Law of the Sea–Why not?

Ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty always seemed like a good thing. Both the Commandant and the CNO support it.

I can’t claim to have a full understanding of the treaty, but I have begun to get inklings of why others have reservations about it. As in all things legal, it is subject to interpretation, and the interpretation of others do not necessarily match our own.

In the interest of having a balance view, you might want to spend a few minutes reading what Peter Brookes, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense, has to say about why its not a good idea.

The right of innocent passage seems to be one of the things that is subject to interpretation, and it is not just China and developing countries that see things differently. So do the Canadians. (More here, here, and here.)

Canadian Icebreaker Design Contract Awarded

Tim Colton’s “Maritime Memos” reports STX Canada Marine has been awarded a $9.5M contract to design Canada’s new icebreaker and goes on to make a suggestion:

“Say, Dave, could you please design it so that it meets the US Coast Guard’s requirements as well?  Then maybe Vancouver Shipyards could build four of them, one for you and three for us?  Why is Canada only building one, anyway, when you obviously need at least three?”

Lots of other good stuff there as well including: new Navy AGOR, Congress on harbor maintenance, changes in the Navy’s ship building programs.

Denmark Supports China Permanent Observer Status at Arctic Council

Canadian media reports Denmark has told China that they support China’s application for permanent observer status on the eight member Arctic Council (Canada, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and the United States).

As a great maritime trading nation, China certainly has an interest in the possibility of shortening the shipping route between Europe and Asia, but their interest goes beyond that:

Wright ( University of Calgary history professor David Wright)… points out that Chinese scholars are examining Canada’s claims of historical sovereignty over the Arctic, especially in regard to the Northwest Passage. China, he says, wants the Arctic, with its sea passages, oil and natural gas wealth, minerals and fishing stocks, to be international territory or the ‘shared heritage of humankind.’…Such a view is contrary to Canada’s insistence on its territorial sovereignty of the Arctic islands and the waterways between them.” (emphasis applied)

As noted earlier Canadian and US interest don’t exactly coincide here, with the Canadians claiming sections of the Northwest Passage as internal waters, while the US considers them an international strait. The Canadian position that they have the right to deny passage bears some resemblance to the position China has taken with regard to its EEZ. The Chinese position, claiming “indisputable” sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, while considering the Arctic the “shared heritage of humankind” smacks of the the old saying, “What’s mine is mine; what’s yours is negotiable.”

Canadian Icebreaker, Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship, Shipyard “Rationalization”

As we noted earlier the Canadians are embarking on a major ship building program. A lot is riding on the choice of two shipyards that will be responsible for virtually all the work.

Most interesting for Coast Guard readers is that they will be building a large icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard and six to eight “Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships” which can operate in the North West Passage in the Summer months in addition to serving as conventional offshore patrol vessels based on the Norwegian Coast Guard ship Svalbard (These ships are going to the Navy).  Background here, here, and here.

The selection has been made and the Irving Shipyard in Halifax, NS, will get the contract for 15 combat vessels and the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, worth a total of about C$25B. Seaspan Shipyard, in Vancouver, BC, will build non-combat vessels, valued at approximately C$8B, including those for the Coast Guard as well as oceanographic and fisheries research vessels.

(A note of thanks to Ken White for keeping me up to date on this and providing the illustrations below.)

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Icebreaker Envy

Ryan Erickson has published the Arctic SAR boundaries on the Naval Institute Blog. Looking at this chart got me thinking about ice capable ships. That of course lead to looking for similar information on Antarctica, so this is going to be a survey of What nations are interested in the Polar regions? and What do their ice capable fleets look like?

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