International Sea Services Adapt to Evolving Maritime Security Environment
By NICK ADDE, Seapower Special Correspondent
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — As what they call the Asian and maritime century emerges, senior officers representing different countries say their jobs are evolving. Military security for these nations remains a key cornerstone mission. But as the oceans take on an increasingly significant role as the avenues of trade, protecting shipping lanes and commercial assets is gaining virtually equal footing with the military mission.
The three flag officers — Commodore Peter Leavy of the Royal Australian Navy, Rear Adm. Dharmendra Wettewa of Sri Lanka and Rear Adm. Piero Pellizzari of the Italian Coast Guard — described how their countries area adapting to this rapidly changing operational environment during an April 9 panel discussion during the 2018 Sea-Air-Space Exposition. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Anthony “Jack” Vogt, the assistant commandant for response, moderated the panel.
“Half the world’s economic output is coming out of Asia,” said Leavy.
As such, Australia is assuming an area of responsibility roughly double the size of its land mass — with a total force of 60,000 soldiers, 14,000 sailors and about 20,000 reservists. Major fleets deploy from Perth on the west coast and Sydney on the east, with smaller bases at Darwin to the north and others positioned elsewhere around the country.
Leavy described how the Australian military shares space in all mission areas, to include patrolling the seas. While its sailors staff the ships and patrol vessels, the Army assumes the role of amphibious assault. There is no Australian equivalent to the Marine Corps. Likewise, Air Force pilots fly the FA-18 Hornets and P-3 Orions, and the Navy also assumes the role akin to that of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Though Sri Lanka is a small country, its strategic location and the increased interaction with trading partners and neighbors in the Indian Ocean has all but mandated that its Navy shift to operational missions and away from its largely ceremonial past, Wettewa said.
We are in a very crucial location, as far as sea routes are concerned,” he said.
Insurgents such as the Sea Tigers, who engaged in a civil war with Sri Lanka in recent years, remain a threat, Wettewa said. As such, the 5,000-sailor Sri Lankan Navy is responsible for security in waters roughly eight times its land mass, which is comparable to that of the state of Virginia.
Pellizzari described “the amount of constant growing tasks and responsibilities as an organization,” which is responsible for protecting 8,000 kilometers [4,300 nautical miles] of coastline — with 11,000 Italian Coast Guard members.
The Italians also work closely with the other 28 member nations of the European Union to ensure the security of the Mediterranean Sea, Pellizzari said.
“Our officers and petty officers … assure the safety, efficiency and security of the ports in our nation,” Pellizzari said, helping foster the “transportation of people and goods.