Regional Maritime Security Patrols


Pakistan is gifted with an important location astride the world’s energy highway across Indian Ocean – renowned American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan predicted Indian Ocean to be the place where much of the economic and strategic dynamics of the 21st century will be played out. Currently this region is not just viewed as a body of water or a medium for transporting nearly 65 percent of the world oil and 35 percent of natural gas from gulf but an arena for contemporary geopolitics – an important region that provides the easiest and shortest access to Central Asian States and Western China, and a route via which diverse consumer products are shipped from the east to markets in Europe and beyond.
These compulsions rightly make Indian Ocean the jugular vein of world economy. It is imperative that Indian Ocean region (IOR) remains a safe and secure environment for maritime activities. Besides, non-traditional and asymmetric challenges of maritime terrorism, piracy, narco-trafficking and arms as well as human smuggling continue to manifest in IOR – further complicating the maritime security calculus. These compulsions as well as the ongoing war in Afghanistan and military presence in the Gulf has prompted sustained multinational naval presence in IOR, both independent and as part of coalitions.
Pakistan has over 1000 km long coastline. Our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf have an area, larger than the area of Pakistan’s biggest province – Balochistan. While unhindered shipping and marine activities are extremely important for any country, Pakistan clearly is no exception: ships must continue to move to and from our ports, timely and safely and also navigate in our sea area of responsibility without any security fears. Needless to mention that about 95 percent of our trade and imports of LNG and oil are via the sea route. Regular supply of oil and LNG, machinery and industrial imports and unhindered export of Pakistani products is crucial not only for our economy but indeed our national life. It may be mentioned here that while previously Karachi Port acted as our only major port, Port Qasim has in recent years been gradually catching up and in few instances surpassing Karachi Port in terms of Cargo Tonnage handled. It may also be added that currently Port Qasim houses all the LNG import facilities and infrastructure of Pakistan. Similarly, operationalization of Single Point Mooring (SPM) for the import of POL by M/s BYCO, infrastructure development by M/s China Power Hub Generation Company for handling coal, and development of LNG import terminal by M/s Bahria Foundation are upcoming and key developments in the maritime sector that require to be facilitated and closely guarded. Besides, currently there is much under discussion regarding the CPEC. Few however realize that Pakistan can reap the benefits of CPEC only if its main component – the sea route is secure and Gwadar Port itself is safe and functional.
Geographically, close proximity to the Straits of Hormuz, which is the lifeline of the world’s energy, makes Pakistan’s location extremely important and necessitates fielding a worthwhile capability for ensuring peace and order at sea. In this regard Pakistan Navy has been gradually transforming itself as a potent force; capable of not only defending our maritime interests but also radiating influence in the region and beyond – striving to achieve national foreign policy objectives through regular engagement with friendly countries and foreign navies thus promoting strong ties with our friends through naval diplomacy, contributing to nation-building efforts by ensuring security of LNG terminals, offshore installations, ports and harbours, regulating marine activities like fishing and hydrographic/ offshore surveys, contributing towards uplift of our coastal belt and responding to natural calamities like floods, cyclones and other disasters.
It needs no mention that security dynamics across the globe, specifically across our region continue to evolve. Pakistan Navy, always standing for peace and amity in the region has been effectually responding to these changing dynamics. In order to ensure peace and order at sea, Pakistan Navy had been regularly participating in the multinational coalition, Combined Task Force 150 (CTF 150) as well as multinationals Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151), under the auspices of Combined Maritime Forces (CMF). Senior Pakistan naval officers have commanded the CTF-150 & 151 for ten and eight times since 2004 and 2009, respectively. At present, the eleventh command of CTF 150 is in progress and Pakistan Navy is rigorously maintaining maritime security of the region. Pakistan Navy deployed its front-line warships, along with aircraft, for pursuing objectives set forth by the two task forces for well over a decade and a half.