Department of Defense Outlines Asia-Pacific Maritime Strategy

By MarEx 2015-09-18 16:14:30

The Department of Defense’s (DoD) plan to rebalance the Asia-Pacific region is a strategy that safeguards U.S. interests and military access, builds partner capabilities and preserves stability in that part of the world, the assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs stated earlier this week.

David Shear and Navy Admiral Harry Harris Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Command, outlined to Senate Armed Forces Committee members how the U.S. Maritime Security Strategy for the Asia-Pacific will uphold maritime security in the region.

The strategy reflects U.S. interests and the importance of maritime peace and security in a critical part of the world, Shear said. It is also one part of a larger strategy to protect American interests in “international law, freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peaceful resolution of disputes,” he added..

“As we’ve stated clear to [the] Chinese, ‘These actions are not only unilaterally altering the status quo; they’re also complicating the lowering of tensions and the peaceful resolutions of disputes.’” Shear said.

Strategy Uses 4 Lines of Effort

DoD’s strategy employs four lines of effort to counter such challenges, he said, which would:

— Strengthen military capacity to deter conflict and coercion, and respond decisively;

— Build U.S. allies’ and partners’ maritime capacity for greater interoperability and more integrated operations. And DoD’s new Southeast Maritime Security Initiative, he added, will increase training, exercises, personnel support and maritime domain awareness;

— Leverage defense diplomacy to reduce miscalculations and conflict risk, and promote shared maritime rules of the road; and,

— Strengthen regional security institutions and encourage open regional security architecture. As an example, Shear cited Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s recent announcement to deploy a technical adviser to support the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ maritime security.

“We’ve seen positive momentum in promoting shared rules of the road,” Shear said, adding thanks to committee members for their support of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. “Our efforts would be greatly strengthened by Senate ratification of UNCLOS,” he added.

Asia-Pacific is Vital to Nation

Harris said the Asia-Pacific region’s importance to U.S. security and prosperity cannot be overstated, and he noted that nearly 30 percent of the world’s maritime trade, or more than $5 trillion, transits the South China Sea each year. “This includes $1.2 trillion in shipborne trade bound for the United States,” he said

And while the region has remained free of conflict for decades, “the security environment is changing, potentially placing … stability at risk,” Harris said.

“Rapid economic and military modernization and a growing demand for resources have increased the potential for conflict,” he said. “Peacetime freedom of navigation is under pressure. If not handled properly, territorial and maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas can disrupt stability throughout the region.”

DOD’s maritime strategy “capitalizes on the momentum” of the Asia-Pacific rebalance, Harris told the panel.

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Chilean Earthquake Shuts Down Port

By MarEx 2015-09-18 15:10:52

Operations have been halted at Chile’s Coquimbo Port after a magnitude 8.3 earthquake rippled off the cost of Coquimbo and caused a tsunami on September 16. The quake was the largest to hit the country since 2010. Waves reached heights more than 15 feet in the area surrounding Coquimbo Port.

Chile’s national emergency agency issued an evacuation notice for the country’s coastal regions and more than one million have found refuge in shelters. At least ten people are confirmed dead. Officials say 1,800 people in the city of Illapel are without drinking water.

According to reports, the port’s pier sustained no damage, but its cruise passenger terminals and administrative offices suffered extensive damage. Coquimbo will not resume normal operations until a full damage assessment has been submitted. All port employees have been taken to safety and suffered no injuries.

There were at least 12 recorded aftershocks of magnitude 4.9 or higher in the area surrounding the quake’s epicenter within less than two hours of the initial tremors.

Chile is among the world’s most earthquake-prone countries. The 2010 earthquake registered at an 8.8 and in 1960, Chile suffered the largest-ever recorded quake.

Coquimbo Port handled 770,000 metric tons of cargo last year.

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China Promises Cooperation in South China Sea

By MarEx 2015-09-18 14:52:00

After years of being locked in a bitter dispute with Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam, Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli vowed to step up maritime cooperation with members of the Association of South East Nations (ASEAN) at the 12th annual China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning City, China.

Mr. Gaoli was clear in noting that China’s disputes are with individual countries and not ASEAN.

The Chinese have conducted several reclamation projects, constructed artificial islands as well 16 offshore platforms in the South China Sea. Gaoli also accused countries outside of the region with meddling in the territorial disputes and fueling discontent.

China has been particularly displeased with the U.S., who they claim has militarized the region by conducting military drills with countries like Japan and the Philippines. It remains to be seen if China will actually deescalate regional tensions.

In August, Japan released 14 photos pinpointing 16 offshore platforms located in disputed territories in the South China Sea. China announced that it would cease its reclamation projects shortly after the photos were released. But earlier this week, the U.S. released a report that China had in fact continued dredging in the Spratley archipelago.

On September 16, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that Beijing was conducting necessary construction work to improve conditions on the island.

“The Nansha islands are China’s territory. In this regard, China possesses ample historical and legal basis,” Wang said, using the Chinese name for the Spratly Islands.

On September 15, Japan promised an unnamed amount of warships and a donation of $1.7 billion to Vietnam to strengthen its maritime forces.

While not specifically naming China, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cited stability-threatening, large-scale land reclamation projects and the building of outposts as the primary motivators for the donations.

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Höegh Autoliners Vessel Raided in Kenya

By MarEx 2015-09-18 14:25:33

Kenyan authorities raided a vessel docked in the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa suspected of carrying drugs and firearms.

The vessel’s Norwegian owner and operator, Hoegh Autoliners, said it was cooperating with authorities who were inspecting cargo offloaded at the Indian Ocean hub of Mombasa.

Kenyan soldiers and security personnel cordoned off the entire port for hours before seizing the ship and halting operations at East Africa’s largest port. Mombasa serves as the main gateway for imports and exports in the region.

East Africa is a key export route for Afghan narcotics shipments bound for Europe and maritime forces have been unable to curb the flow of drug transport in the region.

In July, Kenyan police seized about 341 KG of heroin hidden in the diesel tank of a ship the biggest single seizure of drugs ever at the Indian Ocean port.

Heroin is typically transported from Pakistan and Iran to east Africa, known for its porous borders and weak maritime surveillance, and onwards to Europe.

The port of Mombasa primarily handles fuel and consumer goods imports bound for Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

Hoegh Autoliners is part of Leif Hoegh & Co., an international shipping company founded in 1927. Hoegh Autoliners operates pure car/truck carrier (PCTC) vessels.

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Kenyans Close Port Mombasa to Raid Ship

By MarEx 2015-09-18 14:25:33

Kenyan authorities raided a vessel docked in the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa suspected of carrying drugs and firearms.

The vessel’s Norwegian owner and operator, Hoegh Autoliners, said it was cooperating with authorities who were inspecting cargo offloaded at the Indian Ocean hub of Mombasa.

Kenyan soldiers and security personnel cordoned off the entire port for hours before seizing the ship and halting operations at East Africa’s largest port. Mombasa serves as the main gateway for imports and exports in the region.

East Africa is a key export route for Afghan narcotics shipments bound for Europe and maritime forces have been unable to curb the flow of drug transport in the region.

In July, Kenyan police seized about 341 KG of heroin hidden in the diesel tank of a ship the biggest single seizure of drugs ever at the Indian Ocean port.

Heroin is typically transported from Pakistan and Iran to east Africa, known for its porous borders and weak maritime surveillance, and onwards to Europe.

The port of Mombasa primarily handles fuel and consumer goods imports bound for Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

Hoegh Autoliners is part of Leif Hoegh & Co., an international shipping company founded in 1927. Hoegh Autoliners operates pure car/truck carrier (PCTC) vessels.

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Renewable Energy Approved for Carolinas

By MarEx 2015-09-18 14:14:32

The U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) has approved an offshore wind energy leasing project off the North Carolina coast. The approval comes after the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) identified a 480-square mile area in the Atlantic Ocean for constructing wind farms that would pose no significant environmental or socioeconomic threats to the region in its published Environmental Assessment (EA).

The EA specifically identified three Wind Energy Areas off North Carolina totaling approximately 307,590 acres that would be ideal for wind farm development. The release of the EA moves North Carolina one step closer to producing clean energy.

BOEM has announced a public meeting of the North Carolina Task Force, which will take place on October 7 in Wilmington and address BOEM’s proposed approach for an offshore wind auction. Next, the agency will publish a Proposed Sale Notice in the Federal Register, which will include a 60-day public comment period. The successful bidder will have exclusive rights to begin site characterization and assessment.

Harnessing offshore wind energy has been a primary objective for the Obama Administration, and the Atlantic Coast is among the most ideal for development.

The Atlantic seaboard offers a shallow seabed and proximity to the large electricity demand centers of East Coast cities, where energy supplies that do not impair air quality are highly valued. Because unobstructed ocean breezes blow stronger and more consistently than wind over land, they produce electricity that is more efficient, predictable, and valuable.

While there are currently no offshore wind farms in the U.S., DOI has already approved developments off Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland and Virginia.

Click here to read BOEM’s full EA.

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