European Union External Action

Safe and secure seas

30/09/2021 - 07:28

The important role of seafarers and their professionalism and sacrifice, while serving on the world’s merchant fleet, has been brought to the surface during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shipping has continued to transport more than 80% of world trade, including vital medical supplies, food and other basic goods that are critical for the COVID-19 response and recovery. Yet several thousand seafarers face a humanitarian crisis as they have been stranded at sea, unable to get off the ships they operate, with contracts extended by many months.

Irini, Seafarers, Maritime Security, World Maritime Day


The theme for World Maritime Day 2021 is “Seafarers at the core of shipping’s future” and aims to provide the opportunity to focus on seafarers as the people at the heart of shipping, while also delving into specific topics relevant to the role of the seafarer in safety, maritime security, environmental protection and seafarersʹ well-being; and the future of seafaring against a backdrop of increased digitalization and automation.


Why ocean protection matters

Oceans hold a key for present and future economic development and prosperity for all nations. According to the OECD, maritime trade volumes are set to triple by 2050. This entails that open, secure, safe sea lines of communications, along with a rules-based order in oceans, play a key role for security and prosperity at the global level. Therefore, security and good governance of the maritime domain are in everyone's interest.

But oceans are also essential for humankind as climate regulators and a source for nutritious and healthy food. They are home to a rich, fragile, and still largely unexplored biodiversity. Oceans produce half of the oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere and absorb 25% of CO2 emissions. Yet, oceans are under intense pressure from human activities.

The EU has a long-standing interest and leading role in the global ocean. In 2016, the European Commission and the EU's High Representative launched a Joint Communication on International Ocean Governance: an agenda for the future of our oceans. The initiative is an integral part of the EU's response to the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular Sustainable Development Goal 14 'to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources' (SDG14) and contributes to the European Green Deal.

Since 2016, most of the 50 actions included in the Agenda have been delivered. International cooperation was triggered across all continents and under all sectors of the EU ocean governance agenda. Despite the progress in the efforts of the EU and the global community to improve ocean governance, further action is needed. This action should be built on rules-based multilateralism, international cooperation, dialogue and strong partnerships to achieve ocean sustainability.

In the run-up to the next UN Ocean Conference in 2022, the EU plans to review its ocean agenda and further strengthen its role in international ocean governance.


EU maritime security

We all depend on safe, secure and clean seas and oceans. Through maritime security policies, we can maintain the rule of law in areas beyond national jurisdiction and protect the EU strategic maritime interests. These include, among others, our external borders, common natural resources and maritime infrastructures such as ports, offshore platforms and scientific equipment. Also climate change, and our preparedness to face its impact on the marine and coastal environment, is an important maritime security priority.

The EU is a major international and economic actor with strong maritime interests. Three quarters of the EU's external trade is seaborne, and forty three percent of the EU's GDP originates in coastal regions. Maritime security, along with safety and sustainability of the maritime domain, is a full part of the EU policy agenda for the oceans.

On maritime security, the EU has developed a comprehensive policy framework with a dedicated strategy. Its overall aim is to strengthen collaboration between all stakeholders across sectors, civilian as well as military, within and beyond EU borders in order to counter the multiple security threats and challenges that affect the oceans and to enhance rules-based governance at sea.

In the Council conclusions on maritime security of 22 June 2021, the EU reaffirmed its intention to increase its role as a global maritime security provider. The EU regards international cooperation as a fundamental tool for enhancing maritime security and safety at the global level and it will continue to work and expand its cooperation with all interested international partners in this regard.


Maritime Security for Europe and Asia

A huge chunk of global trade, and trade between EU and Asia particularly, is conducted on the seas. Therefore, over the years, maritime cooperation has become a priority of security cooperation. In celebration of World Maritime Day, the Delegation of the European Union to ASEAN shares some facts and figures on Maritime Security for Europe and Asia and also speaks to Mr. Martin Cauchi-Inglott, Team Leader of the EU-supported project CRItical MAritime Routes Indian Ocean II (CriMaRIO II). Learn more as EU-Asia security experts tell us why our oceans need protection.


Seafarers at the core of shipping’s future

This year’s theme also links to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 4 on education and training; SDG 8 related to decent work; SDG 9 on innovation and industry, which links to the promotion of a resilient maritime sector; and SDG 5 on gender equality, linked to efforts to promote seafaring as a career for all, including women, in particular.

As we did on World Women’s Day, we once again take the opportunity to salute EEAS women working in the field of Maritime Security on World Maritime Day!


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