Ocean shipping matters to Canada. New international markets are becoming increasingly important to our economic future. However, geopolitical risk is a potential threat to Canada’s continued unfettered access to these new markets. As a result ocean shipping matters to Canada. K. Joseph Spears in this September 2014 Canadian Shipping articleexamines some maritime issues that will impact Canada’s export trade opportunities as a result of overseas markets. Spears further expands on this theme in the article“Maritime Matters” in Front Line Defense.

Prime Minister Harper has stated Canada’s economy floats on salt water. Spears asserts that we need to put that salty component into our foreign-policy analysis in this country as we move forward in a very changing geopolitical environment so that Canadian exports have plenty of buoyancy in global ocean waters. Canada needs to raise the debate and ensure that we are well positioned in the future. A prime example of the inter-linkage between defense and trade is our national shipbuilding procurement strategy (NSPS) where the present government has promised to spend $36 billion in new vessel construction. But where is the horizon-scanning discussion around what these naval vessels will be doing 30 years from now? The Canadian Navy has a  policy document entitled Horizon 2050 but it has not been made public.

Other maritime nations discuss and debate the geopolitical implications of naval power and shipping. In Canada, our national naval discussion tends to center around ailing vessels. However, our Navy can play a crucial role to protect our future economic prosperity that is based on trade. Naval issues are central and will become increasingly important to our export development to ensure a safe and secure global commons. In Canada, we need to consider the international implications of the changing geopolitical maritime environment.

Having a uniform regime of law for international shipping that is the governance mandate of the International Maritime Organization (a UN agency) is critical, but requires more than industry working together. Nations need to work together. It is a crucial challenge in the 21st century. Canada needs to play its part in this international process. This is critical to the prosperity of all nations. Spears argues we need to invest in sustained discussion and action on ocean shipping matters of importance to Canada. Canada needs to move forward and be in front of maritime and shipping issues.