To no one’s surprise MarineLog reports that Davie Shipbuilding, Lauzon, Quebec, Canada’s largest shipyard, has been selected as the third shipyard partner in Canada’s “National Shipbuilding Strategy” and will build six icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard.
The US Naval Institute Proceedings has a post by Commander William Woityra, U.S. Coast Guard
China’s failure to enforce treaties and sanctions and lack of corporate accountability should serve as a warning for the international community when it comes to Chinese participation in international agreements and instruments. Of recent interest is their 2018 signature of the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean. The signatory parties committed to curbing high seas commercial fishing in the Arctic until the ecosystem is better understood, no sooner than 2034. Beijing’s participation in the negotiations, and signing of the fisheries moratorium, helps bolster its long-term narrative of China’s identity as a “near-Arctic state” with a legitimate right to involve itself in decisions about the future of the region.
Lately I have come to suspect that China’s lax attitude toward Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) Fishing is not due to poor enforcement or even corruption, but that it is actually state policy and a part of a strategy to impoverish third world countries dependent on fishing, so that, encouraged by bribery, they will turn to China for loans for poor investment, that will default and ultimately allow the Chinese to take over their assets. Overfishing is perhaps an element in a new form of economic colonialism.
The US Naval Institute Proceedings for Sept has a short article by By Captain Lawson Brigham, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired) advocating development of a deep-water port in Nome, Alaska.
Interest in a deep draft port in northern Alaska has been expressed in Congress, by the Secretary of the Navy, and the Commandant of the Coast Guard. Earlier we talked about the possibility of locating this facility at Port Clarence.
Port Clarence actually seems the larger natural harbor and has some infrastructure, including a runway, left over from when there was a Coast Guard LORAN station there. Nome (terminus for the Iditarod dog sled race) has a much larger population (about 3800 vs 24) and would require less supporting infrastructure development.
Aerial view from the West of Nome, Alaska, in July 2006, by ra64
In any case it seems likely that the ability to control the Bering Strait will become strategically important some time in the future. Both are within 160 miles of the Russian side of the Strait, with Port Clarence being about 50 miles closer.
Until that time, it seems likely that the Coast Guard may establish a seasonal air station.
Full disclosure, Captain Brigham and I attended the same Naval War College class.
Department of State announced ratification of an agreement to prevent unregulated fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean (I am assuming this means in the areas outside the Arctic nations’ EEZ). This may mean, at some point, the CG will be conducting fisheries enforcement in the central Arctic Ocean. The State Department announcement is reproduced below. (Thanks to Bryant’s Maritime Consulting Blog for bringing this to my attention.)
The United States is the fourth party to ratify the Agreement to Prevent Unregulated High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean after Canada, the Russian Federation, and the European Union. The Agreement will enter into force once all ten Signatories ratify.
There are currently no commercial fisheries in the Arctic high seas, with most of the region covered by ice year round. However, with an ever-increasing ice-free area in the summer for an increasingly lengthy portion of the year, parties anticipate that commercial fishing will be possible in the foreseeable future. This Agreement is the first multilateral agreement of its kind to take a legally-binding, precautionary approach to protect an area from commercial fishing before that fishing has even begun.
Signed in Greenland on October 3, 2018, there were ten participants in the negotiation of the Agreement: Canada, the People’s Republic of China, the Kingdom of Denmark (in respect of the Faroe Islands and Greenland), the European Union, Iceland, Japan, the Kingdom of Norway, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America. The Agreement has two principal objectives: the prevention of unregulated fishing in the high seas portion of the central Arctic Ocean and the facilitation of joint scientific research and monitoring.
The US Naval Institute’s August 2019 issue includes a short article, currently available on line, by a Petty Officer David W. Zenkel, USCG. I think he has a point.
The Congressional Research Service his issued a revised “Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (Polar Icebreaker) Program: Background and Issues for Congress” updated 9 August 2019.
It includes a short appendix (Appendix E, pp 63-66) on the issue of a potential new Great Lakes icebreaker. The final paragraph of that appendix states:
“An examination of procurement costs for Mackinaw, the National Science Foundation’s ice-capable research ship Sikuliaq, new oceanographic research ships being procured for NOAA, and OPCs suggests that a new Mackinaw-sized heavy Great Lakes icebreaker built in a U.S. shipyard might have a design and construction cost between $175 million and $300 million, depending on its exact capabilities and the acquisition strategy employed. The design portion of the ship’s cost might be reduced if Mackinaw’s design or the design of some other existing icebreaker were to be used as the parent design. Depending on the capabilities and other work load of the shipyard selected to build the ship, the construction time for a new heavy Great Lakes icebreaker might be less than that of a new heavy polar icebreaker.”
Two officers, one Army and one Air Force, both with experience in Alaska Command, find that the organization of naval support for the Command is problematic and suggest that making CCGD17 the Naval Component Commander is the solution.
In 2014, the subunified Alaskan Command was reassigned from Pacific Command to NorthCom. Alaskan Command owns the joint force activities in the land and air domains over Alaska and the Arctic and coordinates with Naval Forces Northern Command (NavNorth)—based some 4,500 miles from Alaska—for maritime joint operations. The Alaskan Command commander also is responsible to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) for the Alaskan region’s air defense and identification zone (ADIZ), which extends to the North Pole and along the eastern border of Russia. Currently, the maritime warning responsibilities in the Arctic are held at NORAD headquarters in Colorado, and maritime domain awareness responsibilities are retained with the NavNorth Commander in Norfolk, Virginia.
With three different chains of command, none of which own surface vessels around the waters of Alaska, Alaskan Command’s ability to conduct homeland defense is at risk because of a cumbersome command-and-control structure beset with the challenges of distance and limited expertise in operating in the Arctic. There is a more effective command-and-control structure to protect the homeland in the Arctic: establishing the U.S. Coast Guard as the Joint Force Maritime Component Commander of Alaskan Command.
This is recognition of a problem we looked at before, and my conclusion was that Alaska should be reassigned to PACOM. Short of that there is another alternative I will get to below, and they do seem to have a good workable proposal for a Joint Inter-Agency Task Force (North)
There has been almost no cooperation between the Navy and Alaska Command. That may be starting to change. In May the Navy conducted Exercise Northern Edge 2019. The Navy talked about this a relearning how to operate in the Arctic, but as far as I can tell, they never got into the Arctic. Apparently the Carrier Strike Group stayed in the Gulf of Alaska, but at least they did work with the Air Force in Alaska.
Admittedly the US Navy has limited capability in the Arctic.
“…the Navy’s minimal involvement in the region is for good reason: the Navy has limited Arctic capability, apart from submarines and patrol aircraft. Essentially, there are no current requirements levied on the U.S. Navy necessitating an Arctic presence.”
That also might be changing. It is not unlikely that the Navy will return in at least some fashion to Adak as it has in Iceland..
“Last year, the Navy indicated it would like to begin flying submarine-hunting P-8 Poseidon aircraft from Adak Island hundreds of miles off the Alaskan coast in the Aleutian island chain, which would put US aircraft at the westernmost airfield that can handle passenger aircraft in the United States.”
Joint Force Maritime Component Commander
To be the Naval Component Commander you have to be ready for high end conflicts as well as the more routine requirements. Submarines and Maritime Patrol Aircraft are critical assets for success in any major conflict in the Arctic. They are also forces the Coast Guard is not ready to command.
Surely that Maritime Component Commander should be Third Fleet. Additionally, as I noted earlier, It makes no sense to divide the Bering Sea and the Chukchi Sea between 3rd Fleet and 7th Fleet. Third Fleet should assume responsibility for all of PACOM’s Arctic waters including the entire Bering Sea and the Aleutians. (7th Fleet already has more than enough to do in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean.)
Joint Inter-Agency Task Force (North):
Meanwhile it would make sense for the Coast Guard to participate in formation of a Joint Inter-Agency Task Force (North) for the purpose of Disaster Relief/Humanitarian Assistance, response to major SAR cases, and dealing with possible Russian, or even Chinese, Gray Zone operations in the Arctic.