EnergyScapes: Managing ENERGY TRANSITION Global Environmental Recovery

Strategic Challenges in Maritime Security and Oceans Governance for Australia and the Wider Indo-Pacific

Australia is already a main supplier of extensive LNG reserves to nations such as South Korea and Japan that do not have their own gas reserves. Policy makers need to foster and maintain such relationships for exporting energy reserves and leveraging off these relationships for other opportunities. With such developments as a significant LNG export hub at Gladstone and previous developments, Australia is a safe place to invest large sums of money long term in energy production. The strategic challenges in maritime security and oceans governance present a prime opportunity to leverage resource access into the future.

“Australia’s regional strategic situation is heavily influenced by the national energy security plan of Japan, South Korea and China”. Only China has extensive unconventional gas reserves. Japan and South Korea were attracted to Australia nearly 10 years ago because of the method of oceans governance and ability to acquire gas fields, with Inpex acquiring the Icthys field off Western Australia. Acquiring gas fields is part of the Japanese 100 year national energy security plan and South Korea is following this model.

For countries that lack their own gas reserves it creates a perception of a coming energy shortage. Strategic challenges of South Korea and Japan are that they have no hydrocarbon reserves of their own so the perception of an energy shortage prevails. Such a perception ties the three economies together into the future and will result in other spinoffs to be leveraged. Particularly when it comes to defence technology based on resource protection and maritime security. Australia is even making moves to buy a spy drone fleet and looking at the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk.

Japan and South Korea are both constructing naval vessels with good platforms for anti-submarine work in a region rapidly acquiring submarine arms. Japan has 2 small carriers carrying up to 14 helicopters each, and South Korea has 4 small carriers with up to 10 anti-submarine helicopters per ship. To meet strategic challenges Australia is building 2 small carriers supporting up to 24 helicopters in total and has recently committed to a significant submarine program in the coming years to increase maritime security capability. At the same time New Zealand is leveraging off its recent naval vessel acquisitions to create an amphibious capability.

“The new strategic energy structure supports the notion of a more multipolar world”. India lies close to the Persian Gulf and its Navy dominates while China’s nearest source of liquified fuel is also the Persian Gulf. China also has a significant program of naval force projection into the Asia Pacific region. Protection of its interests, investment and access to resources across the tropical Pacific will mean a significantly increased military presence in the region.

Southeast Asia sits between the two nations and is becoming increasingly wealthy, being potential allies of either China or India. Australia lies further away and is able to build relationships with both China and India in economics and military capacities related to meeting the strategic challenges in maritime security and oceans governance. At the same time it can reinforce existing energy export relationships with South Korea and Japan while being a key partner with the US strategic structure in the Pacific. A complex set of relationships now exists that requires careful managing of the strategic challenges it represents by policy makers to avoid being caught up in the perception of a supposed energy scare world.

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Categorised in: Maritime Security, Naval Architecture, Ports and Shipping

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