to reduce risks inherent to this hostile zone. Firstly, the usual means of communication and positioning do not yet offer satisfactory coverage: this is a major issue for rescue at sea. Moreover, the mapping of the navigation zones is still imprecise and the beacons must be placed in such way to avoid the presence of icebergs which can damage them. In order to address and limit the dangers of this area, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set up the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code), defining rules for the training of personnel and the construction of vessels. In the end, the lack of dedicated assets and the distances to cover in case of SAR operations, have a huge impact on insurances rates, which reduces the benefits of a faster route like NSR. Concrete actions of cooperation are initiated… Beyond these material observations, it should be noted that States are becoming more aware of the importance of safety considerations in the Arctic. This is illustrated by the creation of a Search and Rescue expert group within the Arctic Council, and the launch of the Safe Arctic project whose objective is to develop a common culture and practice for safety matters in this area. In September 2021, the Russian Federation, which holds the presidency of the Artic Council, organized exercises within this project’s framework in the Barents Sea. One exercise involved an accident on board a cruise ship carrying roughly 3,000 people, with the risk of fire and the need for medical evacuation by helicopter. …in which the French Navy takes part. For its part, the French Navy has a long-standing interest in learning about the Arctic. The historic mission of the supply-and-assistance ship Rhône in 2018, transiting through the NSR, is a very concrete example of it. But beyond this high-profile mission, France has set up dynamic cooperations with Nordic countries, as evidenced by the participation of French Navy assets, since 2018, in the ARGUS exercise led by Denmark. [...]
August 30, 2022NewsWith the increase in demand for healthier meat, fish is on our tables in ever-increasing amounts. Global fish consumption doubled between 1998 and 2021, and scientists expect demand to increase further over the coming decades. While this is to be welcomed as fishing emits far fewer greenhouse gasses than, for example, beef and pork production, it comes with a different set of problems. The UN estimates that one-third of the world’s oceans are overfished, which could lead to a disastrous collapse in fish stocks. So how can this problem be overcome, and what is the solution for meeting the protein needs of the global population? Fortunately, the answer may be on the horizon. What’s Wrong with Farmed Fish? In recent years, the industry has turned to aquaculture to counter the crisis in fish stocks. Unfortunately, this comes with its own environmental and ethical issues. For a given weight of fish, farming creates twice as much CO2 as the conventional fishing industry. Added to this is the problem of pollution; waste food and fish feces contaminate the water near fish farms, leading to poor water quality. Fish farms also tend to use pesticides which cause further contamination. Finally, some campaigners contend that fish living in close quarters undergo unnecessary suffering. Lab-Grown Fish—Using Modern Technology to Feed the Planet The problems of overfishing and pollution from fish farms have inspired entrepreneurs to try new biotechnology avenues for protein manufacturing. There are currently over a hundred startups worldwide working in this area, but perhaps the most famous is BlueNalu. Founded in San Diego in 2017 by Lou Cooperhouse, Blue Nalu is currently working on the production of lab-grown Blufin Tuna steaks, using a process it calls “cellular aquaculture.” The process uses cells painlessly extracted from wild tuna placed into stainless steel vats filled with a nutrient bath which grows them into fish fillets. The process can be adjusted so the resulting fillets taste the same as the original fish. As the process is still pretty expensive, the company aims to produce fish usually imported as a luxury item. This has the added benefit of not competing with local, sustainable fisheries. However, they expect to see mass-manufactured lab-grown fish at affordable prices by the end of the decade. BlueNalu is already working on a deal with Food & Life Companies, the largest sushi restaurant owner, to supply all of their Bluefin Tuna. Restaurant owners, in particular, are very keen to use these products as they can guarantee a consistent supply all year round. This can be a vital issue for restaurants that see fish prices and availability fluctuate wildly through the year. Will Lab-Grown Fish Destroy the Fishing Industry? There is no danger of this at the moment as the production of lab-grown fish is still only on a relatively small scale. Moreover, most manufacturers envision a future where they don’t work in competition with sustainable fishing operations. Local fisheries will still be able to maintain sustainability, producing more premium products while the cellular aquaculture operations move to mass markets as they increase their output. In a world where a lot of fish is lab-grown, many people will attach value to products they see as “the real thing.” The real casualty will most likely be the fish farms which are increasingly seen as dirty and polluting yet not producing meat that is as good as sustainably caught fish. As a result, this industry will likely be increasingly left behind, hopefully leading to cleaner seas and beaches. So, When Will I See Lab-Grown FIsh in my Supermarket? The answer to this could be sooner than you think. Several food companies around the world are teaming up with manufacturers of lab-grown fish to boost their product lines. Notably, UK-based Nomad Foods, owner of the Birds Eye brand, has teamed up with BlueNalu, and the partnership hopes to have their products in supermarkets within five years. [...]
August 24, 2022NewsOne hundred years after the signing of the Svalbard Treaty, that granted Norway sovereignty over this territory, the strategic and geopolitical importance of that Arctic archipelago has never been higher and is even more emphasized by the consequences of the global warning. Svalbard, a strategic archipelago in the Far North The Svalbard archipelago is located in the Arctic Ocean, between Greenland (West), Franz Josef Land (East) and Europe (South). Equidistant from Norway (621 mi / 1,000 km north of Tromsø) and (621 mi / 1,000 km northwest of Murmansk), it stands on a strategic position in an area of interest to NATO and Russia in the Far North. Known for its numerous scientific bases, its “apocalyptic seed vault”, its coal mines or its quantity of polar bears, Svalbard also receives a booming arctic tourism. Svalbard archipelago in the Far North -Wikipedia Even though the archipelago has officially been under Norwegian sovereignty since 1920, the partial internationalization of the land and its territorial waters, as defined by the Svalbard treaty, raises many tensions, especially with the race for the appropriation of Arctic resources A controversial 100-year-old treaty Signed at the Paris Conference on the 9th of February 1920, and implemented in 1925, the treaty currently has 46 signatories and recognizes Norway’s sovereignty over Svalbard with a few limits. First, Article 9 states that the territory is a demilitarized zone. What is more, all the signatory states have equal fishing rights in the territorial waters (12 nautical miles) of Svalbard. In addition, they get free access to the resources of the archipelago and can exploit them as Norway. However, the introduction of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) in 1982 poses two major problems. On the one hand, there is a debate about the continental shelf on which Svalbard is located (Norway or Russia). On the other hand, the 1982 Convention authorizes Oslo to establish a sovereign EEZ around Svalbard, which fuels a huge number of rivalries. Indeed, Norway considers that the rights of the other countries do not apply in the EEZ but on the archipelago and its territorial waters only. However, Russia, as well as the European Union and the United States, do not share this interpretation and consider this EEZ as the zone of application of the 1920 treaty. The epicenter of climate change in the High North The Arctic is warming up three times faster than the rest of the planet. Unfortunately, the Svalbard archipelago is not spared by this phenomenon, which is even worse on these islands. During the summer of 2020, temperatures beat a record, reaching 21.7°C (71°F) in Longyearbyen, on July 25. Records from the Norwegian Polar Institute show that the average annual temperature has increased by about 5°C (41°F) over the last 40 years . And by the end of the century, the mid-winter air temperature in Longyearbyen is expected to be between 7 and 10°C (45 and 50°F) higher than current temperatures! Global warming and associated issues for the Svalbard archipelago The consequences of global warming in the Svalbard area are multiple. First of all, the warming of the oceans causes fishes to migrate towards the North, searching for colder waters, and making the surroundings of Svalbard richer in fish resources, which are coveted by many countries. Moreover, the melting of the ice allows for the discovery and access to new hydrocarbon deposits. The competition for the monopoly of these resources could therefore intensify, using divergent interpretations of the 1920 treaty. Finally, the melting of the Arctic ice cap also opened new maritime routes that considerably reduce the time it takes to sail from one continent to another. In particular, China has shown great interest in the “Northern Sea Route”, which would save 30% of shipping time and avoid passing through choke points such as the Suez Canal. This new route, which passes near Svalbard, is therefore fully integrated into its “Belt and Road Initiative” project, also called “New Silk Roads”. All these global-warming-induced phenomenons could therefore contribute to increasing geopolitical tensions around Svalbard. What future for the Treaty? The Svalbard archipelago is coveted by many countries for its strategic importance, which will increase even more with future climate change. This poses a threat to the Norwegian presence in Svalbard, which has been relatively stable for one century, but is now suffering from a decline in the local Norwegian population, slowly replaced by other nationalities. Moreover, the lack of consensus among NATO members on the status of Svalbard (e.g. the uncertainty about using Article 5 to defend it) could be a real opportunity for some competitors to obtain concessions from Norway, or even to take over the archipelago by making a “fait accompli” move. Thus, Norway could quickly find itself in difficulty, especially in the present times, as the crisis is raging in Ukraine and the world is being affected by unprecedented climatic upheavals, all of this happening while oil and gas reserves are being discovered around the archipelago. The Svalbard treaty seems increasingly threatened and more fragile than ever. [...]
August 18, 2022Illegal Exploitation Of Natural Ressources / NewsThe sand rush, after water the sand is the most exploited natural resource in the world. This over-exploitation may lead to major environmental, economic and social consequences. An April 2022 UN report thus called for urgent actions to avoid a “sand crisis” What is sand exploitation? The global demand for sand has tripled over the last two decades, now reaching 50 billion tons a year. It is expected to keep growing as sand is a key ingredient for concrete, roads, electronics and glass. The demand is also increasing due to growing urbanization and construction, especially in China (60% of the consumption) where artificial islands and buildings are absorbing huge amounts of concrete, therefore of sand. Sand is mostly extracted from lakes, riverbeds and coastlines, where sharper grains and silica sand can be found. The methods of extraction depend on the location of the sand: backhoes, bare hands or shovels are used along rivers, meanwhile suction pumps and dredging boats are employed along coastlines and underwater. Desert sand is unfortunately useless for construction as the grains are too small and smooth for binding in concrete. Meanwhile, the exploitation of marine sand is growing due to the depletion of land-based resources. However, the sea sand needs to be desalinated: the amount of fresh water required for this operation is huge and increases the environmental impact. Major environmental consequences These days, sand is consumed faster than it can be replaced, as natural processes take hundreds of thousands of years. The consequences of over-exploitation can already be seen in satellite images, showing coastlines and riverbanks erosion. They can be various and depend on the location and the methods of extraction: river channels may widen or narrow, sediment flows may increase or disappear and changes can happen suddenly or very slowly. The most kown impact is coastal erosion. Current studies estimate that between 75 and 90% of the world’s beaches have shrunk. 25 Indonesian islands have already disappeared due to massive sand extraction. In the Mekong River, the digging of the delta (roughly 2 centimeters) has caused the salinization of fertile lands. The banks of the Mekong have become unstable and should they collapse, more than 500 000 Vietnamese would have to migrate. But sand mining is also responsible for the destruction of biodiversity, changes in the chemical composition of waters or the sedimentation flows. Even worse, the effects of sand exploitation would probably increase the effects of global warming such as the rise of sea level. [...]
August 11, 2022NewsThe Law of the Sea is built on a fundamental principle: the freedom of navigation. Already implemented in the Roman law through the idea of “commune omnium“, it was especially theorized by Hugo Grotius in 1609 in his famous book “de mare liberum“, written to defend Dutch commercial interests. Criticized by the maritime powers of the 17th century (Spain, Portugal, and United Kingdom), this principle is nowadays one of the pillars of the public order of the seas. However, the technological developments that allow us to go further and further in the exploitation of the seabed, the increasing globalization of trade by sea, the intensifying ecological threats and a creeping territorialisation of the oceans, are questioning this fundamental principle today. UNCLOS is a real tool for preserving freedom of navigation The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), signed in Montego Bay in 1982, contains a number of principles that seems to be sufficient to preserve the freedom of the seas, which is precisely defined in international waters (freedom of navigation, overflight, etc.). In territorial waters, it limits derogations to the right of innocent passage. In order to enhance freedom of navigation in restricted waters, it also creates the right of innocent passage in archipelagic states and the right of transit passage through straits. Moreover, the many conventions adopted since 1982 to deal with transnational crime issues at sea are respectful of such principle of freedom of navigation as they require the flag State’s approval before boarding a ship on the high seas. Towards the monopolisation of maritime areas In order to satisfy their own strategic interests, some states promote their own interpretation of the law of the sea. Whether it is Russia in the Arctic or Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean, they interpret UNCLOS to extend their sovereignty over disputed areas, in order to better control trade flows and access to energy resources. Others even go so far as to adopt completely revisionist postures on the law of the sea. In 2018, China protested against French frigate “Vendémiaire”’s passage through its territorial waters (near the strait of Taiwan). China invoked a lack of authorisation, even though such rule is not included in the Law of the Sea. Moreover, some States do not hesitate to engage in a show of force to support their very own interpretations of the Montego Bay Convention, in particular in order to deny foreign navies access to a maritime zone. In November 2018, the Russian navy boarded three Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait to deny them access to the Sea of Azov. Such attitudes also exist in the South China Sea, through large-scale exercises conducted by the Chinese navy in disputed areas, or through the use of paramilitary militias (the People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia) to assert sovereignty over disputed islets. For instance, the Philippines accused China of leading an incursion of more than 200 paramilitary boats on the 7th March 2021 around Whitsun Reef, near the island of Palawan. Maintaining vigilance on the effectiveness of freedom of navigation More than ever, such threatening attitudes require offensive actions to reaffirm the strength of freedom-of-navigation. The FONOPS program (freedom of navigation operations) conducted by the United States in the South China Sea meets this need and should be extended to other maritime areas. Also, the EMASoH (European-led Maritime Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz) initiative launched in 2020 in reaction to multiple attacks against oil tankers in the Arabian Gulf, constitutes a firm response to aggressive attitudes towards freedom of navigation. The military operation AGENOR, pertaining to the initiative, involves 9 European countries including France. Operation AGENOR, launched on the 25th of February 2020, is now two years old an aims at preserving the freedom of navigation in the Arabian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. However, beyond this vigilance at sea, States must promote the freedom of navigation principle within diplomatic bodies. In this respect, it is important to ensure that the current discussion on the United Nations treaty to preserve marine biodiversity beyond areas under national jurisdiction (BBNJ), and aimed in particular at creating marine protected areas on the high seas, does not ultimately result in a further infringement of a principle that should above all be preserved. [...]
August 4, 2022NewsThe Russian submarine cemetery in Andreyeva bay: An ecological disaster on Europe’s doorstep. At the end of the 1990s, western countries discovered that the Russian Navy, the pride of a beleaguered Soviet Union, was hiding an open nuclear dump. Since then, 25 years of international cooperation and massive Western funding have cleaned up the situation. The worst has been avoided: the leaks have been plugged and the most dangerous elements removed. Despite recent developments in the international context, the decommissioning effort must be maintained and completed. A remote fjord in the Barents Sea “Litsa Fjord”: The name is more reminiscent of vast expanses of tundra, ice floes in winter, salmon farming and preserved biodiversity at the world’s end. However, it was there, 34 mi (55 km) away from their border, that the Norwegians realized in the mid-1990s that a major nuclear disaster was threatening them. Since the early 1960s, the nuclear ships of the Northern Fleet based in Murmansk, some 30 miles to the east, had been coming there to recharge their nuclear reactors. For 30 years, the site was covered by the greatest secrecy. However, everything was gradually abandoned. In 1982, the water tightness of the storage pools containing irradiated fuel elements broke in building #5. The elements were hastily moved to a neighbouring building. Nevertheless, highly radioactive fragments remained at the bottom of the pools. This temporary situation has become a permanent one and the displaced fuel elements were buried in concrete. Then a slow drift began, similar to that of the Soviet Union. When the first foreign observers managed to visit the site in the mid-1990s, there was no storage plan. Some of the containers were stored in the open air, facing one of the harshest climates in the world. Location of Litsa Fjord and Andreyeva Bay Lies and blindness to ecological disaster The first battle was to overcome the taboo of secrecy: in 1996, the first Russians engineers who tried to denounce this ecological disaster were arrested and imprisoned for espionage. But the powerful Soviet Navy, which then operated more than 245 nuclear submarines, had to admit its secret: the Andreyeva site contained more than a hundred used nuclear cores, 22,000 fuel elements, half of which were damaged or leaking, 600,349 ft3 (17,000 m3) of solid nuclear waste and 45,909 ft3 (1,300 m3) of liquid nuclear waste! The concentration of fuel elements was so high that experts feared the start of an unexpected and uncontrollable chain reaction. Used nuclear fuel stored in so-called “bottles” at Andreyeva Bay International determination pays off While the Russian sailors had to beg for food in the absence of pay, the international community, led by Norway, mobilized to manage and finance the dismantling of this floating Chernobyl. On the Russian side, the navy was relinquished and the case was entrusted to Rosatom. The challenge was considerable, since the waste had to be transported 1,900 mi (3,000 km) south to the Urals, to the Mayak dismantling plant. Under the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s leadership, the western nations participated both financially and through their expertise: France designed the system to remove the fuel elements from the site, Italy invented a dedicated ship to carry them to the port of Murmansk, from where they would be evacuated by train. In June 2017, the first train left for Mayak dismantling plant. It would be followed by others, at a rate of 3 or 4 per year, each of them transporting nearly 600 fuel elements. Containers of used fuel elements at Andreyeva Bay Maintain the effort despite international tensions Today, the dismantling process is still on-going. In October 2021, it is estimated that half of the stockpile had been removed. Yet, the process is now entering the most dangerous phase, that is, the removal of the most damaged elements. Continued international assistance is still needed to complete the clean-up of the area. After the Andreyeva waste, some environment-threatening wrecked submarines must be dealt with in the Barents Sea, such as the Komsomolets, which sank following a fire in April 1989, or the K159, which was accidentally sunk during a tow in 2003. Let us hope that despite the isolation it is currently experiencing, the Russian government will leave the door open to international aids, aiming above all for the Greater good and the preservation of the environment for future generations. Nuclear Submarine K159 before its sinking in 2003 Spent nuclear fuel stored in bottles [...]
July 25, 2022Miscellaneous / NewsThe problem of waste management is really a maritime one, insofar as the majority of objects observed at sea comes from the coast. There are reports of a “continent” in the Pacific Ocean made up of a mixture of various products (plastic bags, nets, cans…) and concentrated by the effect of sea currents. Sorting and recycling seems to be the only way to manage waste properly, but due to the lack of adequate infrastructures, states often have to export their waste by sea. A maritime trade has thus emerged, with specialized brokerage companies. Legal Framework The notion of waste is quite broad; indeed, one often thinks of plastic materials resulting from the use of disposable objects, but it can also be larger appliances (such as old household ones) or products containing residual hazardous materials (e.g. car batteries). Legally, the export of waste is covered by the Basel Convention (1992) on « the control of international transports of waste and their disposal », which stemmed from the need to regulate the maritime transport of waste following a series of deliberate pollutions. Since 2002, hazardous waste such as hospital or radioactive waste must comply with IMDG regulations (International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code, published by the IMO). As such, there are specific follow-up and ad hoc management channels (towards recycling or final storage), in order to avoid their loss, damage or diversion for criminal purposes. Observed practice and recent developments The export of waste by sea (the cheapest way of transporting freight, to date) seems to have become the norm. A new industry was born out of such practice, given the immense quantities of waste produced each year by our societies. In the wake of globalization, South-East Asian countries (China, Indonesia, Malaysia…) have become dumping grounds for the so-called “rich” states and brokerage companies have thus been able to take advantage of this opportunity. As such, China has recycled up to half (106Mt) of the world’s plastic waste, taking advantage of a poorly developed legislative framework. However, in 2018, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) decided to put an end to these imports, for the sake of compliance with global climate targets and, above all, a decline in the profitability of plastic recycling. A victim of this side effect, Indonesia, became overwhelmed with containers and decided in November 2019 to return several containers of waste to France, claiming that they had been “illegally imported”. In the wake of this, the French Ministry of Ecology imposed the same year a fine of several hundred thousand euros to a company that had exported to Malaysia containers of waste that did not comply with international regulations because they were mixed together (domestic waste, plastics and hazardous waste, without proper identification). What future for waste by sea? With this new paradigm, the producer states have no solution while they are faced with an exponential production of waste. The shipping of waste continues however, particularly in France: indeed, the overseas territories (DROM/COM) need to export garbage towards the mainland, as they are not equipped with reprocessing facilities. This specific issue and the notion of « territorial continuity » implies that the 1992 Convention does not apply to shipping companies involved in this task. Nevertheless, one can see that ship-owners are trying to minimize their reputational risk on this topic. Indeed CMA-CGM, the third largest global shipping company, announced during the « One Planet Summit » in February 2022 that it would stop transporting waste on board its ships by next summer. As for the decommissioned warships, the trend is to stop sending them abroad and instead work on domestic or European solutions. For example, France has recently sent her older ships to Belgium to undergo a green decommissioning process. [...]
July 18, 2022Miscellaneous / Newsmap of western african and Bay of Guinea region The Gulf of Guinea extends over 3,500 mi (5,700 km) of coastline from Senegal to Angola. Far from the main shipping routes, this region is nevertheless economically oriented towards the sea because it is rich of two main resources: oil and fish. A coveted fishing reource Heterogeneous fleets of vessels sail on its waters on a daily basis: oil activity, traditional fishing and industrial fishing, legal or not. The Gulf of Guinea is all the more coveted because it is barely monitored, or even not monitored at all. As a consequence, 40% of the fish are caught illegally1 in the area, and the annual loss of income for the countries of the region amounts to more than 1.9 billion dollars (1.8 billion euros). A double challenge While artisanal fishing provides an important part of the food of the riparian countries, this uncontrolled industrial fishing could be an aggravating factor of insecurity in a region already affected by many problems: smuggling of petroleum products, a hub of drug trafficking between South America and Europe, a very large population facing the climate and food challenges. Munro Anderson, a British expert on maritime security, explains: “Incidents related to illegal fishing have led to a dramatic fall in the livelihoods of local economies, which has made many young people susceptible to the lures of organized crime”. Thus, riparian countries are facing a double challenge: controlling the area in order to avoid the plundering of their waters and developing a local and complete fishery value chain, from catch to processing. Identifying the problem For many years, NGOs such as Greenpeace as well as some governments of riparian states have regularly denounced the problem of industrial overfishing in the region. After the Japanese and Eastern European trawlers in the 2000s, it is now the Chinese or Russian fleets whose illegal activities are regularly pointed out. While it is obvious that this illegal fishing is a scourge for local populations, regular fishing agreements can also be criticized in that they often deprive coastal populations of the economic benefits of the processing of the catch, which is often done outside Africa via refrigerated vessels. The question of the employment of local seafarers is also tackled by the criticisms made on these agreements, again under the prism of the lack of local economic benefits. Finally, the COVID crisis has inflamed the debates around the issue of fishing. Where traditional fishing activity has been suspended, like most of the rest of the economy, industrial fishing has been maintained, fueling the resentment of local fishermen whose associations have been quick to denounce this apparent inequality of treatment. Awareness and Prospects To face these challenges, the riparian countries are beginning to organize themselves. Firstly, they have been working on improving the governance of the fight against illegal fishing, by creating in 2006 the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC), which brings together the six riparian states from Liberia to Nigeria with the objective of preserving the fishing resource to optimize economic and social benefits. Secondly, they are aiming at increasing the efficiency of surveillance and control at sea. One can also note that Ghana, Togo and Benin conducted their first joint fisheries police patrol in December 2021. These projects are all financially assisted by the European Union and actively supported by some member states such as France, which is permanently deploying a Navy Falcon 50 maritime surveillance aircraft, based in Dakar, in addition to vessels operating within the framework of Corymbe operation (since 1990). Finally, while the local industry is not in a position to equip deep-sea fishing vessels, the allotment of fishing licenses to European ship owners would allow for the further development of a real local value chain around fishing, and thus contribute to reducing unemployment and insecurity (particularly food insecurity) in the region. These contracts should therefore include local employment, local landings and a fine management of catch quotas in order not to penalize artisanal fishing, which should also remain one of the pillars of the local economy. [...]
July 13, 2022Miscellaneous / NewsWhile Finland and Sweden have expressed their wish to join NATO in the near future, the question arises of a possible evolution of the security situation in the High North and a rebalancing of the equilibrium of power, as the entry of these two states would formalize their alliance with the NATO states. More broadly, the last few years have seen an increase in the military presence in the area and a growing interest in this space with multiple and growing opportunities. Indeed, global warming, which is two to three times more important in the Arctic than the average , will eventually allow the opening of future maritime routes, thus reducing the distances between Europe and Asia. The Arctic is also home to numerous energy resources – perhaps 13% of the world’s oil and 30% of the world’s gas – as well as significant fisheries resources, which are potentially increasing due to the warming of the waters further south. An increased militarization of the High North… Faced with these new opportunities, new competitions are emerging. To name but a few, France adopted a roadmap for the Arctic in 2016, in 2018, China published a strategy for this space, as did the British Ministry of Defence which published in March 2022 a strategic document entitled “The UK’s Defence Contribution in the High North” or the US Army with its Strategic Plan of 2021 “Regaining Arctic Dominance”. Beyond this communication aspect, the High North sees its three dimensions (sea, land, air) being increasingly militarized, starting with Russia. The Russian militarization of the High North can be characterized in three ways. First, Russia has restored its presence in the area, which had been in decline since the fall of the USSR, by increasing its military spending. It has also modernized its capabilities deployed in the area. Finally, this militarization aims to “support the extension of transportation infrastructure beyond what was present during the Soviet period”(ref p. 4). Thus, six military bases have been built or rehabilitated, as have ten air bases in the High North. A selection of Northern Fleet and civilian objects in the Barents Sea region A selection of Russian military and civilian infrastructure throughout the Arctic Regarding NATO, there is also a growing militarization of space, often justified as a response to Russian deployments. In Alaska, the port of Nome is receiving new funding to turn it into a deepwater port capable of handling larger ships. The U.S. Air Force has also deployed several dozen F-35 jets to Alaska, indicating that the state will host “more advanced fighters than any other location in the world.”. The U.S. 2nd Fleet was also re-established in 2018 and a NATO command specifically dedicated to the Atlantic based in Norfolk was declared operational in September 2020. Some states are rehabilitating their infrastructure, such as Norway with the Tromsø base, which is able to accommodate NATO submarines. The HMS Ambush made a stopover there last April. Finally, a number of exercises are also organized in the area, such as the Trident Juncture exercise in 2018, which brought together 50,000 men, 65 ships and 250 aircraft, the Cold Response exercise, the 2022 edition of which ended recently, and the ICEX exercises for submarine deployment. … which is also reflected by the deployment of specific capabilities These deployments are also an opportunity for states to test or project new equipment and devices. In March 2021, the Russian Navy reported that three Russian submarines had surfaced for the first time by breaking through a 1.5-metre thick bank and that one of the three had fired torpedos under the ice. The new submarine Knyaz Oleg also did the same last May. Another feat, that of the French Navy in the summer of 2018 with the ship Rhone, which became the first non-Russian vessel to pass through the Northeast Passage, after the German cruiser Komet in 1940, but without any assistance. Special Forces are also often deployed in the area, like the Navy SEALs and the Green Berets who participated in the last ICEX in May. Let’s remember that the US Navy has a Naval Special Warfare Cold Weather Detachment in Kodiak, Alaska. There is also no doubt that if submarines are engaged in the Great North, combat swimmers are also involved. In 1990, a swimmer delivery vehicle (SDV) was spotted in Norwegian waters. The French case, a rise in power: strategy, deployments and naval special operations The French case is significant of this rise in power of certain nations. First, the French government invested in the doctrinal field with, as mentioned, a roadmap for the Arctic published in 2016. Many of its strategic documents, such as the ministerial strategy for the control of the seabed, also mention the High North. The 2017 French strategic review explains thus: “The Arctic, where the pace of global warming is double the global average, may one day become an area of confrontation.”. This commitment is also reflected operationally and many French ships have sailed in the cold waters of the Arctic, such as the Rhone that was mentioned. Recently, the amphibious helicopter carrier Dixmude was certified for Arctic operations after participating, along with the multi-mission frigate Languedoc and a maritime patrol aircraft Atlantique 2, in Cold Response 2022. The patrol vessel Fulmar, stationed in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, a French territory bordering Canada, also regularly sails in the cold waters of Greenland as part of the ARGUS exercise. France’s recent seabed control strategy calls for the consolidation of its underwater intervention capability, which would require the reinforcement of submarine forces in the area and the deployment of naval special forces. This would also respond to the deployments of France’s competitor nations. The document specifies that “the ability to penetrate complex and contested spaces ‘horizontally’ in order to conduct special underwater operations on, from and towards the seabed must be maintained at the highest level”. There is no doubt that projects under development, such as unmanned undersea vehicle and remotely operated vehicles or the third-generation SDV, could provide new capabilities in the future, potentially for use in cold waters. To conclude, the High North is an area of interest for many nations, both coastal and more distant geographically. This interest induces a growing militarization, with exercises, deployments and new capabilities adapted to this area that should continue. [...]
July 11, 2022Miscellaneous / NewsThe Corinth Canal connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea The international maritime canals are « choke points » of strategic interest as they regulate the world economy. They contribute to the affirmation of maritime transport as the main vector of imports and exports throughout the world. To remain competitive and attractive, the channels keep being expanded. They also have a “neutrality status”, which means that everyone is free to use them regardless of the international situation. However, several factors are limiting these increasingly costly expansions. Strategic “Choke Points” and regulators of the world economy Built during the 19th century, the international maritime canals (Suez, Panama and Kiel) greatly facilitate the economic exchanges by reducing travel times. The Suez Canal allows a saving of 3500 nautical miles on a trip from Shanghai to Rotterdam, compared to the route via the Cape of Good Hope. The canals also limit certain risks such as capricious weather (Cape Horn and Cape of Good Hope) or potential collisions (density of ships in the Danish straits) as they are very well secured. The flow of goods transiting through these maritime nodes has thus exploded with globalization. If the maritime canals facilitate commercial exchanges for the benefit of the majority of people, they entail enormous geopolitical stakes. Whoever controls the canals not only controls a part of the world economy but may also project their fleet far from their bases1. With globalization, the major challenge is to ensure one’s own supplies and potentially constrain those of one’s adversaries2. Today, the states bordering the canals are required, as it is the case for international straits, to allow “freedom of passage for all states”3. This reduces the strategic importance of owning or controlling the canals. Nevertheless, in an uncertain international environment where international law and treaties are regularly challenged, it is possible that this principle of neutrality will become at least temporarily outdated. Vital and profitable expansions In order to cope with the exponential growth of commercial traffic, coupled with the increase in the size of ships, the “owner” states, bordering the canals, have been forced to widen the facilities. The main goal of such enlargement was to meet the needs as much as possible and to preserve the strategic interest of these “choke points”. The Suez Canal is a model of adaptation: initially built with a depth of eight meters and a width of twenty-two meters, it has been regularly enlarged. In 2014, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, announced extensive work to adapt the Suez Canal to the new characteristics of maritime traffic. The work, which took only one year instead of the three originally planned, consisted in widening part of the original canal, and digging a parallel lane in the Eastern section to allow two-way traffic. It resulted in a significant reduction in waiting time and an increase in daily capacity. The Panama Canal, on the other hand, was quickly overtaken by the trend towards naval gigantism. The canal authority invested $1 billion in 1998 to widen the trench. In 2002, an invitation to tenders was initiated, in order to build new locks and increase the size of the ships received. The works started in 2007 ($5.2 billion) and were completed in 2016. It allowed for a significant increase (22%) in transit tonnage in 2017. Perspectives Successive enlargements have made it possible to sustain the economic benefits and strategic interest of the canals. However, several factors pose a limit to these successive enlargements. Container ships are now 400 meters long and 60 meters wide. It is likely that in the near future such gigantism will reach its peak because, on the one hand, the construction and navigability of such giants is becoming increasingly complex and, on the other hand, ports may no longer be able to absorb such large cargos in a reasonable time. Moreover, the grounding of the 23,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) container ship “Ever Given” across the Suez Canal on March 23, 2021, is an illustration of the limits of naval gigantism and the vulnerability of sea-lanes4. Following the incident, the Suez Canal Authority decided to double the track from 72 to 82 kilometers, when the doubling of the entire canal was deemed too costly. Indeed, the financial and environmental costs are increasing considerably with each expansion. When the canals were built more than a hundred years ago, there was obviously no massive opposition based on environmental criteria. However, the damage caused was considerable and permanent, whether in the desert Egyptian isthmus or in the lush Panamanian isthmus. This environmental aspect can no longer be neglected, as it is another factor of vulnerability. The Panama Canal is facing problems of water supply, essential for the locks operations. Water from the Gatun and Madden lakes is becoming scarce due to evaporation, drought and the increase in the number of ships. Each ship passage releases 166 million liters of water into the ocean, which must be replenished. Strategic “choke points” as they are, the maritime canals will be coping with globalization, traffic increase and shipbuilding gigantism, up to a certain limit… 1 The Suez Canal was originally built and controlled by the French and British governments to connect the Eastern empires to Europe more quickly. It was also for their own national interests that the Americans took over the construction of the Panama Canal in order to ensure its management until 1999. 2 This was notably the case for Egypt, which, after the nationalization of the canal in 1957, refused Israel the right to pass through the Suez Canal. 3 Convention of Constantinople of 1888 for the Suez Canal, Treaty of Versailles of 1919 for the Kiel Canal, and a bilateral treaty of 1977 for the Panama Canal. 4 The blockage of the canal for six days directly affected the global economy and could dampen the ardor of ship-owners. Lloyd’s List Intelligence estimated the cost of the canal blockage at $9.6 billion. [...]
July 5, 2022Illegal Exploitation Of Natural Ressources / NewsNo less than 25 million tons of fish are believed to be lost each year due to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing activity (IUU fishing) over the world. For some enforcement officials, IUU fishing has even become “the world’s top maritime security threat”. The Pacific Ocean, extending from India to the west coast of the American continent, is in its main area concerned by the fishery ressource pillage, as are African waters. Chinese Fishing Fleet Asian countries are the main actors involved in such plundering of the fisheries, for both economic and food reasons. Like the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), the Chinese fishing fleet is experiencing an unprecedented expansion. Although it seems impossible today to determine the precise number of vessels it includes, many experts do not hesitate to describe them as an “armada”. The main consequences of this detrimental situation are the depletion of local fish stocks and major economic losses for regional systems. In addition to these environmental and economic dangers, the plundering of fisheries resources can occasionally contribute to creating food tensions, as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has already pointed out on several occasions. A Hybrid Fleet The Chinese fishing fleet also appears as an efficient tool of geopolitical influence. Indeed, deep-sea fisheries obviously have another purpose: the tensions that arise from them reveal their highly strategic dimension. The Chinese fishing armada that is sailing all over the planet represents a civil-military force. As real paramilitary actors in the pay of the Chinese government– which finances them very largely –, they contribute to the territorial expansion of China. Fighting against IUU fishing on a global scale seems to be impossible. As far as the Pacific Ocean is concerned, the challenge is obvious because of its vastness and the lack of appropriate assets to control fisheries. Nevertheless, the fight against the plundering of fish resources must not be seen as a losing battle. Initiatives to limt IUU Facing this issue, some countries of the Pacific have already begun to conduct joint operations in order to oppose them. For example, France, Australia, New Zealand and other smaller countries in the area have organized themselves through occasional exercises and joint missions. This cooperation, which entails deployments of military vessels, has proved its worth and effectiveness, and must be maintained and even reinforced. Indeed, it appears that even though “blue boats” and other rogue vessels are respecting the exclusive economic zones, they are voluntarily stationed at their rightful limit. On the “eastern” part of the Pacific, Chile, Argentina, Peru and France are uniting efforts to respond to this same threat. In that respect, smaller patrol boat type units are real assets and allow for a timely response to Asian fishing vessels’ looting activities. In addition, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and geostationary satellites are effective means of elongation and enhance the coverage of such a vast ocean as the Pacific. Legal Framework From a regulatory point of view, the states did not wait to be confronted with the “fait accompli” of over-fishing to design effective tools. Firstly, the Montego Bay Convention, defines in a general way the maritime spaces and the conditions of their exploitation. Enclaves make it possible to envisage areas useful for the reproduction of species, as well as areas less exposed to all types of pollution. For instance, two maritime areas on either side of French Polynesia are subject to special regulations in order to limit the plundering of fish and to protect a certain number of threatened marine species. Secondly, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has enacted a number of devices (AIS, VMS…) to identify fishing vessels that violate the rules in so-called protected waters. While countries may rely on Information Fusion Centres (IFC) to fight IUU fishing, other initiatives, such as the “Global Fishing Watch” platform have been developed, in which even insurers have stakes. In the same way, NGOs or embarked government personnel can be relays to enforce directly or indirectly the Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA). Another means which has recently emerged and is not sufficiently considered yet is the use of civil actors. Indeed, companies can appear as influential as States nowadays. This is why large retailers, together with producer chains, are now trying to combat bad fishing practices through a body called the “Seafood Task Force”. Finally, still in connection with the civilian world, partnerships are increasingly being developed with private airlines, which contribute to intelligence gathering during their flights, especially when aerial surveillance means are deployed in operations elsewhere or are under maintenance. [...]
June 29, 2022Miscellaneous / NewsTrans-border cooperation in mitigating illicit maritime activities remains necessary due to the transnational nature of maritime insecurity. High incidents of sea banditry, piracy, and associated crimes within the maritime domain contributed to the under-utilization of the resource-landed Gulf of Guinea region. Read on to understand how the implementation of the Yaounde Code of Conduct has enhanced stronger transboundary and inter-regional cooperation in the Gulf of Guinea. Background of The Maritime Insecurities in The Gulf of Guinea The International Maritime Bureau’s 2020 report shows that 135 seafarers were kidnapped, and 84 attacks on ships were recorded in the GoG. The same report showed the region experienced a 50% increase in ransom kidnapping between 2018 and 2019. GoG remains the most dangerous maritime zone, accounting for 95% of kidnapping globally. The pervasive incidence of insecurity, particularly the growing nature and intensity of armed robbery at sea, piracy, and other maritime criminalities in this resource-laden maritime domain, is underpinned by the following: High Poverty Level in the Region Most security challenges confronting Africa have originated from increasing poverty levels. It is pertinent to emphasize that attaining security in the Gulf of Guinea depends on the people’s financial stability. The underdeveloped and undiversified economy in the coastal states, signatories of the Yaounde Code of Conduct, is evident. The latter has resulted in an overreliance on economic activities such as fishing and small-scale farming. Most people in these states work for survival instead of growth. The youthful population in this region is left with few employment opportunities. They become a fertile recruiting ground for criminal networks and insurgent groups responsible for the rising spate of piracy and armed robbery at sea in the GoG. These groups offer them financial incentives, protection, and basic needs. The Prevalence of Bad Governance in States Signatories to The Yaounde Code of Conduct The escalation of piracy and armed robbery at sea can be entrenched in poor governance in the region. Most Yaounde Code of Conduct signatories parade low human development indices, despite the vast oil endowment in the area. The implication of poor governance is evident in the signatory states’ weak enforcement capacity of counter-piracy and armed robbery against ship operations. Besides, unprecedented diversion of resources from procurement of sophisticated hardware to curb the robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea is evident. Adoption of the Yaounde Code of Conduct The International Maritime Organization (IMO) had been following the illicit maritime activities in the GoG for years. However, the intervention began when Benin President, Thomas Boni Yayi, pleaded with the United Nations (UN) for assistance to combat transnational crimes in the region. ECOWAS, ECCAS, and GGC member-states adopted The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions 2018 and 2039 to strengthen domestic and international laws to address safety and security threats at sea. Consequent to adopting UNSC resolutions, member states convened in the Gulf of Guinea in March 2013. They drafted a regional strategy that attracted twenty-five countries from the Gulf of Guinea at the Cotonou Conference for the June 24 and 25, 2013 summit in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Here, they drafted a document known as the Yaounde Code of Conduct to repress the following: Illicit Maritime Activity in West and Central Africa.Armed Robbery against Ships.Piracy. Progress in the implementation of the Yaounde Code of Conduct Despite the economic fragility of the coastal states who are Signatories to the Yaounde Code of Conduct, its adoption has progressed. The EU is actively committed to funding capacity development needed to improve maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. It uses the European Development Fund (EDF) and Instrument contributing to Security and Peace (IcSP) to facilitate programs and projects focused on training, capacity building, information sharing, and legal framework. Yaounde Architecture for Maritime Safety and Security (YAMS) leaders confirm that the YAMS system meant to improve information sharing, coordinate action, and strengthen laws is functioning. However, the CRESMAO center has not moved to its headquarters and is yet to be staffed. The spirit of international cooperation and building best practices remains evident in the GOG-MCF/SHADE. Nigeria and ICC Yaoundé intend to form a framework that focuses on bringing together regional and international stakeholders to focus on armed robbery and counter-piracy. The Way Forward for Yaounde Code of Conduct Unfortunately, the Yaounde Code of Conduct architecture, YAMS, is intricate and requires significant effort and commitment from GoG countries to make it a reality. Countries must coordinate their information-sharing systems within different operation zones to effectively eradicate illicit activities in the Gulf of Guinea. [...]
June 20, 2022Miscellaneous / NewsThe shipping industry is the backbone of the global economy, carrying over 80% of all trade. Although, as an industry, it is more carbon efficient than road or air shipping, shipping is still responsible for a considerable amount of greenhouse gas emissions. If added to the list of nations by emissions, shipping would be the world’s sixth-biggest polluter. Furthermore, the Third IMO GHG Study of 2014 predicted that this could rise by 250% by 2050 if no changes are made. So, what is causing this pollution from shipping, and what can be done to address it and provide more sustainable vessels? Sources of Pollution from Shipping There are several ways in which shipping produces pollutants, so we’ll break them down here into a few categories. Red Codee Alarm and Climate Change In his reference to the 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “it is clear to all who want to listen that the planet is facing a climate crisis.” He elaborated that this is “a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening and the evidence is irrefutable”. By extension, the climate crisis creates an ocean crisis, directly increasing the risks for marine biodiversity. Sulfur Dioxide Most ships are powered by heavy fuel oil, the most polluting form of fuel oil. According to Peter Boyd, chief operating officer of Carbon War Room, “One ship emits the equivalent of 50m cars’ worth of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions, and just 15 ships emit the equivalent SO2 emissions of every car in the world.” Sulfur dioxide is a cause of respiratory illness in humans and causes acid rain, which kills trees and leaches vital minerals from the soil. Carbon Dioxide A vast amount of CO2 is produced by burning fuel oil for shipping. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and a significant contributor to the ongoing climate crisis. The annual CO2 emissions from shipping are currently estimated to be around 940 million tons, at least 2.5% of total global CO2 emissions. Fuel Sillage We may occasionally hear of major oil spills from tankers, which have individually devastating environmental impacts. However, there are also thousands of minor spills annually, and not just from fuel tankers. Some occur in ports during the fuelling process or when loading tankers; other incidents occur during collisions or when ships become beached. These seemingly minor incidents are cumulative, leading to a great deal of environmental damage and harm to marine life. Making Shipping More Sustainable The shipping industry as a whole is aware of sustainability issues, and there are initiatives in place now seeking to address them. For example, the International Maritime Organization has set a target to cut CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050. Another factor that had been hampering efforts to reduce the impact of shipping on climate change was that most nations don’t include international shipping on the carbon budget. However, this too is beginning to change, and the UK became the first country to have CO2 from international shipping in its CO2 budget in 2021. In addition, many innovative solutions for sustainable vessels are also being planned by independent businesses. Cleaner Fuels Cleaner distillate fuels are a way to reduce the sulfur dioxide emissions from shipping. However, these fuels are at least $300 per tonne more expensive than the fuels currently used, so this would have a dramatic financial impact on shipping companies that make the switch. So it would seem that, without international cooperation regulating fuel usage, this option is unlikely to be taken up at present. Fuel-use reduction would seem to be a more workable option in the short to medium term. Biocide-Free Paint Most ships have reduced fuel efficiency due to a build-up of marine organisms on the hull. This can be improved by a coat of paint that inhibits the growth of these organisms, an option that is beginning to be taken seriously. For example, AIDA Cruises’ 38,531gt cruise vessel, AIDAcara, received an application of this paint in 2019 when drydocked in Marseilles, France. The paint manufacturer, Nippon Paint Europe, estimates that it can reduce fuel consumption by up to 10%, providing more sustainable vessels. Conclusions The climate crisis is being taken more seriously than ever, and the shipping industry is working hard to produce ever more sustainable vessels. However, there is still a lot of work to be done, and we can expect to see an increasing number of innovative solutions in the coming years. [...]
June 13, 2022Miscellaneous / NewsMaritime transport is commonly presented as the cleanest mode of transport. However, the reality is less obvious. In order to boost the ecological transition of this sector, the IMO has set binding targets. A revolution is therefore underway to have cleaner modes of propulsion. A necessary ecological transition It is true that maritime transport is much more efficient in terms of CO2 emissions than road transport. However, its environmental footprint is much larger if we look at the sulphur and nitrogen oxide emissions induced by the consumption of heavy fuel oil. The IMO has taken the measure of the on-going ecological transition. It has therefore committed to reducing the total volume of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions from shipping. The goal is to reach half of 2008 GHG emissions level by 2050. To comply with these new standards, ship-owners have no choice but to make investments. There areseveral options: turning to low-sulfur marine fuel oil: cheaper than conventional heavy fuel oil, its carbon footprint remains high;installing smoke scrubbers: such devices are capable of capturing up to 90% of sulfur emissions;change to alternative propulsion modes. The need for investment During the life of a vessel, shipowners are faced with regulatory changes and the variability of energy costs. Therefore, spending on research and development for alternative propulsion systems must be considered as an investment. The maritime transport sector underwent a first change with the multiplication of electrically propelled ships, known as “all-electric ships“. It is true that electric propulsion is more efficient than conventional propulsion. However, the gains obtained are low compared to the IMO objectives. Other technologies, currently in service or under development, can generate fuel-consumption reductions, meaning GHG emissions reductions: sailing propulsion: several carriers have opted for hyper-efficient cargo sailing ships, some of them are able to carry several hundred TEU;wind energy is also used via towing kites, or Flettner rotors, using the Magnus effect to supplement the propulsion of ships, thus reducing the load on propulsion engines and therefore their consumption;wind energy combined with solar energy. The EnergySail technology developed by Eco Marine Power, for example, uses rigid sails equipped with solar panels;wave energy: installed at the back of the ship, an articulated hydrofoil is driven by the waves. The movement generates useful energy for the ship, which leads to a reduction in fuel consumption (such technology has been developed by Blue Fins and Ifremer). Towards a revolution The use of other fuels, as substitutes to heavy fuel oil, is another option for the future: The combustion of liquefied natural gas reduces SOx emissions by 100%, NOx by 80% and CO2 by 20% compared to heavy fuel oil. Although the conversion of ships from heavy fuel oil to LNG has been mastered, it still involves a fossil fuel that doesn’t eliminate most of the GHGs;Several challenges still need to be overcome to use hydrogen. First of all, for the same amount of energy, liquid hydrogen takes up to four times more volume than heavy fuel oil. However, this difficulty is partially offset by the increased efficiency of hydrogen fuel cells, compared to diesel engines, and by the smaller size of the propulsion system. The current power of hydrogen fuel cells only allows them to be used on small ships. Finally, and most importantly, this type of propulsion only makes sense environmentally if it uses “green hydrogen“, the production cost of which is absolutely not competitive today. Although it offers great promise in terms of GHG emissions, the hydrogen sector is not mature yet. However, while the OECD estimates that international freight volumes will increase more than fourfold between now and 2050, it now seems to be the most credible solution for achieving the objectives set by the IMO. [...]
June 1, 2022Interview / NewsThe Operation Irini started two years ago with the goal of contributing to re establish stability in Libya. This exclusive interview of the French Rear Admiral Jean de Muizon, Deputy Operation Commander since December 2021, allows us to understand all the aspects and insights of the European Union Naval mission. Rear Admiral De Muizon, Deputy Operation Commander. Admiral, first of all, may you introduce yourself, explaining your position in Operation IRINI chain of command? I am Rear Admiral Jean de Muizon, my background includes several years as a pilot and squadron commanding officer on the aircraft carriers, commanding officer of a French frigate, numerous tours in multinational operations and several assignments at the French Joint Operational Command. Since December 2021, I am the Deputy Operation Commander (DCOM) and the French Senior national representative (SNR) for operation EUNAVFOR MED IRINI at the EU Operational Head Quarters based in Rome. My primary duty is to work closely with the Operation Commander and the Command Group on the shaping and the conduct of the Operation at the strategic level. This would include inter alia: Strategic engagement with the Member States, the EU political and diplomatic level and other key stakeholders, in order to understand their level of expectations or restrictions regarding the strategic and operational objectives and determine the possible courses of action for the Operation accordingly,Strategic assessment of both the political and security environment as well as the effects we are achieving in the Area of Operation and in the field of perception, in order to permanently adjust the conduct of the Operation, and propose to the political level options for possible mandate review if required,Engagement with Key Leaders from the various stakeholders involved in the Operation’s environment, such as the shipping industry, Non-Governmental Organizations and UN bodies, for shared awareness and understanding. Being his deputy, I also assume the OPCDR’s responsibilities for the daily conduct of the Operation when he is not available. Finally, as the French SNR, my primary role is both to explain and promote the French positions regarding the Operation and the EU Policy, to make sure that the French assets are being used in accordance with our national requirements or restrictions, and to engage with all the other SNR in order to better understand their national views and strategic goals. After two years IRINI has been in effect, what is your assessment of the result of the operation? IRINI started two years ago in order to support the Berlin process, with the goal of contributing to re establish stability in Libya and pave the way for diplomatic and political solutions. Its core task is to enforce the arms embargo off the coasts of Libya, while secondary tasks include the monitoring of oil trafficking, the contribution to the disruption of the human smuggling business model and the building of a Libyan Coast-Guard capacity. Despite the challenging context of the covid-19 pandemic, IRINI managed to reach its full operational capability in September 2020 with its first boarding and ship diversion. As of today, IRINI has conducted 22 inspections at sea based on UN resolutions, has hailed more than 6 700 vessels sailing in its area of operation, has recommended 64 in-port inspections of ships by Member States, has documented over 850 suspicious flights and has conducted more than 300 friendly approaches onboard merchant vessels. Beyond having ensured an active presence in the Central Mediterranean, therefore building an extensive maritime situational awareness, the operation has made every effort to implement a credible and balanced maritime interdiction posture off the Libyan coasts. This permanent stance is assessed as having had a significant deterrent effect on arms trafficking towards Libya through maritime routes as, according to UN reports, maritime violations of the embargo have drastically reduced since 2020. Moreover, thanks to the extensive information gathered in our 36 classified Special Reports, IRINI has provided the EU and the UN with substantial elements on those actors who do not comply with the UN arms embargo or conduct other illegal activities and therefore continue to fuel instability in Libya. Based on these reports, in 2020, the EU took two batches of sanctions against some non EU maritime companies. I also would like to highlight that IRINI’s contribution must be put in the broader context of the EU’s integrated approach for peace and stability in Libya which includes other EU or non EU missions and organizations. In this perspective, and as stated by Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, IRINI, being the only military actor to implement the UN arms embargo, has been a crucial tool for allowing the EU diplomacy to accompany the cease-fire agreement and to contribute to setting the conditions for a possible permanent solution to the Libyan crisis. However, today, state and non-state actors still continue to have a negative impact on the security situation. That is why we must remain extremely focused on countering illicit trafficking, which fuels instability and prevents the political dialogue to effectively progress. What are the next challenges for the Operation? The immediate challenge for the operation is to continue to implement the arms embargo with an impartial stance, despite the degradation of the political situation in Libya, which now faces the simultaneous existence of two different governments, and more broadly, the changing regional security architecture resulting from the war in Ukraine. As always the operation is focused on maintaining a credible and balanced maritime interdiction posture with the assets provided by the Member States. The next challenge is to renew the commitment of the international community for the implementation of the arms embargo. This directly links with the upcoming renewal of the UNSC resolution on which IRINI’s mandate is based. The resolution’s vote is to take place on June 2nd, and we may not totally exclude some form of obstruction by Russia considering the nature of its current relationship with the EU. Another main challenge is to keep developing our network of partners and to further engage with the relevant stakeholders of the region. In particular, we are looking forward to resume our cooperation with NATO, with which we share the same goal of stability in Europe’s neighborhood. One other crucial aspect that has not been achieved yet is to resume our cooperation with Libyan authorities, in order to implement our comprehensive capacity building and training plan to the benefit of the Libyan Coast Guards. Unfortunately, the currently fragmented political situation in Libya does not allow such actions at the moment. Finally, based on EU standing procedures, together with the relevant EU bodies in Brussels, we will be conducting a Strategic Review by the end of this year. This will be an occasion to reassess the political and security environment as well as the effects we have been achieving, and to possibly propose new tasks for IRINI’s mandate. To what extent the IRINI Operation contributes to the stability and security in the Mediterranean Basin? IRINI’s goal is to contribute to stabilization efforts in Libya through a European integrated approach intended to support the Berlin process. Therefore, IRINI works with EU and non-EU partners to favor the return of proper state governance in Libya. But the stakes are even bigger because stabilizing this country will have many broader positive consequences for the Mediterranean Basin, but also for Africa. Besides, the Operation has developed strong relationships with the international maritime community that now perceives IRINI as a reliable maritime security provider in the central Mediterranean area. As a very concrete illustration, IRINI has conducted more than 300 friendly approaches onboard merchant vessels in order to raise awareness, share best practices, and exchange about the issues mariners encounter in the area. Finally, the continuous presence of EU naval and aerial assets in the central Mediterranean allows maintaining a daily situational awareness, shared with other regional actors, which is very helpful to better understand what is happening on the Southern flank of Europe. Would you say IRINI helps to build the future European Defence? IRINI is the most important CSDP operation with direct implications for Europeans’ awareness of security issues in the Mediterranean. In total, it gathers more than 700 militaries from 24 Member states who work together on a daily basis, towards a common goal. This multinational environment allows European militaries to develop a better understanding on how to operate together, on our own, and how to improve it. Therefore, it contributes every day to build a more credible European Defense. Put simply, through EUNAVFOR MED IRINI we can read the clear ambition of European Member States to take concrete actions for the defense of European security and interests in the direct vicinity of the “old continent”. As a French admiral, could you explain us what is the contribution of France in IRINI Operation and more generally in CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy)? As one of the main military player in Europe, France is engaged in many operations in support of national or common security. However it is also very determined to play a central role in CSDP operations. This is clearly demonstrated by the French contribution to this operation. From the first day of IRINI, France has contributed with both naval and aerial assets, as well as Navy officers at the Operational HQ in Rome and onboard the Italian or Greek Flag Ship with the Force HQ. In the area of operation, French contribution is reflected by the deployment of corvettes such as the Commandant Blaison, currently operating in direct support since April 25th. France also contributes with different types of aircrafts on an ad hoc basis in order to complement the other Member-states’ contributions, and provides associated support with naval and air assets conducting other operations in the area. As a whole, the French Navy brings very well trained crews and boarding teams that can be quickly integrated in the EU Task Force 464 and it is the third contributor to IRINI after Italy and Greece, the two framework nations. France also contributes decisively to other CSDP operations, holding several top positions, such as Deputy Commander of operation ATALANTA, promotes other ad hoc EU Maritime security initiatives in the Gulf of Guinea and the Indian Ocean within the framework of the EU Coordinated Maritime Presence, and contributes to many EU training missions around the world. There is a clear message here: France strongly supports Europeans’ ambitions to ensure our collective defense. Last question, what were the consequences of the Ukrainian crisis on Operation IRINI? Since March 2022, IRINI has carried out a continuous assessment of the strategic situation in Ukraine and its consequences in the Mediterranean, in order to better foresee how this volatile environment could develop and affect the conduct of the Operation as well as the security of the assets provided to us by the Member States. The outbreak of the war in Ukraine immediately resulted in a higher concentration of NATO and Russian warships in the Mediterranean area, sometimes sailing close or even within the borders of our area of operation. Our main initial challenge here has been to find a posture where we could continue to execute the embargo mission and other tasks without creating any misunderstanding or putting our assets in some unwanted confrontational situation. A range of strategic options have been planned and discussed with the EU political level in order to be prepared to anticipate and react to whatever posture Russia may develop towards our EU units. Other strategic side effects that could lead to adjust our mandate have also been addressed. The Ukraine crisis may have second and third order consequences with the development of traffics of all kinds, as well as increasing food insecurity and economic fragility in North Africa and the Middle East. Those factors could further destabilize Libya, which is known to be an historical platform for various traffics, and could encourage more people to migrate towards Europe. This final assessment highlights once again the key importance of the central Mediterranean for European security and the crucial need for the Europeans to address this challenge at the proper level. [...]
May 25, 2022Miscellaneous / NewsPlastic pollution in the Arctic coast. Since the COP26 climate change summit held in November 2021, the media focus has increasingly been on climate change and environmental degradation. However, one largely ignored aspect is that particular areas are more affected than others. One of these areas is the Arctic region. Effects of Climate Change on the Arctic As the planet warms, melting snow and ice makes the Arctic region darker, meaning that it absorbs more solar radiation. Because of this, the Arctic region is warming at three times the global average rate. This, combined with the loss of permanent ice, has significant implications for animal and plant life in the region. For example, polar bears are an endangered species that rely on seals as their primary prey, who in turn rely on floating sea ice to raise their young. With the loss of their main prey, starving polar bears roam further south and come into conflict with humans. Climate change is the biggest threat to biodiversity in the Arctic. However, other factors related to human activity have a significant effect, plastic pollution being one of the most damaging. Sources of Plastic Pollution in the Arctic With the lack of significant human habitation in the Arctic, you would expect relatively low levels of plastic pollution. However, plastic pollution is widely reported across the entire region. One reason for this is that, although the Arctic contains just 1% of the global ocean volume, it receives over 10% of global river discharge. Ocean currents also play their part, bringing flows of plastic pollution from across North America and Europe. There are also significant local sources of plastic pollution. For example, large amounts of plastic in the Arctic come from discarded fishing equipment. As well as this, there is significant cruise tourism leading to large quantities of bottles, plastic bags, containers and fabrics being found around Arctic coastal areas. Effects of Plastic Pollution on Wildlife The most visible effects of the buildup of plastic across the Arctic region are on the larger wildlife. For example, abandoned nets entangle marine mammals and fish; they have even been observed causing distress to reindeer when washed up on the coast. These larger pieces of plastic debris can also pose a risk to shipping, becoming tangled in propellers or clogging engine intakes. However, the problems don’t end there. The plastics degrade into smaller particles that animals of every size then ingest. As a result, fulmars, cod and belugas have all been found with high levels of plastics in their digestive tracts. In addition, pieces of plastic can act as floating rafts for invasive species. For example, non-native barnacles have been found on plastic debris in the Norwegian coastal town of Svalbard. As the plastics break down further, they persist within the food web. As well as harming wildlife, this can cause human health issues. For example, certain plastics have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, hormonal issues and fertility problems. Reducing the Impact of Arctic Plastic Pollution If left unchecked, the impacts of Arctic plastic pollution will have a considerable effect. For example, around 2.5 million tonnes of fish are caught in this region annually. The loss of this would have an incalculable impact on global food security. Fortunately, efforts are underway globally to reduce plastic pollution. As well as recycling initiatives, many nations are passing legislation to eliminate single-use plastics like drinking straws, carrier bags and plastic cutlery. Some efforts are also being undertaken to reduce plastic packaging for food. For example, most major fast-food retailers now package their products in paper and cardboard. However, a tremendous amount of plastic is already out there in the ocean, and measures are needed to clean this up. Non-profit organizations such as The Ocean Cleanup are working on methods to intercept plastic in rivers before it enters the ocean. They also plan to break up the floating “garbage islands” that have appeared on several oceans. Their slightly ambitious goal is to remove 90% of the plastic from the world’s oceans. Both reduction and cleanup are strategies that we will need in the years ahead to keep the Arctic, and indeed all of the world’s oceans, clear of plastic pollution. But, as yet, efforts in either direction seem to be inadequate to the scale of the problem. If we are to avoid catastrophic impacts, these efforts need to be scaled up dramatically. [...]
May 16, 2022Miscellaneous / NewsAfrica’s blue economy Climate change, overfishing, and exhaustive ocean practices in several economic sectors threaten marine biodiversity. Africa’s Blue Economy: The Red Code Alarm explains Africa’s blue economy strategy and its actions to secure a sustainable future for Africa’s seas. Africa’s blue economy can be a crucial contributor to the regional and global economy and has the potential to grow further. However, the sector faces several challenges in achieving sustainable growth. This article provides an overview of the blue economy and its key drivers, some of the challenges it is facing, and suggestions for new sustainable strategies that could be implemented to improve the development of this sector. A Contextual Summary of the African Maritime Environment Coastal and marine resources are central to providing food, energy, and jobs to millions of people; however, Africa’s maritime industry faces many challenges, including climate change and illegal fishing practices. Climate change affects the availability of marine resources and makes it harder for vessels to navigate. At the same time, illegal fishing has caused the depletion of many stocks and the degradation of critical marine habitats. These problems are putting Africa’s maritime industry at risk, and there’s a need for concerted actions to address them. Red Code Alarm and Climate Change In his reference to the 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “it is clear to all who want to listen that the planet is facing a climate crisis.” He elaborated that this is “a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening and the evidence is irrefutable”. By extension, the climate crisis creates an ocean crisis, directly increasing the risks for marine biodiversity. The Consequences of Illegal Fishing Practices There are many harmful consequences of illegal fishing practices, including depletion of fish stocks, loss of habitat, pollution, and the displacement of marine life. Illegal fishing also contributes to global warming, as fishing vessels generate large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Africa’s Blue Economy Strategy Explained In the African context, the Blue Economy includes oceans, seas, coasts, lakes, rivers, and subsurface water. It encompasses both aquatic and marine spaces. Fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, transportation, shipbuilding, energy, bioprospecting underwater mining, and other related operations are just a few of the sectors that it supports. The key obstacles that a Blue Economy strategy might help overcome include increasing knowledge and raising awareness of climate change, environmental stewardship, and promoting environment-friendly business practices. What Does the Blue Economy Hope To Achieve? The Blue Economy provides an opportunity for strengthened partnerships that can assist coastal communities to become an inclusive part of economic development. It can lead to the expansion of progress and peace and foster a climate of prosperity across the African continent. What Can We Expect From Africa’s Blue Economy ? Cultural and other societal elements have an impact on our lived experience of the economy. Therefore, the successful transition to a blue economy for Africa, could imply the following actions: Agenda setting, awareness, and sensitizationCoordination in formulating the Blue Economy policyBuilding national ownership of the Blue Economy policy formulation processSector identification and prioritizationDesigning the Blue Economy policyPolicy ImplementationMonitoring and Evaluation Africa’s maritime industry faces several challenges that have a direct bearing on its ability to thrive and grow. From the effects of climate change to the rampant illegal fishing practices, there is always something standing in the way of progress. However, through collective efforts and concerted action, Africa’s maritime industry can overcome these challenges and usher in a new era of prosperity for all. [...]
May 13, 2022News / Weapons TraffickingAs of May 2022, Operation IRINI (or EUNAVFOR MED IRINI) has been in effect in the Mediterranean Sea for just over two years, having been initiated on March 31st, 2020. The operation has attracted international criticism, and nations around the Mediterranean Sea are divided over whether it should continue. But what is Operation IRINI? What are its aims? And are they achievable? Background In 2011, the Arab Spring spread across the Middle East, inspiring revolutions in many Arab-majority nations, and Libya was no exception. Diverse factions arose to oppose Muammar Gaddafi’s authoritarian rule, and the first of two bloody civil wars began. Before long, governments of other nations started supplying weapons to their favored factions, inflaming the situation further. In response, the UN announced an arms embargo still in force today. The First Libyan Civil War ended in the same year, giving way to an uneasy peace. However, tensions remained high, with sporadic fighting continuing until 2014, when the violence escalated and the Second Libyan Civil War was officially declared. As the crisis continued, a refugee crisis began to grow, human trafficking and fuel smuggling became rife, and it was apparent that the arms embargo was having largely no effect. By 2020, the crisis was having a significant impact on the EU, with waves of refugees exploited by human traffickers crossing the Mediterranean Sea. As the war continued with no end in sight, EU leaders met to discuss solutions. On March 31st, 2020, Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the EU Commission, announced a new initiative, known as EUNAVFOR MED IRINI, or Operation IRINI. Operation IRINI’s Aims and Resources Operation IRINI was announced as a “CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy) crisis management operation in the Mediterranean Sea” and given the key goal of enforcing the UN arms embargo with the hope of bringing the long-running conflict to an end. Secondary tasks were to be: Prevention of fuel smuggling Building capacity for the Libyan coast guard and providing training ;Supporting the battle against human trafficking networks. These goals were to be achieved using a combination of naval and aerial military assets from EU nations, including France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland and Portugal, with varying degrees of contribution from each. This would include frigates, submarines, long-range surveillance aircraft, small patrol vessels and light aircraft. Operation IRINI was only one aspect of a more integrated EU approach, including other EU civilian support missions. France : one of the main actors Although seven nations were providing the resources for Operation IRINI, the bulk of the commitment fell to Italy, Greece and France. The current task force includes three frigates, one each from Italy (ITS Grecale), Greece (HS Themistokles) and France (FS Blaison). French MPA regularly provides air support to the operation. The French government has retained a keen interest in Operation IRINI, with two members of the National Defence and Armed Forces Commission of the French Parliament visiting the IRINI Joint Operation Centre in Roma in December 2021. The Rear Admiral Stefano Turchetto in charge of Operation IRINI was quoted at that time as saying that France was the “backbone of the operation, protecting the European interests, providing deterrence and at the same time promoting stability and security in the Mediterranean Basin”. On May 2022, the Commander-in-chief of French Forces in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, Vice Admiral Gilles Boidevezi, visited the Headquarters to share with the Operation Commander their view and perspectives on several topics including Security Challenges and new Maritime Scenarios for the region. France reinforced also its leading position on staff level, holding the position of Deputy Operation Commander (currently Rear Admiral Muizon). Results Since the beginning of operation, EUNAVFOR MED IRINI has monitored more than 800 suspected flights, 25 airports and 16 ports. 280 friendly approaches have been conducted and 22 boarding executed with one ship diversion. Furthermore, 36 special reports to the UN panel of experts on Libya have been provided. Thanks to all his efforts, arms smuggling was clearly slowed down in Libya. Criticism Operation IRINI has not been without its critics by countries sharing different interests and points of view on Libyan conflict. The government of Malta pulled out of the operation in May 2020, complaining that not enough was being done to help with the country’s immigration problem. Russia and Turkey also raised concerns, claiming that the operation was not neutral and was, in fact, supporting factions in Libya seen as friendly to the EU. Conclusion If Operation IRINI seems to be a success in terms of its mission goals, Human trafficking remains a problem in the Mediterranean Sea, although not at its peak levels seen in 2020. It’s probable that the reduction in arms smuggling helped to end the Second Libyan Civil War, although the security environment in the country remains volatile. Unfortunately, the support for the Libyan Coast Guard has been terminated due to hostility from Libyan authorities towards Operation IRINI’s mandate. For now, EUNAVFOR MED IRINI continues its mission of peace in the Mediterranean Sea. [...]
May 4, 2022Miscellaneous / NewsFrance’s EEZ, 10,2 million km² (3,94 million sq mi), is the second largest maritime area in the world after the United States. 97% of the French EEZ is related to its overseas departments and communities, the metropolitan EEZ representing only 370,000 km² (143,000 sq mi.). In order to monitor this immense overseas EEZ, a significant number of patrol vessels is necessary. While the French Navy is technologically credible, it is hindered by a modest number of naval platforms. Maritime Surveillance Currently, the French Navy has four Overseas Support and Assistance Ships (BSAOM), three Antilles-Guyana Patrol Boats (PAG) and six Surveillance Frigates (FS) dedicated to the surveillance of overseas marine territories. It means only 13 vessels are monitoring an area of 9,8 million km² (3,8 million sq mi.), each vessel being responsible for an area the size of Chile. It is true that six Overseas Patrol Vessels (POM) are to be delivered between 2022 and 2025, but by the end of the decade, the six Surveillance Frigates built in the early 1990s will probably be decommissioned. Based on this observation, the recent report by the Senate Delegation for overseas recommends coupling the delivery of the POMs with the commissioning of surface drones to monitor the EEZ. Drones Opportunities The use of drones to complement conventional forces would indeed allow a significant increase in capabilities…but they still need to be developed. The French Defense Industry is in the early stages of surface drones development. During the 2021 Naval Innovation Days, the company Naval Group presented a submarine drone but no autonomous surface system. Surface drones could provide a permanent and in-depth surveillance network. They could be used either as a complement to conventional forces to reinforce an existing surveillance system and possibly create a saturation effect, or as a substitute for conventional forces for DDD (Dull, Dirty, Dangerous) missions. Indeed, this 3D rule illustrates the comparative advantage of the drone compared to a manned system: it will be able to carry out repetitive and tedious tasks over time (dull), in an unpleasant or painful environment (dirty), even hostile (dangerous). The Israelis claim to be the first to have implemented an armed surface drone. Since then, the Americans and Chinese have made progress and caught up. China and USA Moving Forward A US DoD report presented to Congress in February 2022 proposed to develop a fleet made up of one third large ships (aircraft carriers, frigates), one third smaller ships and one third medium/large unmanned surface vehicles (MUSV/LUSV). The MUSVs (Sea Hunter type) would be used mainly to carry sensors (radar, sonar, electronic warfare, etc.) and weapons designed to combat swarms of enemy drones. The LUSVs (Overlord program) would provide additional mass and, in particular, sufficient weapons. They would be used in long-term operations, and specifically focused on high-intensity naval combat. As for China, it seems to be developing mainly small USVs, intended for export (JARI – 12m or Marine Lizard – 15m) and presented at the main arms shows. Some open sources also exposed larger models, which seem to be developed specifically for the PLA Navy. Beijing barely communicates on those. Indeed, China needs increased maritime surveillance capabilities in the “nine-dash line” area, particularly around the disputed islands in the South China Sea. The Future of Maritime Surveillance Finally, if surface drones can be used to reinforce the surveillance network, to combat illegal activities (IUU, smuggling….) on the world’s seas.They could also strengthen the offensive and defensive capabilities of a naval task force: extension of the radar detection range, multi-static anti-submarine warfare, coordinated anti-aircraft network to counter a saturating attack, etc. Although these tools are not fully mature yet, and their lethal effectiveness in armed operations remains to be demonstrated, they have solid assets to reinforce the surveillance of maritime spaces. European countries must rapidly strengthen their R&D in surface drones, in order to maintain their strategic autonomy. [...]
April 27, 2022Illegal Exploitation Of Natural Ressources / NewsSea map South China The territorial claims of the countries bordering the South China Sea have led to a military escalation. In addition to navies strengthening, military bases are being established on various islands in the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos, raising fears of maritime security deterioration in the area. South China Sea, what is happening ? While incidents are multiplying in the South China Sea, involving the increasingly active Chinese fishing fleets, commercial trade vessels, but also military ships and maritime militias patrolling the area, maritime security is at the heart of the international community’s concerns (In 2018, the Vietnam National Border Committee counted 42 fishing incidents with China, involving 44 boats and 280 Chinese fishermen). Maritime security “consists of taking into account navigation-related risks as well as security issues that is ensuring protection against malicious acts aimed at ships”. With Sino-American tensions in the background, the South China Sea is a contested area. Beijing has claimed sovereignty over the “nine-dash line” since 1947, asserting the enclosed space is historical heritage. However, the islands within this zone are also claimed by other countries: Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam for the Spratlys, and only Vietnam for the Paracels. The competing territorial claims over the South China Sea © The Maritime Executive The July 12th 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague (PCA) emphasizes that Beijing has no historical rights in the South China Sea and that “China has violated the sovereign rights of the Philippines in its exclusive economic zone.” Since 2014, Beijing has increased the number of its warships to defend its interests. In 2020, it became the world’s largest military fleet in terms of combat force units. In parallel, China has undertaken the reclamation and militarization of some islets, building airstrips, hangars, logistics hubs, radar stations, anti-aircraft and anti-ship missile batteries in low-lying areas. The old and new Fiery Cross Reef (Spratly Archipelago) as of April 17, 2015. (Photo CSIS AMTI. AFP) Faced with this increasing arsenal in the area, bordering countries remain helpless. They have neither the military capabilities nor the financial means to deal with a direct conflict with Beijing, which is skilfully using its influence to promote its interests. The relationship between China and the ASEAN countries (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is thus tending to be strengthened in economic matters, particularly so that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement (RCEP) can come into force as soon as possible. The “New Silk Roads” are also an opportunity for Beijing to create dependence among the countries receiving Chinese capital and to impose its model in this part of the world. How to preserve the freedom of navigation ? This manoeuvre of intimidation towards the littoral countries is however denounced by the international community. The reclamation and militarization of the islets are considered as an obstacle to the freedom of navigation in this zone. Yet this freedom is a constituent element of the Indo-Pacific strategies of Western nations, which regularly assert their freedom of navigation’s rights in these disputed areas, from the Taiwan Strait in the north to the Spratly archipelago in the south. In February 2021, two U.S. naval air groups patrolled the South China Sea. As for France, it sent a nuclear submarine, accompanied by a logistics ship,to patrol the area, in order to “enhance knowledge and reaffirm that international law is the only rule that applies, regardless of the sea we sail in,” French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly said on Twitter. The Western manoeuvres proved that maritime security has not been breached for the moment, but remains threatened. Indeed, neighbouring countries cannot counter China’s hegemonic expansion by themselves. The regular presence of Western navies seems necessary to avoid a definitive hindrance of the zone by Beijing, as long as the evolution of its legal status allows it.  [...]
April 12, 2022Interview / NewsThe French Navy’s Charles de Gaulle Carrier Strike Group in the eastern mediterranean Back to home port after two months of operation in mediterranean Sea, Rear Admiral Christophe Cluzel, commander of the French Carrier Strike Group, honored us by answering our questions about CLEMENCEAU 22 operation. Rear Admiral Christophe Cluzel, Commander of French Carrier Strike Group Admiral, after two months of CLEMENCEAU 22 operation, what is your assessment of the deployment of the Carrier Strike Group? CLEMENCEAU 22 is a true success. The French carrier strike group (CSG) showed its capabilities to maintain a high level of independent situational awareness, to enhance France’s attachment to freedom of action and to freedom of maritime and air navigation. Besides, we participated in the protection of the European continent while France took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for six months (from January, 1st to June, 30st 2022). The CSG also contributed to fight against Islamic terrorism in the Middle East through its participation to the INHERENT RESOLVE operation. In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the CSG redirected quickly its operational effort by participating actively to the reinforcement of the deterrent and defensive posture of NATO in Eastern Europe. The success of our mission can be illustrated by these key figures: more than 70 combat missions in direct support of INHERENT RESOLVEup to 15 E-2C missions and 50 Rafale Marine missions in direct support of enhanced Vigilance Activities (e-VA) on the eastern flank of NATO’s territoriesup to 16 surveillance missions in the sky of Bosnia- Herzegovina in support of the European mission EUFOR ALTHEAall included, more than 2 300 hours of flight for the Carrier Air Wing embarked on board the nuclear Carrier Charles de Gaulle To what extent the deployment of the CSG contributes to the freedom of navigation in the Mediterranean? This deployment took place in a complex strategic environment with an increasing density of warships in the Mediterranean sea. France aims at securing a permanent naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean sea, as well as maintaining awareness on the respect of the international law on freedom of navigation. Through the deployment of the carrier strike group, France positioned an air-sea force to secure its capabilities of autonomous situational assessment and intervention. Thanks to its robust and reactive defensive posture, we remained ready to respond to any possible attempt of obstruction to freedom of action or to any attack on the territorial integrity of an ally. We strived to avoid both surprise and miscalculation. How were the naval and aeronautical assets articulated to monitor the maritime area? What is the range of your forces? The CSG brings together an international air-sea force, with multi-domain military capabilities thanks to its multiple and modern sensors (at sea, under the sea, in the air, on land, in cyberspace and in electromagnetic fields). It contributes simultaneously to control vast air and sea spaces, to maintain an autonomous situation assessment capability, to project power far and in depth and to enter first into a theatre, even in a contested environment. It’s a truly strategic asset, able to deliver a graduate range of options. The CSG is capable of traveling 550 nautical miles per day, with a freedom of movement guaranteed by its nuclear powering and the global nature of the maritime space itself. TF 473 is an international force: how joint operational actions take shape within the framework of NATO or the EU? As a real lever for cooperation with regional partners, the TF 473 integrates units from various navies of the European Union and NATO: the Greek Eli-class frigate Adrias and the Hellenic frigate Hydra, Greek submarines, the Spanish F100-class destroyer Juan de Borbon and the American Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Ross were integrated into the TF 473 during CLEMENCEAU 22. These naval assets were also joined by a Belgian NH90 helicopter detachment, on board the French destroyer Forbin, and reinforced by American P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. Moreover, during the mission, the CSG has shown its capability to support France’s operational commitments to the European Union through an active participation within European operation such as EUNAVFORMED IRINI. We also contributed to European Union operation EUFOR ALTHEA by leading surveillance missions in the air space of Bosnia-Herzegovina, through the projection of our Rafale Marine. Within NATO, we were engaged in support to the enhanced Vigilance Activities (e-VA) over Romania and Bulgaria to secure and defend the territorial integrity of our Eastern Allies. Truman, Cavour and Charles de Gaulle conducted Joint Operation in Ionian Sea What were the consequences of the Ukrainian crisis on the Carrier Strike Group deployment? Have you observed any change of behavior from Russian units? After we significantly contributed to Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) to enhance the French commitment in the fight against Daesh in the Middle East, we suspended our OIR flights the day Russia launched its military operation against Ukraine. Our mission has been adapted to support NATO alongside our Eastern flank Allies and deter the further intervention of Russian forces. Our aircraft fly over the Romanian or Bulgarian airspaces to support the NATO deterrent and defensive posture and contribute to the Alliance’s situation assessment in the maritime domain, from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Central Mediterranean. The Ukrainian crisis had indirect consequences in the Eastern Mediterranean, with an unusually high level of Russian naval and air assets in the area. In a relatively tiny space, this kind of density increases the risks of misunderstanding or miscalculation, including toward the civilian traffic. It could become a long term issue for global maritime security in the area. [...]
April 11, 2022Miscellaneous / NewsAlthough France has the second biggest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world (3.9 million sq mi), it does not have a Coast Guard to protect it. Like in many other domains, France has instead developed a specific concept to coordinate the action of the many administrations acting in the maritime domain: “l’Action de l’État en Mer”) or “the State Action at Sea” (SAS). What is the State Action at Sea? SAS describes a comprehensive approach of all government-led maritime operations, with the exception of the defense missions. It covers over 45 missions, organized in 10 categories, which address an exhaustive panel of issues: from sovereignty and protection of national interests, to combatting illegal activities, ensuring the safety of people and goods, or protecting the environment. When EEZ were created in 1976, France had to tailor an organization in order to protect French interests at sea. Instead of creating a specific Coast Guard corps, France chose to rely on a unique maritime authority, and the versatility of assets belonging to the different administrations operating at sea. Governance and organization In mainland France, the Maritime Prefects, three Navy vice-admirals, have the delegation of the Prime Minister’s authority for SAS within their respective maritime domain. In the Overseas Territories, a government’s delegate for SAS acts on behalf of the Prime Minister, with the support of the local maritime commander (a Navy officer). The General Secretary for the Sea organizes and coordinates this structure, under the authority of the Prime Minister. He chairs the Director Comity of the Coast Guard Function, which ensures the coordination and sharing of all the maritime assets of the different administrations operating at sea and along the coastline. There are eight of these: the French Navy, including the Maritime Gendarmerie, the Customs, the Maritime Affairs, the Gendarmerie, the Directorate-General of the Overseas, the Border Police and Civilian Protection. What are the missions? One of the main concerns of the French government’s policy for SAS is combatting illegal migration in the Channel, in the Mediterranean and around Mayotte (due to Comorian migrants). It is a complicated task, between law enforcement and safety of life at sea. Additionally, the BREXIT has raised tensions with the UK in the Channel on that matter. Drug enforcement, especially in the West Indies and in the Mediterranean sea, is also an important topic. Although the seizures were massive in the late years, they remain relatively minor compared to the estimated global volume of the traffic. Illegal fishing is another issue withing SAS framework. As an example, Fisheries Protection off the French Guiana faces an endemic illegal activity by Brazilian fishermen, with a high level of violence. Current and future challenges On a larger scale, the pillaging of Argentinian’s and Equatorian’s fishery resources by Chinese fishing armada raises the question of the protection of the vast French EEZ. While only the French Navy is able to operate in the high sea, its current downsizing due to previous budget cuts and delayed renewal programs, rises as a serious concern. AIS tracks around French Polynesia EEZ (red line) Former and current Chiefs of Staff of the French Navy have launched an ambitious program to equip all warships with UAVs in order to increase the capacity of control of maritime assets by ten times. However, these new means are not expected before several years. Moreover, the necessary protection of the maritime environment is likely to collide with increasing industrial activities (offshore wind turbines, mineral exploitation…) in an already engorged space, due to maritime traffic, fishery and military activities. This will challenge the limited number of French assets available for SAS tasks, while tensions keep rising on sovereignty issues and delimitation of disputed maritime areas. Perspectives for the State Action at Sea In a report published in 2019, the French National Court of Audits noted the lack of coordination between the different entities involved in the SAS. After the resignation of Catherine Chabaud, Delegate for the Sea and the Littoral, a Ministry of the Sea was finally created in July 2020. However, without any authority over the other ministries involved in the maritime domain (such as the Economics or Transportation), it is likely to remain an empty shell. In its plan for 2030, the French government underlined the tremendous prospects offered by France’s EEZ, which could increase even more in the coming years with the extension of the Continental shelf. Shall this new positioning of France as a major maritime nation of the 21st century become a reality, massive investments in the SAS, both in action and coordination capacities, will be needed. [...]
April 7, 2022Miscellaneous / NewsUnderwater cables are a major challenge. Cutting off a country’s communications does not seem very difficult considering the various incidents already recorded. But protecting such vital infrastructures is very difficult and costly. Seabed Warfare, this is the kind of threat Western countries will need to deal with in a very near future. Seabed warfare In recent years, many events have fueled the idea that an insidious submarine war could start soon. Indeed, the increase in the number of incidents on submarine infrastructures as well as the presentation of sea-bed-intervention submarines and Underwater Unarmed Vehicles (UUVs) are strong arguments accrediting this thesis. In November 2021 and January 2022, two Norwegian agencies reported incidents on underwater cables. In the first case, a scientific cable was torn off and displaced. The segments have not been fully retrieved yet. In the second case, a communication cable was cut, altering the resilience level of the telecommunication service which it supported. A report by the International Cable Protection Committee states that out of 2,500 events registered between 1959 and 2006, 66% of cable damage was caused by human activity (anchoring and fishing), 13% by natural events and 21% remains of unknown origin (based on data from Tyco Telecommunications (US) Inc.). These different examples highlight the great vulnerability of submarine cables, whether they are used for data transport, power supply or scientific purposes, and the difficulty in establishing responsibilities. Today, roughly 99% of the world’s data traffic travels through submarine cables. The most powerful countries already in the game Moreover, these cables are vulnerable to sabotaging, or spying .The United States created a new means of action during the Spanish-American War of 1898, by cutting several maritime telecommunication cables, isolating Spain from its areas of operation, and thus gaining an important strategic advantage. In the sixties, the United States resumed spying on the submarine cables communications, and it seems that these operations are still going on today. Other major nations are involved in this business: Russia and China’s deep-sea capacities and activities leave little doubt as to their objectives. Whether it is the Russian Losharik submarine or the Chinese HSU-001, these two countries are demonstrating their will to carry out actions in the deep sea, to assert their interests or hinder their rivals. Since 2015 at least, NATO and the United States have shown concern about the activities (potentially cable mapping) carried out by the Russian ship Yandra as well as the Russian submarine fleet. NATO seems to fear that these units could foreshadow destabilizing actions, to undermine the interests of NATO and its partners. However, protecting 1.3 million kilometers of cables represents an unprecedented challenge for nations. To prepare for this future type of action, several Western countries have taken actions. In 2016, the US Navy published an updated version of Undersea Warfare S&T Strategic, detailing scientific and technical objectives to align R&D with the needs in the field. In the United Kingdom, the First Sea Lord announced in his 2020 New Year’s speech that two Ocean Surveillance ships would be built “to help with data collection and protect critical national infrastructure and undersea cables.” In February 2022, the French Minister of Defence presented her country’s Seabed warfare strategy. The French plan is quite interesting, giving insights on the different strategic competitors in the field, the ambitions of Paris as well as a roadmap to achieve these objectives. Though it is long-term global plan, it does not detail the means that will be implemented to prevent and counter acts of sabotage or espionage. In a nutshell, cutting off a country’s communications does not seem very difficult considering the various incidents already recorded. On the other hand, protecting such vital infrastructures as underwater cables is very difficult and costly. In a post-covid context, which has weakened many countries, one may wonder whether the various Western strategies will be funded up to their ambitions. One thing is certain however: to do nothing to protect underwater cables is not an option! [...]