NATO and maritime security

Vice Admiral Bruce Clingan and Dr Susanne Wirwille
RUSI Defence Systems
Year published


Building Global Maritime Security through Global Cooperation, Vice Admiral Bruce Clingan and Dr Susanne Wirwille RUSI Defence Systems, February 2010 

The end of the naval era? Maritime power and engagement in the early 21st century, Diego Ruiz Palmer, NATO Review, Edition 2 2010 

Reviewed by Carlo de Hennin, NATO Watch Associate, Geneva, September 2010 

Building Global Maritime Security’ is an article written by people who know what they are talking about. An important conclusion is that global maritime domain awareness (MDA) will not be achieved by developing a single standardized worldwide system, but by the federation of national and regional systems. 

In this respect, the authors correctly advocate interfacing technical means and systems, such as sharing radar pictures to create a regional picture, which many nations, even with formal alliances and coalitions, do not currently do. 

Not all systems are compatible. But researching the possibility of making them compatible, and considering the requirements of compatibility when researching and developing emerging systems such as Maritime Safety and Security Information System/Automatic Identification System (MSSIS/AIS), including the interface of commercial, civilian and military, should be one of NATO’s goals. 

Mr. Ruiz Palmer’s article, ‘The end of the naval era?’, also deserves more attention as it rightly highlights core issues that NATO’s new strategic concept has to address. He correctly assesses that “for the foreseeable future, only the US Navy will be able to provide the backbone of that strategic “over-the-horizon- capability” which is essential to check expanded lawlessness in ungoverned maritime spaces pending the building up of Asian naval capability.  

Pertinent is Mr. Palmer’s reflection on the opportunity that the rise of global maritime partnerships gives “ to explore a more concerted international approach among like-minded nations towards the apportionment of missions on a regional basis, the sharing of tasks and best practices…”  

A key question, however, is whether this concerted approach is reflected in national ship building programmes. It appears not to be at present. NATO, in Mr. Palmer’s words being at its core “a maritime alliance” can be an important actor and enabler of such a concerted approach, both strategically and industrially. A related question is where EU’s maritime security strategy fits or should fit in NATO’s larger maritime security context.