America's military faces reductions in force and spending that could have a ripple effect. Proceedings asked the leaders of the world's sea services: Some see U.S. global naval engagement diminishing and the world's power structure realigning itself over the coming decade. In what ways would this affect your navy?
Globally, the past few years have been characterized by evolving maritime concerns and threats centered on piracy in the Indian Ocean and its adverse implications for trade, commerce and tourism. Additional threats have emerged as well: gun-running, illegal immigration, and armed robbery, among others. All put seafarers at risk as never before.
The magnitude of the problem of piracy and its impact on the maritime world has also been reflected in the International Maritime Organization’s theme for 2011: “Piracy—Orchestrating the Response.” Diminishing U.S. global naval engagement has transformed the traditional roles of navies the world over, requiring them to counter new threats. From 2008 onward, Seychelles has found itself to be near the eye of the storm of piracy and thus has been required to meet that challenge directly with its small but competent coast guard.
Countries with large navies, such as the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, and India have to a certain extent shifted their maritime strategies with those evolving changes. Similarly, smaller island countries such as Seychelles, Mauritius, and Madagascar have been compelled to reorient their maritime engagements because they are directly affected.
While the U.S. Navy has deployed a task force to counter piracy in the Gulf of Aden, task forces from the EU and naval ships of other countries also have been deployed in the region. This, for some, clearly indicates the magnitude of the problem as well as the fact that the U.S. Navy’s global engagement is diminishing. With such a realigning maritime power structure, it is imperative that Seychelles acts decisively with the support of its partner countries. Toward that end, we have identified key maritime issues, including capacity-building, asset management, and training in partnership with our closest allies.
With the epicenter of the new world order shifting to Asia—in particular toward India and China—the need of the hour for Seychelles is to look to the East, and not the West. The Seychelles Coast Guard, with assistance of its partner navies, has thus strived to tackle emerging maritime threats, in particular piracy. Successful apprehension of pirates on more than two occasions, and continuous safeguarding of our exclusive economic zone, have demonstrated the importance of resolute and effective action. The coming decade will be characterized by mutual cooperation and maritime partnerships based on effective asset- and knowledge-sharing with other navies to counter emerging naval threats.