The Imperative of a Maritime Security Policy and Strategy for Romania -analysis Maritime Security Forum
Article published in MSF Study: Romania’s maritime resilience in the era of hybrid threats and the importance of a Maritime Security Strategy
Maritime policy and maritime security strategy play a vital role in securing global interests related to the maritime environment. The world’s oceans and seas are one of the most important environments for economic, commercial and natural resource exploitation activities. This vast water space provides for the international transport of goods and raw materials, the exploitation of energy and mineral resources and provides food for billions of people.
However, maritime policy and maritime security face significant challenges. Piracy, terrorist acts and illegal trafficking in drugs and human beings are just some of the threats facing the maritime environment. Climate change, pollution and overfishing are other major issues affecting the health of marine ecosystems and the stability of coastal communities.
Romania is strategically located on the Black Sea coast, which underlines the importance of protecting and conserving the maritime environment. The impact of armed conflicts on the Black Sea and its valuable natural resources is a crucial issue that needs to be investigated in order to develop an effective approach to maritime security.
For Romania, the Maritime Policy and the Maritime Security Strategy play a crucial role, given the access to the Black Sea and its important seaports. The Black Sea is a vital route for international trade and a source of valuable natural resources. It is therefore essential for Romania to develop an appropriate maritime policy and a well thought-out maritime security strategy to protect and promote national interests related to this maritime environment.
Romania’s maritime policy should focus on promoting the sustainable development of maritime areas, the efficient management of marine resources and the preservation of the unique biodiversity of the Black Sea. The implementation of appropriate fisheries policies, the proper management of marine protected areas and the development of a civilian vessel fleet are also important aspects in ensuring the sustainable use of marine resources, the conservation of ecosystems and an important component of Romania’s economic development.
Romania’s maritime resilience in the era of hybrid threats is a complex but essential challenge for ensuring the country’s security and prosperity. Hybrid threats represent a mix of military and non-military tactics that can be difficult to detect and counter. In this context, the development of a robust maritime policy and the implementation of an appropriate maritime security strategy are essential to strengthen Romania’s resilience in the face of these complex threats.
As hybrid threats continue to evolve, the adaptability and flexibility of maritime policy and maritime security strategy become essential. Constantly monitoring changes in the maritime security environment and adjusting policies and strategies accordingly is essential to successfully respond to changing threats.
To meet these challenges, a coherent and well-designed maritime policy is essential. Policy should focus on developing maritime situational awareness capabilities, promoting regional cooperation, increasing the resilience of maritime infrastructure and ensuring the sustainable use of marine resources. Collaboration with neighbouring states and regional partners is also important to identify and counter common threats in the maritime environment.
In addition to maritime policy, the implementation of a maritime security strategy is a key component in strengthening Romania’s resilience to hybrid threats. The strategy should involve close cooperation between civilian and military agencies, integration of defence and security capabilities, and a comprehensive risk assessment to identify vulnerabilities and develop appropriate response measures.
In conclusion, Romania needs to adopt a holistic and well-coordinated approach to strengthen its maritime resilience in the face of hybrid threats. An effective maritime policy that promotes regional cooperation and maritime infrastructure development, together with a robust maritime security strategy, can help ensure the security and prosperity of Romania’s maritime environment. By working with international partners and regional organisations, Romania can play a key role in promoting maritime security and stability in the Black Sea region, contributing to global security and prosperity.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has generated widespread concern among US allies and partners about security in and around the Black Sea. While the outcome of the conflict in Ukraine remains uncertain, its consequences will have long-term effects on regional security.
In recent years, the Black Sea has become a key area of strategic conflict and regional security. Its importance is due to its strategic position, as well as the natural resources and critical trade routes that transit through it. With the intensification of Russia’s aggressive actions in recent years, concerns about the security of the Black Sea and its surrounding regions have grown and become a major security issue for NATO and its partners.
NATO and its partners in the region have taken security measures to protect vulnerable areas and counter Russia’s aggressive actions. In this regard, the United States has announced a new Black Sea security plan, which includes increasing its military presence in the region and improving the defence capabilities of its partners in the region.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has heightened concerns about the security of the Black Sea and its surrounding regions. In these circumstances, it is important that NATO and its partners continue to take steps to counter Russia’s aggressive actions and strengthen regional security in the long term. In order to develop an effective strategy for the Black Sea region, it is necessary to focus on the maritime aspects of the region. In this regard, US military investment in Romanian ports would be essential, with a particular focus on the port of Constanta, but also on Danube ports such as Galati and Braila.
The Montreux Convention, which regulates access of foreign warships to the Black Sea, imposes a number of restrictions in this respect. However, from a legal point of view, there is a possibility for the US and other NATO states to create a naval military base in Romania which can provide a perfect location in the port of Agigea where there is a terminal quay equipped with facilities belonging to CFR marfa and where the two ferries “Mangalia” and “Eforie” are in storage. With minimal investment this location offers the perfect place for the development of a NATO naval base.
There are at least three solutions to create this base bypassing the restrictions of the Montreux Convention:
The first can most easily be achieved by unblocking the procurement of ships for the Romanian Naval Forces and giving EU priority to building them simultaneously in several shipyards, thus speeding up delivery in a relatively short time.
The second can be achieved by NATO or coalition countries giving at least two frigates or corvettes, three specialised mine countermeasures ships and other Romanian ships under the Romanian flag to enter the Black Sea. The Romanian Naval Forces can ensure with minimum adaptation their operation and use by having crews operating fully interoperable ships of this class in the NATO system. By operating these ships under NATO command there will be no problems in forming even mixed crews.
Another possibility could be the transit of suitable military vessels of small tonnage on the Danube. The minimum depths recorded all along the Danube up to Romania are max 2.5 m and vary depending on the season, the most favourable being spring when such values are not reached.
In this regard, NATO and the US could consider developing a force, comprising fast and efficient missile vessels, specifically designed to counter large Russian platforms in the Black Sea that could pose a threat to NATO ships and interests in the region.
In addition, this approach would provide a solution to the restrictions imposed by the Montreux Convention, which limits the access of foreign warships to the Black Sea and Turkey’s position vis-à-vis Russia. Instead of focusing on large warships, which could be restricted by the convention, the US and NATO states could use smaller, more maneuverable ships with considerable firepower.
We are currently in a period of increasing instability, globally, caused by a mixture of Cold War reminiscences, the emergence of revisionist threats and a competition of moral, political and religious value systems. Against the backdrop of this general instability in the Black Sea region we now have an open conflict where we identify, concentrated, all aspects of global instability, but also the terrain where NATO and the EU can be put to the test. And in this context the evolving geopolitical situation in this region may have consequences beyond this area, affecting the security interests of democratic states.
The situation in Ukraine is becoming increasingly complex, and a mutually agreed solution seems increasingly distant. This calls for NATO to react as quickly as possible to identify a new strategy for the Eastern flank and especially for the Black Sea region, to strengthen its presence in the region and to take preventive action to deter credibly. The militarisation of Crimea since 2014 has allowed Russia to increase its influence in the region, but also in the Eastern Mediterranean. NATO and the EU must therefore both address the unrest in the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, but also start to actively engage in other regions to counter Russia and China’s desire to impose their own vision. Because beyond strategic considerations and spheres of influence, what is at stake in the Black Sea, in the context of the war in Ukraine, is a battle for values. Russia is basically trying to impose at regional and global level the questioning of democratic values, the rule of law and human rights.
Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and Russia’s war against Ukraine, which can be seen as an aggression against the entire democratic community and the rules-based international order, has led the Alliance to assess how it is able to fulfil its core mission – collective defence – to ensure its credibility. Action has been initiated to strengthen NATO’s presence on the Eastern flank as a fair, defensive and proportionate response to Russia’s use of military force or information warfare against its neighbours. The war in Ukraine is also a justification, if one were needed, for initiating moves to develop a new NATO strategy for the region.
The Black Sea region will continue to be a long-term priority for the Russian Federation and it will work to strengthen its military capabilities, but also to strengthen its authoritarian position using information warfare. As dialogue with Russia will be increasingly reduced, the role of NATO and EU member states in the region becomes more important and they must act in a coordinated manner to highlight the strategic importance of the Black Sea region. They must also act to prevent the escalation of conflicts in the region and to strengthen the common deterrent posture. The need to ensure a permanent NATO military, naval and air presence must also be promoted, with the aim of ensuring a balance of forces in the region.
A NATO Black Sea security strategy will need to take into account the provisions of the Montreux Convention on the Regime of the Straits, which while regulating passage through the Straits, also contains aspects of the security concerns of the countries bordering the Black Sea. At present the Russian Federation controls access for military, NATO and other non-Black Sea littoral countries, using Turkey, which apparently exercises access control in the common interest of the littoral countries.
But Romania, Ukraine, Georgia and even Bulgaria are interested in achieving a balance of forces in the region, in ensuring a stable security environment in the region, favourable to development, and the limitations generated by the convention prevent these desires from being achieved.
Another important regional issue is the protracted, frozen conflicts in the Black Sea basin, which require a realistic assessment of their nature and purpose in order to identify the appropriate political, diplomatic and economic instruments to defuse their explosive potential and facilitate an eventual resolution. And a reassessment of the security threats on NATO’s Southern and Eastern flanks is needed, making a clear distinction between military and non-military challenges.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea signed in Montego Bay in 1982 continues to codify and regulate concepts such as the delimitation of maritime spaces between neighbouring states; the rights of coastal states over the exclusive economic zone, the exploitation of the international zone of submarine territories, the fight against pollution, scientific research; the creation of two new international bodies: the International Seabed Authority and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
New conventions relating to the marine environment were adopted in the 2000s, including one on anti-fouling systems (AFS 2001) , another on ballast water management to prevent the invasion of alien species (BWM 2004) and another on ship recycling (Hong Kong International), the Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (2009). In the 2000s, States also focused on maritime security, with the entry into force in July 2004 of a new comprehensive security regime for international transport, including the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, which became mandatory under the amendments to SOLAS adopted in 2002.
In 2005, the IMO adopted amendments to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts (US) against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, 1988, and its related Protocol (the 2005 US Protocols), which, inter alia, introduce the right for a State Party seeking to board a ship flying the flag of another State Party when the requesting Party has reasonable grounds to suspect that the ship or a person on board the ship is, has been or is about to be involved in the commission of an offence under the Convention.
The IMO Member State Audit Scheme, which became mandatory under a number of key IMO instruments on 1 January 2016, will increasingly play a key role in supporting effective implementation by providing an audited Member State with a comprehensive and objective assessment of how effectively it administers and manages and implements those mandatory IMO instruments that are covered by the Scheme .
These efforts are to be joined by the new Convention on the Conservation and Sustainable Development of Marine Biological Diversity in Areas beyond National Jurisdiction. In this way, humanity’s common heritage stands a good chance of being protected and secured, with the Convention being the arm that has the noble role of saving it from danger. When will it be signed? How will it be implemented? Will its noble purpose overcome the blockages of financial interests? These are questions to be answered by future legal doctrine and practice.
In a geopolitical sense, it can be said that the problems of what we now call maritime security have been the subject of study and policy-making since the beginning of European overseas expansion in the 15th century. The defining aspect of maritime security at that time was the assumption of state responsibility for ensuring maritime security in the distant seas. In the 15th-16th centuries the world’s seas and oceans were dominated by Portugal and Spain, who tried, ultimately unsuccessfully, to establish a centralised, state-controlled maritime security regime based on the mare clausum principle. There then followed a period between the 17th and 19th centuries in which the maintenance of global maritime security shifted from the responsibility of the state to that of powerful private actors, especially the large European trading companies. In this sense, shipowners became largely responsible for the security of their own ships in accordance with the mare liberum principle. From the end of the 19th century until the 1990s there was an era of maritime power, during which the developed European and US navies imposed a fairly effective global maritime security regime that ensured freedom of navigation and safe conditions for trade in the world’s most important maritime areas. In the post-Cold War era that followed, although it seemed that responsibility for maritime security would shift back to shipowners and private companies, with the state weakening its efforts in this regard, the growing importance of traditional maritime security issues due to the rise of China and the Russian-Ukrainian conflict may lead to a reversal of this. This is in fact the era in which security issues of the maritime environment are grouped under the concept of maritime security and maritime security studies are emerging which outline this field of study and research as a field in its own right.
Thus, what for the 20th century was rather recognised as maritime power, becomes in the 21st century maritime security, a concept that is gaining more and more interest and popularity. International maritime security studies are today a growing field of analysis. The need for clear maritime policies by various military and civilian authorities, as well as the interests of commercial actors, including those in the shipping industry, have increasingly highlighted the usefulness of maritime security studies. However, in order to provide a better understanding of contemporary global maritime security challenges, experts in this field should develop an independent research agenda that responds to the requirements of all maritime stakeholders. In this way, maritime security studies can produce the knowledge needed to design the right maritime security regime for the 21st century.
Defining maritime security from a Romanian perspective is a major challenge for the agencies involved in this process, and requires involvement even at national level.
The process of defining maritime security should start with the definition of Romania’s national interests in the maritime domain and the analysis of the risks and threats to these interests, as have other countries and organisations that have developed and adopted the concept.
Of the three perspectives for approaching the concept of maritime security presented above, the matrix approach could be used to define and explain the Romanian concept, depending on our specificities, and from the others we could select elements to adapt to the specific situation of the maritime environment of interest to Romania and “It is very important not to forget that security is the need that arises at the intersection of interests, on the one hand, and dangers and risks, on the other. The answer to this need is security”.
Analysing the most recent national maritime security strategies, from 2013/2014 to 2022, drawn up by countries with considerable maritime power such as the USA, the Russian Federation, the UK, France, but also those with a significant maritime power such as Spain and Poland, it is clear that they are based primarily on their own national maritime interests, take into account the risks and threats to these interests from state and non-state actors and natural disasters/disasters, international and domestic legislation related to maritime governance and safety, national and individual security, specific or maritime-related economic activities, etc. It is clear that maritime security is part of national security and requires specific maritime policies, appropriate legislation and complex structures under national leadership and coordination, comprising representatives, forces and assets from all areas that can contribute to maritime security and safety in maritime (and river) areas of national interest.
When consolidating the concept, we must also take into account the recent geopolitical developments in the (wider) Black Sea area and the lessons learned from the Russian-Ukrainian war, which have particular consequences for the approach to maritime security and the ways of fighting at sea.
The identification of an appropriate Romanian draft concept can provide the Maritime Security Forum with a solid starting point in its efforts to achieve the aims and objectives set when it was established.
For Romania: “Maritime security, as part of national security, is a coordinated set of organisational and practical measures that ensure a favourable internal and international political situation/situation, which allows the assertion, promotion and, if necessary, the defence of Romania’s maritime interests in relations with other state and non-state actors involved and/or active in the maritime domain and the protection of these interests against any risks and threats”.
Romania needs a maritime policy and a maritime strategy to maximise the economic and environmental benefits of the country’s maritime areas and to effectively manage aquatic and coastal resources, the economic, social and environmental benefits of maritime activities and to protect national interests in maritime areas.
A well-developed maritime policy and strategy could help develop maritime industries, improve regional cooperation and effectively manage marine resources.
The current situation calls for the development of a maritime policy and maritime strategy, tailored to national specificities, integrated into Romania’s national policies and strategies, which can become a country project on the basis of a broad consultation of the economic, social and governmental environment.
Until now we had a saying: “Romania’s best neighbour is the Black Sea”. But the time has come to understand that even the Black Sea is no longer a good neighbour, with the militarisation of Crimea, the illegal, unprovoked and brutal invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the dramatic change in the strategic balance in this area.
The countries with a coastline have a duty, in their foreign policy actions, to promote their interests regarding the Planetary Ocean and to develop their defence capabilities in the maritime field, and in the case of Romania also in the river field, given that the economic development of that country may depend on this area. From this perspective, Romania is obliged to exercise its role as a regional maritime power. This obligation must be supported doctrinally by the “National Defence Strategy”. In the current circumstances, Romania cannot shirk its regional responsibilities to promote and ensure a climate of stability and security in the Black Sea region.
The war unleashed by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, the modern geostrategic realities represented by the Eastern flank of the Alliance, which includes the Black Sea region, the political, economic and cultural links with the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Southern Caucasus, all make the Black Sea part of an arc of instability that is and must be a concern for the countries of the region, NATO and the EU. Thus, the Black Sea region, which has traditionally been treated as a less important area, takes on a new strategic significance.
In this geopolitical context, Romania can represent a centre for the coagulation of regional interests, a vector for stability, democracy and the promotion of Euro-Atlantic values in the region. For these reasons, our country, by openly and clearly defining and promoting its own interests in the maritime and river environment, can become a vector of Euro-Atlantic interests in the region, at a time when it is increasingly clear that the interests of the Alliance and Europe are also Romania’s interests.
The implementation and protection of Romania’s national interests in the maritime and inland waterway sector are ensured by state institutions with responsibilities in this field, local public authorities, state-owned or privately owned companies and civil society institutions. Russia’s aggressive actions and the outbreak of war against Ukraine demonstrate that the role of the power factor in international relations has not diminished, and Romania must be able to respond adequately to aggressive actions and protect its national interests in the maritime and river sector by developing its maritime and river power.
On the other hand, the modern era is characterised by the increasing intensity of the development of human activity in the maritime environment, and here we refer to the Planetary Ocean, including the expansion of scientific research and economic activities for the use of its resources. In the long term, the importance of the maritime environment will steadily increase due to the depletion of natural resources on land and the need to identify new sources for exploiting resources vital to economic development.
Developing maritime and river activities, maritime potential and strengthening defence capabilities in this area is one of the decisive conditions for ensuring sustainable social development and economic growth in Romania.
The transformation of the Romanian naval flag into a global competitor requires sustained and coordinated efforts from the authorities and the maritime industry. Investments in fleet modernisation, port infrastructure development, innovation and technology stimulation, service quality improvement and promotion of the Romanian flag at international level are just some of the essential directions to achieve this goal. With a strategic and focused approach, Romania has the potential to strengthen its position in the global maritime industry and to become an important and competitive player in international shipping.
The importance of a maritime bank in Romania is obvious, given the potential of the maritime sector and its strategic role in the economy. Such a specialised financial institution would support investments in the maritime fleet, the development of port infrastructure, the facilitation of international trade, the promotion of innovation and job creation. Through this maritime bank, Romania would have the opportunity to strengthen its position in the global maritime industry, contributing to the sustainable growth and development of the country’s economy.
Transforming Romanian ports into competitive port centres requires a long-term commitment and a strategic approach. Modernisation of port infrastructure, simplification of administrative procedures, adoption of innovative technologies, promotion of partnerships, development of adjacent services and focus on sustainability are key to attracting companies and trade flows to Romanian ports. Through these efforts, Romanian ports can become important logistics hubs and contribute significantly to the country’s economic development, thus strengthening Romania’s position on the international maritime trade scene.
The revival of shipbuilding in Romania represents a valuable opportunity for the country’s economic development. By creating jobs, stimulating exports, developing an industrial cluster and value chain, transferring technology and diversifying the local economy, this sector could bring significant benefits and strengthen Romania’s position in the global maritime industry. With adequate investment, government support and collaboration between the public and private sectors, the revival of shipbuilding can become a driving force for the sustainable development and prosperity of the country.
Maritime spatial planning is essential for the sustainable management of marine resources and human activities in maritime areas. Through conservation of marine biodiversity, sustainable use of resources, protection of the marine environment, sustainable economic development.
Digitised port management is the future of the port industry and has a significant impact on the efficiency, safety, sustainability and competitiveness of ports. Through the use of digital technologies and the implementation of smart solutions, resource management, informed decision-making and collaboration between all stakeholders can be optimised. This ensures the sustainable development of ports and contributes to the economic growth of port regions. It is essential that port authorities and the maritime industry invest in the digitisation of port management in order to reap all the benefits and opportunities offered by this digital transformation.
The importance of professional seafarers in the maritime industry cannot be underestimated. They are the heart and soul of this industry, ensuring not only the transport of cargo, but also safety, environmental protection and global connectivity. Without these brave and dedicated people, we would not be able to benefit from the resources and goods that travel the seas every day.
Romania’s representation in international organisations such as the European Union, the International Maritime Organisation and the Organisation of Ships and Boats is essential to protect and promote our maritime interests, to contribute to the development and improvement of our industry and to strengthen Romania’s prestige and influence internationally. It is an ongoing effort and a responsibility we have to our country and to the global maritime community.
A well-developed and implemented Maritime Strategy is an essential tool for Romania in promoting sustainable development and exploiting its maritime potential. Through an integrated and coordinated approach to the different aspects of the maritime sector, Romania can ensure economic development, job creation, protection of the marine environment and strengthening of its international position. Broad collaboration between government authorities, the maritime industry, academia and other stakeholders is needed to successfully develop and implement such a strategy in order to contribute to Romania’s prosperous and sustainable future as a maritime nation.
The revision of maritime legislation in Romania is essential to ensure the sustainable development and competitiveness of the maritime and port sector. It involves updating the legal framework, promoting sustainable development, facilitating trade and economic relations, ensuring safety of navigation and compliance with international standards. Through these measures, Romania can strengthen its position in the maritime field and contribute to the sustainable development of the sector for the benefit of itself and the global maritime community.
The development and maintenance of a strategic maritime fleet composed of military as well as civilian vessels is a necessity for Romania in ensuring security and protecting its interests in the maritime environment. A strategic maritime fleet would strengthen Romania’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, contribute to regional security and enhance Romania’s prestige and influence internationally. With adequate investment in infrastructure, technology and personnel, Romania could develop a strong maritime fleet capable of meeting the challenges and opportunities of the maritime environment.
In conclusion, Romania needs a Maritime Policy and a Maritime Security Strategy, and the development of a Black Sea strategy is essential for the littoral states, NATO, the promotion of American interests in the region and the strengthening of the US position in Eurasia. This strategic document should provide a clear direction for military, economic and political action in cooperation with regional allies, thereby helping to ensure stability and securit