ABU DHABI ‚Äî By 2020, two thirds of oil and gas will arrive in the UK by sea, much of it from here, in the Arabian Gulf. Economic trade in general happens largely over water, meaning the security of the sea imperative and it is down to navies partnerships to keep the floating warehouses safe.
Speaking at the Naval Defence Exhibition, taking place from February 17 to 21 at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre alongside Idex, Vice-Admiral Philip Jones, Fleet Commander and Deputy Chief of Naval Staff of UK‚Äôs Royal Navy, stressed the necessity of global maritime cooperation from a strategic perspective. ‚ÄúIn strategic terms, our countries have a lot in common. We are bound together through politics, history and common interests,‚Äù he said.
Economic trade is one such interest and, according to Jones, maritime trade doubled in the past 20 years and still increasing by 2.5 per cent annually.
As much as 80 per cent of international trade goes by sea, generating ¬£230 billion per year. Yet, 95 per cent of global trade passes through just nine vulnerable maritime chokepoints, some of them here, in the Middle East. Therefore, the UK has a strong interest in keeping good ties with the UAE and the Gulf navies, he said.
The UK Maritime Trade Operations office in Dubai is part of the contribution by the Royal Navy to ensure that trade can safely transit through this area. It acts as the primary point of contact for merchant vessels and liaison with military forces in the region. ‚ÄúWe also have about 1,200 Royal Navy personnel here and we are one of the 27 nations Combined Maritime Forces, based in Bahrain,‚Äù said Jones.
This naval partnership was established to promote security, stability and prosperity across approximately 2.5 million square miles of international waters, which encompass some of the world‚Äôs most important shipping lanes.
‚ÄúPiracy, drug smuggling, human trafficking, kidnapping have wider implications for global security, no longer being regional challenges,‚Äù he pointed out.
Strategic navy partnerships are not easy, but once established they do work.
‚ÄúTwo years ago, there were 20 vessels attacked and over 500 hostages taken in Somali waters, but just before coming to Navdex I checked the figures and the numbers have gone down by over 75 per cent now, so operating in partnerships works,‚Äù Jones concluded.