With some 360 seaports in the United States located along 95,000 miles of U.S. coastline, securing the maritime domain against a variety of threats is critical to protecting our national and international interests. As threats within the maritime domain continue to evolve and escalate, the expansion of bi-national agreements, including those between the U.S. and Canada, are proving successful in preventing criminals from carrying out maritime-related crimes while simultaneously strengthening the security of North America.
With 20 percent of all global trade passing through the United States’ extensive maritime transportation system, the U.S. is the world leader in maritime trading. Unfortunately, these same waterways expose both the U.S. and Canada to a wide variety of threats, including “state and non-state actors, narco-smuggling, human traffickers, weapons traffickers, proliferators and foreign intelligence collectors.” Conscious of the severe consequences these threats could have on the U.S. and Canada if left undeterred, the two countries amended the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) agreement in 2006 to add “maritime warning” to its mission. According to Navy Captain Martin Beck, chief of NORAD’s maritime division, “the intent of the agreement was to increase the security of North America using a proven command infrastructure to increase bi-national cooperation in the maritime domain,” which is achieved through an increase in “information and intelligence sharing to give their national leaders a clearer picture of the maritime approaches to their shores, and, in the event of an inbound threat, vital time to act.” The success of the expanded mission requires extensive partnerships with U.S. Northern Command and its sister combatant commands, along with other partners in the U.S. and Canadian militaries, law enforcement, intelligence and commercial maritime communities. Since adopting the expanded mission nearly seven years ago, the biggest challenge has been the “sheer volume of information” they must sort through and then collaborate on and share with their partners. However, “this sharing and collaboration is essential to our success in the maritime domain and in exercising our maritime warning mission” stated Captain Beck.
From the perspective of The Mariner Group, bi-national agreements which aim to further improve maritime domain awareness, including those between the United States and Canada, are critical to preventing and mitigating circumstances that serve to threaten our national and homeland security. With more than $3.8 billion worth of goods moving in and out of U.S. seaports daily and over two billion tons of domestic and import/export cargo traveling through our ports and waterways annually, the real-time exchange of information and ongoing coordination among military and non-military entities will become even more necessary in order to provide a balanced and sustainable approach that ensures the safety, security, and mitigation of the risks of all incoming cargo while enabling the free flow of legal commerce, personnel and vessels.