Government Launches Maritime Security Strategy

The government has announced plans for a new five-year maritime security strategy, which aims to enhance cyber security, reduce pollution, and improve the scope and quality of seabed mapping data. 

A press release from multiple government departments, including Transport and Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, states that the new strategy will build on the UK’s advanced seabed mapping knowledge, in order to identify emerging threats. The aim is to create a ‘free, fair, and open maritime domain.’

Port Technology reports that the government has also established the UK Centre for Seabed Mapping (UK CSM), in order to expand and enhance the current levels of data available. Despite the fact that 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by oceans, much of the seafloor mapping remains rudimentary, relying on estimates rather than accurate charting. 

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said: “Mankind has better maps of the surface of the moon and Mars than of our own ocean. To ensure the UK’s maritime security is based on informed and evidence-based decisions, we must build our knowledge of this dynamic ocean frontier.”

He added: “Our new maritime security strategy paves the way for both government and industry to provide the support needed to tackle new and emerging threats and further cement the UK’s position as a world leader in maritime security.”

In fact, only about one quarter of the world’s sea beds are currently mapped in any kind of detail. Part of this has been because of the scale and complexity of the task, which relies mainly on acoustic data acquisition and sensor technology. Even the parts which are mapped lack much topographical detail, and are approximate at best.

A detailed knowledge of the seafloor terrain is helpful in many ways. It aids the safe navigation and passage of vessels, helps with climate modelling, and is crucial to the development of modern communication methods, which require underwater cables. 

New solutions are developing all the time to improve the techniques of seabed mapping, and the UK government intends to keep ahead of the global progress in this field. 

Tim Edmunds, co-Director of the SafeSeas Network and Professor of International Security at the University of Bristol said:

“The new national strategy for maritime security (NSMS) comes at a critical time for the UK maritime sector. Maritime security is key to delivering the UK’s ambitions in foreign, security and defence policy, as well as for blue economic growth and environmental sustainability.”

“SafeSeas and the University of Bristol were privileged to be part of this effort. We are delighted that our research was able to inform the strategy process. We look forward to engaging with UK maritime security actors and assisting with the strategy implementation process in future.”

The strategy has an integrated approach, to protect ports, borders, and infrastructure. It will tackle breaches of environmental regulations which threaten the marine ecosystem, and aid the safe and smooth transition of international trade and travel.

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