Home to more than a dozen war ships, submarines, training and patrol vessels; 6,000 personnel (4,000 military, 2,000 civilian); and one of the largest enclosed buildings on the West Coast of North America (the 28,000 square-metre Fleet Maintenance Facility), Maritime Forces Pacific and the Esquimalt Naval Base continue to guard Canada’s Pacific maritime approaches, contribute forces to national and overseas operations and provide leadership for Canada’s naval training requirements … all while paying attention to a changing environment, expanded global trade, and the opening of a new maritime frontier (the Arctic). It is within this context that Rear Admiral Art McDonald, Commander of Maritime Forces Pacific and Joint Task Force (Pacific) addressed delegates at the recent Association of Canadian Port Authorities (ACPA) Conference this past September.
The big picture
“Canada is first and foremost a maritime nation,” RAdm McDonald said in his keynote address to ACPA, noting that Canada is the 11th largest exporter and 10th largest importer in the world with more than $200 billion of goods transported by sea each year. “With great enthusiasm, I suggest that this is a new oceanic age. Not since the great era of exploration in the 16th century have oceans played such an important role in global affairs as they do today.” And while the elements of this new oceanic era are continually evolving, driven by a host of interconnected factors, RAdm McDonald highlighted the efforts of “like-minded” nations to ensure the unimpeded flow of maritime commerce.
Photo above: A A CH-124 Sea King helicopter lands on the deck of HMCS Charlottetown in the Atlantic Ocean during Operation REASSURANCE this past summer. (Photo: Cpl J.W.S. Houck, Formation Imaging Services)
RAdm McDonald attributed much of today’s global growth to the meteoric rise of the Chinese economy. “However, uncertainty about the sustainability of China’s growth models, coupled with a new America-first policy in Washington, have led some to question whether the economic downturn experienced in recent years is part of a greater trend or simply a blip on the radar.” He suggested that the latter is true and that the global economic environment will remain vibrant and resilient. “Still, the debate highlights the need for stakeholders in the global maritime economy to be adaptive, innovative and well-connected in order to weather these exigent throes of economic, political and environmental changes — for as we will see, there are and will always be many such hiccups.”
In addition to the traditional geopolitical and geo-economic factors, RAdm McDonald is seeing an increase in operations in new maritime environments — specifically, that of the Arctic. “The vast and remote nature of the north represents a unique challenge,” he said, “and the opening of this marine passage will have a large impact. Already, there is more international interest as we’ve seen in a number of ship passages, including the visit of a Chinese research vessel this past summer.”