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Sea Power and the Law of the Sea

Authors: Captain Melissa Bert, USCG, 2011-2012 Military Fellow, U.S.Coast Guard, and Captain Bradley S. Russell, USN, 2011-2012 Military Fellow, U.S. Navy,
July 7, 2012
Top of the World Telegraph


As tensions with Iran build, and the US moves ships to ensure oil flows through the Straits of Hormuz, Americans are reminded this is a maritime Nation reliant on sea power. However, sea power is not only a carrier strike group at war or a fleet of capital ships projecting global power. Today's American sea power includes partner and ally capacity to safeguard territorial seas. Sea power is the ability to maintain open sea lanes of commerce - the life-blood of the world's economy - and the assurance that nations will conduct business in the maritime realm according to accepted rules and practices. Unfortunately, on the most important set of rules governing conduct at sea, captured in the Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC), the US is not a leader. It should be.

The Convention is in the news again. Unfortunately, its detractors frame the debate as a treaty versus American sovereignty. The opposite is true. The LOSC's value is that it unequivocally spells out the rules by which all signatories must adhere. It enhances US sovereignty, because international maritime governance guarantees free trade and economic security.

America wants and needs the rules to be clear, because its economy relies on the sea. Over 2 trillion dollars of goods, 90 percent of what Americans consume, arrives on the water. Marine transportation is the most cost effective and expeditious logistics system in the world. It is also unique - global, massive, and privately run - approximately 112,000 vessels link 6500 ports. The magic behind this unusually effective system is that it is internationally regulated. That is why the LOSC takes on special importance.

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