June 3, 2010

An International Maritime Safety and Security Exchange is urgently needed to improve efficiency and security through increased domain awareness and expedited information sharing, says retired Admiral Harry G. Ulrich III, former Commander of  U.S. Naval Forces in Europe.

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The brief, "Internationational Maritime Safety and Security Exchange:  A Promising Business Model for Global Maritime Safety and Security," notes that worldwide, ports and waterways remain woefully vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Nearly a decade after 9/11 revolutionized aviation security, the United States is long overdue to apply many of those lessons learned to maritime security.

This issue brief calls for the creation of an innovative, integrated International Maritime Safety and Security Exchange to mitigate existing vulnerabilities in the maritime domain.

The maritime security community is ripe for a rebirth – like aviation after 9/11 – that incorporates an innovative model that harmonizes information gathering and sharing, and provides authorities with the tools to improve their remit.

As trade in the 21st century continues to be shaped by globalization, the maritime domain will become increasingly vulnerable to a wide range of nefarious activities each of which can have cascading and harmful effects far from their sources. Such activities are inconsistent with U.S. national security interests and the broader objectives of peace, prosperity, stability and security. Global maritime security as it exists today lacks structure, governance, resources, common information exchange protocols and standardized rule sets. As in aviation security, proactive maritime security professionals must be able to detect an anomaly – then deliberately intervene.

Maritime Security Studies:

In 2009, the Atlantic Council initiated several efforts aimed at understanding better the national security implications of global maritime security and developing policy-relevant solutions to maritime security challenges. These efforts examined the drivers of maritime insecurity, examined current coalition maritime security operations, shared lessons learned from maritime security actors and identified challenges to and opportunities for international cooperation, with a special emphasis on information sharing and maritime domain awareness. Key events included a conference on "Pirates, Ports, and Partners" co-hosted with the U.S. Naval War College and workshops with senior government officials. One of the key findings from the conference was the recognition of well intentioned yet uncoordinated and therefore ineffective maritime security efforts.

This issue brief is a product of the Council's maritime security initiative, and precedes a related report on security in West Africa providing timely recommendations for U.S. policymakers. This forthcoming report from the Ansari Africa Center and the On-the-Horizon Program examines the implications of terrorism, piracy, illicit trafficking and similar challenges for the safety of cargo, U.S. energy security and platforms in the maritime domain.

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