Vice Admiral Dean McFadden - Canadian Navy

Many have long observed similar concerns with respect to the handful of choke points defined by maritime geography—the Suez and Panama canals, for example, or the Strait of Hormuz. A number of these choke points are at risk from a range of concerns—from those latent in unresolved jurisdictional disputes, to those posed by actual threats such as piracy, as we're seeing in the Gulf of Aden.

In economic terms, oceanic choke points are a scarce resource. They provide a fixed capacity to bear traffic safely in relation to growing volumes of commerce they must accommodate. The Turkish Strait and Panama Canal are already at or near those limits, and others will become increasingly stressed as shipping resumes the trend of sustained growth we saw before the recession. How will global shipping patterns change when we hit those limits? What will be the impact to shipping patterns when—not if—the Arctic Basin becomes the preferred shipping route between Asia and Europe?

We tend not to think of these issues in defense or security terms, but sea power cannot be extricated from geo-economic realities. It's important that we think about sea power not just as a military instrument of state, but also rather as a component of the global system itself. A regulated ocean—oceans that are free for all to use lawfully—is as fundamental to our way of life as any of the other pillars of the international system.


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