Maritime Security through a NATO lens
Jul 15, 2012

The theme of the Atlantic Council of Canada’s (ACC) spring conference was “The Search for Maritime Security.” The ACC, a Toronto-based, independent organization, has a mandate to inform Canadians about security and defence issues as they relate to NATO and Canada’s involvement in the Alliance. Its target audience is secondary and post-secondary students and their teachers. The ACC also reaches out to diplomats, the business community, military personnel, government officials and academia.

December 2011 – Commander ­Maritime Forces Pacific, RAdm Nigel Greenwood watches HMCS Vancouver’s approach to the fuelling jetty at Souda Bay, Greece, during NATO Operation Active Endeavour. Although its ­mandate was limited to detection and deterrence of activities related to ­terrorism, the NATO fleet enhanced security and stability in the Mediterranean Sea to the considerable ­benefit of trade and commerce.

In his opening remarks, former Minister of National Defence and current ACC Chair, the Honourable Bill Graham, acknowledged that maritime security may not be topical in Toronto, however, he stressed that maritime security is clearly a national issue considering that most items destined for Canadian shops arrive in a sea container.
Setting the tone for the conference, Graham noted that “many of Canada’s new immigrants come from the Indo-Pacific regions, an area that is experiencing an extraordinary pace of change and that will increasingly impact Canada’s economic growth. To manage and take advantage of these changes, Canada needs to identify more with Pacific countries while building on its European ties. We may need our NATO friends to recognize that Canada is as much a Pacific as an Atlantic country.”
Recognizing the fiscal consequences of such considerations, Graham reminded attendees that during the 2011 security conference in Halifax, Leon Panetta, U.S. Secretary of Defense, cautioned that new budget realities facing the U.S. will cause a reallocation of maritime resources from Europe to Asia. “Canada has to make similar decisions about its strategic defence options,” advised Graham, who also said he was “looking forward to hearing how this new Canadian maritime reality will resonate among the speakers in today’s conference.”
Canada’s Maritime Borders
Opening the conference, Professor Whitney Lackenbauer, an authority on Arctic affairs at the University of Waterloo, ­provided an overview of interests among Arctic coastal states: Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States. He acknowledged that climate change, energy resources, and potential transit routes are the primary drivers of increasing interest in the Arctic Ocean. Lackenbauer challenged the dominant idea that Canada needs heightened military presence in the Arctic to “defend” its legal sovereignty, noting such commitment would strain Canada’s other defence priorities. He is convinced that Canada should focus on capabilities that serve broader security and safety issues.
In terms of Canada’s relationship with the U.S., Lackenbauer emphasized “Canadians need to realize that the Americans are never going to change their public claim to right of way across the North West Passage (NWP) as a strait available for international navigation. To do so would create a precedent that could have global maritime security consequences in places like the Strait of Hormuz. Nevertheless, Canada and the U.S. will manage their piece of the Arctic maritime domain. After all, both countries have a long tradition of balancing Arctic sovereignty and continental issues in an amicable and mutually beneficial way.”
An example of amicable relations was provided by Mike Dawson, Canadian Policy Advisor to North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD). Dawson outlined how NORAD gives the U.S. and Canada the ability to focus on and be aware of a number of threats across a broad variety of domains – with each nation retaining its sovereign authority to take action on the information relayed to them. From its inception in 1940, the NORAD Agreement has undergone several renewals. In May 2006, it was updated to include a maritime warning mission, requiring both countries to share their awareness and understanding of the activities conducted in the U.S. and Canadian maritime approaches, areas and inland waterways.

Noting that today’s global maritime order is based on delicate legal and political balances achieved through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Vice-Admiral (ret’d) Dean McFadden described the Arctic as “a parable for change that is occurring in many places in this maritime century.” He said the Arctic is “being propelled towards the centre of global affairs, as the Arctic coastal states establish claims to the vast energy and mineral reserves that have been already discovered.” McFadden acknowledged that competition for access and control of strategic resources will mount – not only for the five Arctic coastal states, but also for other Arctic and non-Arctic nations, and that, historically, pressure of this magnitude would invariably lead to a significant rise in tensions. He sees the Arctic as the opportunity for peaceful resolution of maritime disputes through commitment to UNCLOS principles serving as a model for other regions where ocean politics are not on so firm a footing. According to McFadden, “lessons being learned in managing Arctic maritime relationships could be applied to the ocean politics of the Indo-Pacific region.”

June 2011 – Under authority of the UN Security Resolutions, HMCS Vancouver, together with Canada’s NATO partners enforced an arms embargo and protected Libyan civilians as part of Operation Unified Protector. Vancouver found two boats adrift off the coast of Libya and deployed a boarding party to get a close look at the suspicious vessels. Vancouver’s presence demonstrated Canada’s willingness and ability to assist by creating a sustained maritime presence in the region and a range of readily deployable capabilities to the Government of Canada. (Photo: Cpl Brandon O’Connell, MARPAC Imaging)

Expanding on these “ocean politics,” Rear Admiral (ret’d) Tyron Pile provided an overview of the security challenges that Canada confronts in its Asia-Pacific theater. From an historic perspective, Pile suggested that Canada’s colonial ties engendered a culture of viewing Asia across the Atlantic because of the ancient trade routes between Europe and the Orient – aptly referred to as the “Far East.” With the economic rise of Asian countries and their building of maritime forces, the U.S. is being challenged in these maritime regions for the first time in decades. These trends place Canada’s navy in the Pacific on the frontline of global security.

Listing security liabilities in the region, Pile cited: declining fish stocks; increasing exploitation of the sea bed; competition for the offshore estate; climate change; increased seaborne traffic; increased ­criminal activity (drug smuggling, human trafficking, piracy, illegal fishing, pollution, terrorism, weapons proliferation); and a dramatic transformation of Asian navies through modernization and acquisition, prompting some to call it an “arms race.” RAdm Pile also acknowledged myriad ­disputes along the Asian Crescent of Instability – from North Korea to South Korea, South Korea to Japan (Dok Do Islands), Japan to China (Senkaku Islands), China-Taiwan, the S. China Sea dispute, and instability in Indonesia and Myanmar, the Strait of Malacca, Philippine and Thailand insurgencies, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India-­Pakistan, and India-China disputes – as cause for serious concern.

Aug 2011 – Petty Officer 2nd Class (PO2) Michael Surette supervises Operations Room personnel during Action Stations aboard HMCS Vancouver. (Photo: Cpl Brandon O'Connell, MARPAC Imaging Services, Esquimalt)

Discussing the speed of change in Asia, Pile compared GDP growth between major economies of the west and Asia from 1990 to 2011, suggesting it highlights a dramatic reversal of fortune. “While Europe continues to teeter on the brink of economic catastrophe and the U.S. struggles to recover from a lingering recession, Asian economies demonstrate remarkable resiliency.” He attributes Canada’s lack of appreciation of the rate of change that occurred over the past three decades to the absence of a national strategy. “China’s strategic patience is to be envied,” he says. “It is calculated to minimize risk and maximize success by ensuring the most favourable conditions exist before acting; whether this amounts to waiting 10 days or 10 years matters not when success or strategic leverage is the objective.”

It is increasingly acknowledged that most of the world’s commerce is moved by ships. Simultaneously, the exploitation of resources increases territorial sea and economic zone claims, while movement of commodities to market under a globalized network of production and delivery becomes more dependent on timely arrival. Explaining how Chinese business people regard maritime security, Pile quoted an executive of a major Chinese shipping company saying “... you know Admiral, we take this (maritime security) very seriously – without security we cannot have stability, and without stability, we cannot have trade.”

In describing the investment in maritime security among Indo-Pacific countries, RAdm Pile quoted some astonishing facts from The Economist: “Singapore, a city-state of 5M people, is now the 5th largest arms importer in the world, accounting for 4 per cent of the world’s total and 24 per cent of its national budget. Singapore represents a wider phenomenon with almost every country in SE Asia doing the same, increasing overall defence spending in 2011 as a region by 13.5 per cent or $24.5B, expected to rise to $40B by 2016. Arms deliveries to Malaysia vaulted 8-fold over 5 years, while Indonesia’s spending grew 84 per cent in the same period. For the first time in modern history, Asia’s military spending will surpass Europe’s. China’s defence spending has doubled every 5 years, while India has just announced a 17 per cent increase this year. Despite some animosity and mistrust between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – 10 member states: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Cambodia; and three 3 regional affiliates: the People’s Republic of China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea – conflict between them is unlikely. Analysts suggest that most countries are taking advantage of economic success to modernize fleets as equipment bought before the Asian financial crisis in the late 90s reaches obsolescence. Unquestionably, China’s aggressive stance in the disputed South China Sea has provoked a surge of spending by Vietnam (6 Kilo-class from Russia) and the Philippines where the defence budget was almost doubled.”

Admiral Pile believes that, like any other nation, China has a right to develop armed forces appropriate to its history, economic stature and regional influence. However, he also noted that “China has shifted from developing purely coastal defence capabilities in 2002 to regional power projection deterrence aimed at keeping America from intervening in a Taiwan crisis. Its intent is to prevent against the influence of USN carrier power projection through accurate land-based weaponry, including ballistic/cruise/anti-ship missiles, nuclear and conventional submarines, long-range radars and surveillance satellites.”

Tactically, Pile sees China’s military objective as a disabling function in which American bases in the Western Pacific are eliminated, forcing USN carrier groups outside the first island chain and creating a Chinese maritime zone from Alaska to Indonesia. He suggests this possible scenario has prompted Japan, South Korea, India and Australia to spend more on defence, notably their navies. More dramatic is America’s defence policy, underlining a switch in U.S. assets towards the Asia-Pacific region; including the stationing of U.S. Marines in Australia and increased presence in the Philippines.

April 2011 – HMCS Charlottetown’s boarding party prepares to board a suspicious vessel during Op Mobile in the Mediterranean Sea. (Photo: Cpl Chris Ringius, Formation Imaging Services, Halifax)

Does this mean that the acquiring of arms and the tender keg appearance of regional political imbroglios will create armed conflict in the region with implications for Canada? “Not necessary so,” Pile says. “Aside from North Korea (6-party talks), the opportunities for real confidence-building between the West (U.S.) and China can be exploited through increasing economic co-dependence and a conscious shift to resolve disputes through international courts; elevating ASEAN’s (plus 3) mandate to include security issues and encouraging greater Asian representation and influence in world bodies such as the IMF and WTO.”

In discussing evolving roles of the Navy and Coast Guard (CCG), Vice-Admiral (ret’d) Peter Cairns, President of the Shipbuilding Association of Canada, began by quoting Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s statement “Surrounded as we are by three oceans, it can truly be said, that Canada and its economy float on salt water (3 May 2012).” Cairns stressed that such a realization demands a navy that can protect sea routes as well as contribute to multi-lateral UN and NATO treaties. In addition, the country needs a rapid response capability to defend Canada’s 12 nautical mile territorial waters as well as its Contingency Zone and the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Cairns said that Canada needs to send a clear message that we are serious about the Asia Pacific community and should consider moving its naval HQ to the Pacific Coast. He also lamented Canada’s submarine capability, noting that all Asian governments are investing in submarine fleets.
Canada’s Global Maritime Security Role
In his keynote address, Rear-Admiral David Gardam, Commander, Maritime Force Atlantic, provided an account of how the RCN contributes to maritime security at home and abroad. He described the fluid complexities of protecting the nation, in which the destination and the threat factors “keep changing.”

He referred to HMCS Charlottetown’s deployment to Libya as an example of how responsive RCN is in meeting its treaty obligations (see FrontLine Defence, Issue 1, 2012). Further illustrating Canada’s global naval reach, Admiral Gardam noted that the Halifax-class frigate was later relieved by HMCS Vancouver from Canada’s Pacific base, Esquimalt, BC, stressing that Canada has one navy and its vessels are deployed as global needs require.

Expanding on the global focus, he outlined how Charlottetown then returned to the Mediterranean theatre in January to relieve Vancouver and was subsequently assigned to Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150), a 25-nation maritime coalition established to monitor, inspect, board, and stop suspect shipping to pursue the “War on Terrorism” in the Horn of Africa, the North Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Through CTF-150, Canadian warships have been engaged in anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia.
Admiral Gardam stressed the importance of Canada being engaged in world affairs. He believes Canada is poised to benefit from the forthcoming “maritime century” but expressed concern that “80% of Canadians see trade as a north-south relationship. The fact is, 42% of our trade also travels by sea.” There is a need for Canadians to overcome what he describes as “Maritime Blindness.” Much more than most people realize, Canada relies on the sea for prosperity. “What concerns me is that Canadians do not fully understand the importance of the oceans and that events under, on, and above the surface of the sea globally can influence our prosperity.”
The Constabulary Role of the Navy
In NATO terms, Maritime Security Operations (MSOs) are seen as the blue water context of Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW). MSO refers to combat sea-based terrorism and other illegal activities, such as drug and human trafficking, hijacking, and piracy. These activities are generally regarded as law enforcement (policing) duties, although ships assigned to these operations may also assist seafaring vessels in distress.
An example of the RCN supporting law enforcement agencies was provided by Cdr James Clarke, Commanding Officer of HMCS St John’s, who gave a dramatic presentation of Canada’s work with Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S) in Caribbean Counter-Trafficking. St. John’s provided surveillance support to help law enforcement authorities locate and interdict possible drug traffickers. Through JIATF-S, working alongside partner nations (France, Spain, the Netherlands, the UK, and the U.S.) St. John’s embarked a United States Coast Guard (USCG) team of experts in maritime law enforcement and counter-narcotic operations. “We made meaningful contributions to this operation, while working with several different nations and their government agencies to keep illicit drugs off North American streets,” said Clarke. During the St. John’s deployment, the U.S. Coast Guard made 38 arrests, and seized a total of 10,902 kg of cocaine and 1144 kg of marijuana, equating to more than US$223 million. Clark explained how St. John’s helped recover a drug cargo from a scuttled self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) vessel in the Caribbean Basin; its blue colour made identification from the air difficult.

June 2012 – Leading Seaman Charles Collier-O’Connell (right) and the boarding party team conduct a small arms proficiency shoot onboard HMCS Charlottetown in the Gulf of Aden while on Operation Artemis. The RCN will participate in maritime security and counter-­terrorism operations in the Arabian Sea region with the multinational coalition task force 150, which operates under Combined Maritime Forces. Photo: Cpl Ronnie Kinnie, Formation Imaging Services, Halifax.

Continuing on the constabulary role, Lieutenant-Commander Susan Long-Poucher, gave a dramatic account of her experiences, having recently returned from NATO Shipping Centre (NSC) in Northwood, UK. She played an audio recording of a cargo ship off the Horn of Africa as it was being boarded by Somali pirates. The drama of hearing the ship’s captain pleading for guidance, and NATO maritime advising evasive action until help arrived, with the eventual silence from the ship under siege, was not lost on those in attendance. She highlighted how Canadian Naval Reservists provide support for NSC, which issues guidance and advice to mariners transiting pirate-infested waters. The provision of timely information, coupled with a ship’s self protection measures, is beginning to reduce the number of ­successful piracy attacks. Following her presentation, the audience discussed various political and legal challenges of prosecuting pirates and the need for further engagement by law enforcement agencies such as INTERPOL.

A review of how military and law enforcement agencies can work together to provide security for international events was provided by Commodore Gilles Couturier. He described how the Canadian Forces, the Royal Canadian Navy, in particular, integrated with RCMP’s ­Integrated Security Unit (ISU) for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Cmdre Couturier described how the RCN, RCMP, other municipal police forces and the USCG were able to identify possible threat scenarios and collaborate to prevent these events from happening or be ready to answer the call if necessary. This inter-agency approach was key to the success of the operation.
Guardians of the Great Lakes
The motto of the U.S. Ninth Coast Guard District is “Guardians of the Great Lakes.” Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, the Ninth District is responsible for all Coast Guard operations throughout the five Great Lakes, the Saint Lawrence Seaway, and parts of the surrounding States, including 6,700 miles of shoreline and 1,500 miles of the international border with Canada. District Commander, Rear-Admiral Michael Parks described how the Ninth District was working to implement the February 2011 “Beyond the Border” declaration by the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of the United States. RAdm Parks also spoke about the ShipRider program that allows enforcement officers from both countries to work together in fighting transnational crime between U.S. and Canada. The purpose of the Program is to ameliorate the challenges in respecting the sovereignty and jurisdiction of each country. Such laws caused problems for U.S. enforcement officers in “hot pursuit” of criminals crossing the border into Canada, similarly RCMP officers were not officially authorized to make arrests in the United States. Under the ShipRider program, specially trained RCMP and USCG personnel cooperate to close an enforcement gap that had been frustrating officers from both countries by allowing criminals to escape prosecution for many years.

February 2012 – NATO ships (front row, from left) FGS Rhienland Pfalz, HNLMS De Ruyter, ITS Espero, FGS RHON, ITS Francesco Mimbelli, HMCS Charlottetown. Back row: USS De Wert, USS Vella Gulf, FS Jean de Vienne, patrol the Mediterranean Sea with Standing NATO Maritime Group 1. (Photo: Cpl Ronnie Kinnie, Formation Imaging Services)

Discussing how the USCG model is governed, Parks referred to the U.S. Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which limits the ­federal government’s use of the military for domestic law enforcement. The U.S. Coast Guard is a military organization but is not bound by the 1878 legislation, allowing it to perform law enforcement and defence duties, on land and sea, at home and abroad. The USCG has flexibility to investigate crime and conduct “hot pursuits” on land and water. Acknowledging the complexities and challenges in law enforcement in coastal communities and shorelines Admiral Parks reiterated the importance of such seamless arrangements.
Rapporteur Colonel (ret’d) Brian MacDonald commended the speakers for providing a comprehensive vision of Canadian maritime security. However, he cautioned the audience about the exponential annual growth rates and costs of military technology. MacDonald stressed that adequate multi-year funding is critical in guaranteeing the ability to meet the security challenges discussed and suggested the Canadian government needs to be ­regularly reminded of this reality.

Canadian Waters
The movement of surface vessels within Canada’s EEZ is overseen by Transportation Canada; what happens below the ­surface is the responsibility of coastal provinces. The federal government’s Interdepartmental Marine Security Working Group (IMSWG), chaired by Transport Canada, is comprised of 17 federal departments and agencies. At the conference, ­several speakers made reference to the Atlantic, Pacific and Great Lakes’ Maritime Security Operation Centres (MSOCs), which report to IMSWG, and provide an operational platform for federal departments to communicate and share information. It is in this context that dialogue occurs between the Navy and RCMP, should the need arise. When required (to protect communities from organized crime that involves Canada’s seaports) this dialogue involves provincial and municipal police authorities through National Port Enforcement Teams (NPETs).
ACC has to be congratulated for facilitating a conference on maritime security in Toronto. The occasion afforded an opportunity for the RCN to show a Toronto audience its role on the world stage. The conference highlighted how nations today are threatened more by transnational crime and political extremists in rogue states than the need to defend sovereignty from attack by another nation. Understanding this new reality of national defence requires an appreciation of the relationship between the navy on patrol and police on the beat.
The conference highlighted the difference between a blue water navy and a law enforcement role for navies. Discussing such matters, McFadden called for a balance among defence, diplomacy and constabulary duties in defining a modern navy. The navy is part of National Defence and therefore must be capable of prevailing in combat with a capacity to conduct decisive actions in maritime war operations. In between combat situations, the navy performs a diplomatic role – supporting and reassuring partners (and deterring potential adversaries) by building regional capacities as well as responding to humanitarian assistance and promoting good will. The oceans are frequently described as ‘commons’ that need to be regulated (policed) to secure Canada’s trade routes against transnational crime, environment degradation, and illegal fishing.
At the opening of the conference Chair Bill Graham stressed the fact that “maritime security is a national issue.” In his oft-quoted “Canada and its economy float on salt water” speech, Mr Harper also described Canada as “a maritime nation.” Regardless of political nuances, the defining of a country’s coastline is an act of nationhood. With the increasing emphasis on defining a country’s maritime domain, “maritime nationhood” will become in­creasingly significant – which means Canada will have to articulate its maritime vision.
Admiral Gardam eloquently discussed the challenges in making Canadians aware that they are part of a maritime nation. Such citizen awareness has to be the first step in achieving a national consciousness of maritime defence of the nation in today’s globalized economy. This kind of public awareness encourages politicians to support the kind of multi-year funding strategy proposed by MacDonald.
As Admiral Pile outlined, Canada’s Pacific fleet is on the front line of global maritime security. For this reason, Canadians from all walks of life need to be more aware of how the Indo-Pacific region is evolving economically, politically and militarily. Following Bill Graham’s comment that NATO needs to see Canada is a Pacific country, perhaps some effort should be made to encourage NATO to assume an Asia-Pacific presence in Vancouver as a means of increasing its profile in the region.
Tim Lynch is a FrontLine maritime security correspondent based in Toronto. Send comments to
© FrontLine Defence 2012