Admiral Fernando Melo Gomes—Portuguese Navy
Like other nations, the global economic downturn is also affecting Portugal, including our navy. Nevertheless, we tend to believe that all growth and development fundamentals are in place, and after the current period of contraction, new perspectives and opportunities will be at hand.
We also believe that the importance of the sea to global economic growth and development will be stronger in the future. The sea not only provides the most economical routes for delivering goods and commodities, it also hides unknown riches that modern technology will reveal and unleash through cost-effective exploitation.
Looking at the waters surrounding Portugal, where 61 percent of our national trade and 53 percent of the European Union's trade flows, there is a growing commercial importance that adds to the timeless strategic value of being at the hinge of three continents. Additionally, national economic activities related to the sea are now responsible for some 11 percent of the gross domestic product, which corresponds to about 12 percent of our employment and 17 percent of taxes. Against this backdrop, we are certain that the potential of the sea around us is far from exhausted and are contributing to enhancing the knowledge of the sea through an oceanographic campaign that will permit the extension of the limits of the continental shelf.
But benefiting from this enormous potential requires that security and safety are guaranteed, using public funds in a cost-effective way. That is the role of the Portuguese Navy.
In accordance with our maritime strategy, our navy performs three broad functions: military defense and foreign-policy support; security, safety and state authority at sea; and economic, scientific, and cultural development. Our responsibilities result in a dual-role navy—with both typical military tasks as well as traditional constabulary duties—in a model that has proved adequate and efficient.
We make the best use of a common structure, personnel, and assets to perform both the blue-water defense-related tasks and the coast guard functions. For that, ships, marines, divers, and maritime authority personnel, including the maritime police, are employed in a wide and diversified range of missions, with a common purpose: making the waters around us secure and safe. This implies maintaining a strong and daily commitment at sea to ensure the basis for development and prosperity ashore.
Despite the current constraints, the political will in recognizing the fundamental role of the Portuguese Navy has supported the need to fulfill the navy's minimum operational requirements, expressed by the acquisition of two frigates, two submarines, and two offshore patrol vessels. New construction to replace aging corvettes and patrol boats is under contract with the national shipbuilding industry, thus leveraging a strategic sector of the country's economy that deals with a wide range of technologies and employs a significant number of workers.
We are indeed witnessing an adverse economic cycle, but the Portuguese Navy is confident in its future as an essential factor to safeguard the nation's maritime interests and will continue to contribute toward enhancing global peace and stability.
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