Maritime Security Forum Series

Arctic/Asia Pacific Maritime Workshop

Sea Lines of Communication Security in the Asia Pacific and the Arctic


Sea lines of communication (SLOC) describes the primary maritime routes between ports, used for trade, logistics and naval forces. It is generally used in reference
to naval operations to ensure that SLOCs are open, or in times of war, to close them. By virtue of this definition, SLOCs hold strategic importance and geopolitical value to their users. In times of conflict, it is not unusual to find SLOCs blocked by naval powers seeking to deny their enemies of critical seaborne supplies to cripple the latter. When the great American maritime historian and scholar Alfred Thayer Mahan said “whosoever controls the sea, controls the land”, he well might have had SLOC in mind.

The international spotlight is shining on the South China Sea, where SLOCs are of immense strategic importance. Ongoing territorial and maritime disputes in the region reflect the competing interests of the claimant states. It is equally geopolitically significant to nonclaimant states that rely heavily on the SLCOs in the South China Sea. The East China Sea, where Japan and China continue to face off, is an important SLOC for this region as well. The Arctic, with increasing ice melting, is seen as possessing great potential for international shipping in the future.

The first CIUA Arctic/Asia-Pacific Maritime Workshop was held in September 2011 at the University of Alberta, with the theme of “Canada, US and China Relations in Maritime Security: The Arctic and the South China Sea-Sharpened Competition or Collaboration?” An edited book titled “Maritime Security Issues in the South China Sea and the Arctic: Sharpened Competition or Collaboration?” was published in 2012 based on the conference proceeding. The proposed 2nd Arctic/Asia-Pacific Maritime Workshop will address SLOC Security in the Asia Pacific and the Arctic. It aims at producing a policy report and an edited volume from the conference proceedings.

This one-day workshop will bring scholars, government officials and representatives of navies and maritime law enforcement from Canada, China, the United States, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and the Philippines to discuss four dimensions of SLOC security in both the Arctic and the Asia- Pacific, namely 1) Status and Challenges of SLOC Security: Different Regional Perspectives; 2) Maintaining SLOC Security in the Region: Legal Perspectives; 3) SLOC Security and Maritime Disputes: Political Perspectives; and 4) SLOC Security and Role of Navies and Law Enforcement Agencies: Functional Perspectives.

This workshop will contribute to the Canada-China Maritime Study Group, established in January 2014 between the China Institute at the University of Alberta
and the National Institute for South China Sea Studies. This Study Group aims at enhancing Canada-China cooperation on maritime studies, focusing on the Arctic and the South China Sea, and on Asia Pacific in general, and will serve as a framework under which Canadian and Chinese scholars will share their research
interests and findings in a range of disciplines related to maritime studies.