This week, the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) released a statement to welcome the updated EU Maritime Security Strategy and its Action Plan.
he General Secretary of ECSA, Sotiris Raptis noted that shipping is essential for Europe’s energy security, food security and security of supply. Enhancing Europe’s capabilities in the maritime security domain is key to ensure that global trade lanes remain safe for our ships and their crews, and to address emerging risks such as cyber threats.
He then went on to add that the updated Strategy especially emphasizes the importance of cooperation between regional and international partners in security and maritime domain awareness. The European shipping industry is committed to build on the excellent cooperation with its EU partners to contribute to the objectives of the new Communication and Action Plan.
On March 10th, the European Commission and the High Representative adopted a Joint Communication on an enhanced EU Maritime Security Strategy to ensure a peaceful use of the seas and safeguard the maritime domain against new threats. They have also adopted an updated Action Plan through which the Strategy will be implemented.
The updated Maritime Security Strategy promotes international peace and security, as well as respect for international rules and principles, while ensuring the sustainability of the oceans and the protection of biodiversity. The Strategy will be implemented by the EU and its Member States, in line with their respective competences.
Maritime security is vital to the European Union and its Member States. Together, the EU’s Member States form the largest combined exclusive economic zone in the world. The EU economy depends greatly on a safe and secure ocean. The global maritime domain must be secure to unlock the full potential of the oceans and the sustainable blue economy. The EU intends to reinforce the wide range of tools it has at its disposal to promote maritime security, both civilian and military.
In the face of evolving maritime security threats, the EU’s fundamental interests are:
- The security of the European Union, its Member States, citizens and partners.
- Preserving global peace and stability, and keeping maritime shipping routes free and open.
- Upholding international law, in particular UNCLOS as the overarching legal framework governing all activities in the ocean, and promoting sound international ocean governance, including through regional sea conventions, as well as the implementation of the WTO agreement on fisheries subsidies.
- Protecting natural resources and the marine environment, and managing the impact of climate change and environmental degradation on maritime security.
- Ensuring the resilience and protection of critical maritime infrastructure (onshore and offshore), including by addressing the risks and threats related to climate change, and those that arise from foreign direct investments.
- Strengthening the resilience and protection of logistical hubs, i.e. ports, including addressing risks associated with corruption and illicit activities.
- Protecting economic activities at sea, thereby contributing to a sustainable blue economy (both onshore and offshore).
- Protecting the EU’s external borders, and its internal security, to address the smuggling of migrants, trafficking of human beings, and other illegal activities including unauthorized exploration and drilling activities for hydrocarbons.
- Ensuring the capacity to act promptly and effectively in the maritime domain, and in other operational domains (i.e. land, air, cyber and outer space);
- Ensuring the safety and security of seafarers in line with the requirements of the Maritime Labour Convention and other relevant conventions of the International Labor Organization.
Adapting to new threats
Security threats and challenges have multiplied since the adoption of the EU Maritime Security Strategy in 2014, requiring new and enhanced action. Long-standing illicit activities, such as piracy, armed robbery at sea, smuggling of migrants and trafficking of human beings, arms and narcotics, as well as terrorism remain critical challenges. But new and evolving threats must also be dealt with increasing geopolitical competition, climate change and degradation of the marine environment and hybrid and cyber-attacks.
This is an opportunity to drive forward sustainable solutions to the multiple maritime security issues the EU and the international community face. It is also an opportunity to enhance the EU’s role and credibility in the international arena. Recent geopolitical developments, such as Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, are a forceful reminder that the EU needs to enhance its security and step up its capacity to act not only on its own territory and its own waters, but also in its neighborhood and beyond.
An updated European Maritime Security Strategy (EUMSS)
The EUMSS will be implemented via its Action Plan and in the framework of the Integrated Approach. It will use all available EU civilian and military policies, tools and instruments, and coordinate policies and activities of all relevant players at European, regional and national level, strengthening their synergies and complementarities. It will also promote a more coherent engagement of the EU in external conflicts and crises, to enhance the security of the EU and its citizens.
The Joint Communication and associated Action Plan specify several integrated actions that will deliver on the EU’s interests. To do so, the EU will step up its action under the following objectives:
The updated Strategy and its action plan will contribute to the implementation the EU Strategic Compass for Security and Defence.
The Commission and the High Representative invite the Member States to endorse the Strategy and to implement it for their part. The Commission and the High Representative will issue a progress report within three years after the endorsement of the updated Strategy by the Council of the European Union.
The EU Maritime Security Strategy and its Action Plan are in place since 2014. The Action Plan was last updated in 2018. The proposed update follows up on the Council Conclusions on maritime security of June 2021, which called on the Commission and the High Representative to assess the need for such update.
Drawing upon the lessons learnt from its pilot phase in the Gulf of Guinea, the expansion of the Coordinated Maritime Presences (CMP) concept can create synergies and make sure that assets are deployed flexibly and efficiently to respond to emerging threats. In this context, the shipping industry also welcomes the emphasis placed on addressing digital and hybrid threats as well as on enhancing the resilience of infrastructure and offshore installations.
Since 2014, the EUMSS and its Action Plan have provided a comprehensive framework to deter and respond to security challenges at sea. They have stimulated closer cooperation between civilian and military authorities, in particular through information exchange. The EUMSS has helped promote rules-based governance at sea and to develop international cooperation in the maritime domain. It has strengthened the EU’s autonomy and capacity to respond to maritime security threats and challenges. The EU has become a recognized actor in maritime security, conducting its own naval operations, enhancing maritime domain awareness and cooperating with a wide range of external partners.