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.”

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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Piracy update–April 15, 2011

The first quarter of 2011 saw record numbers of pirate attacks, 142 of which 97 of the attacks (70%) occurred off the coast of Somalia, up from 35 in the same period last year. Attackers seized 18 vessels worldwide, including three big tankers, and captured 344 crew members. Pirates murdered seven crew members and injured 34 during the quarter.

But there have been some potentially important developments.

For the first time The FBI has indicted one of the men behind the pirates after capturing him in Somalia.  “Mohammad Saaili Shibin, a/k/a “Khalif Ahmed Shibin,” a/k/a “Shibin,” of Somalia, was indicted on March 8, 2011, by a federal grand jury in Norfolk, Va., in association with the alleged pirating of an American yacht, the S/V Quest, and taking hostage four U.S. citizens, who were ultimately killed before their release could be secured. The indictment remained sealed until Shibin made a court appearance on April 13, 2011. Fourteen co-conspirators were indicted the same day and are awaiting a jury trial currently scheduled to begin on Nov. 29, 2011.”

Where to imprison pirates has been problematic for most countries leading to a “catch and release” approach, but the UN is working with elements in Somalia to open three prisons for convicted pirates. One is open now and two more are planned, but the new prison will only accept pirates from Somaliland, the most stable of three regions in Somalia. The second prison is planned for Puntaland, location of the third has not been chosen. The UN Security Council is also looking for ways to set up Somali courts to try those accused of piracy.

Operationally there has also been some good news.

April 2, the Danish Navy command and support ship HDMS Esbern Snare, 6,300 tons (right) stopped aFile:Minelayer Pohjanmaa Suomenlinna 6.JPGnd boarded a Iranian F/V being used as a pirate mother-ship, freeing 18 hostages and taking 15 suspected pirates into custody after a firefight that result in the wounding of three suspected pirates.


The Finnish Navy minelayer and command ship FNS Pohjanmaa, 1,450 tons (left), seized a Dhow that was being used as a pirate mother ship on April 6 and after an investigation, destroyed it on April 9. 18 suspected pirates were detained. Continue reading