A Review of
Maritime Security – a Comparison of Middle Power Approaches to the Guarding of Coasts &
As an appendix to their 17th Report, the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence reviewed
the approaches to maritime security of 15 other countries – both middle- and superpowers. We have
selected three middle-power nations with approaches which should be of interest to policy-makers in
Policy reform is often stymied through a response of "not according to current practice". But,
Australia, Italy, and the Netherlands all approach securing their coasts in ways which would seem applicable to
Canada's system without major change. Key differences are all a matter of which agencies have the
authority to do what. Implemention of such changes would not require endless study or great expense. All
that is needed is political will and effective responses by the responsible bureaucracies.
Maritime Security –
the Australian Approach
Australia has much in common with Canada. The two countries are roughly similar in size, coast lengths,
density of population (or lack thereof), as well as relative vulnerability of national Exclusive Economic Zones
(EEZs), coasts and harbours to unwelcome infiltration or attack.
There is, however, a dramatic difference in the Australian methods for securing its coasts and asserting its
sovereignty. Key responsibility is assumed by 'Coastwatch', a branch of the Australian Customs
Outside comment about Coastwatch generally focuses on its fleet of P3 contractor-operated patrol aircraft.
More to the point is that Australian Customs Service agents carry weapons, can search vessels, and have powers of
arrest. Where necessary, ACS shipborne operations can be backed up by warships and aircraft of the Australian
Read a review of the Australian Approach to Maritime
Maritime Security – Italian Approach
It would be fair to say that Italy is made up almost entirely of coastline. Like Canada, Italy has a Coast
Guard but there the resemblance ends. The Guardia Costiera comes under the command of their Navy.
Italy's coasts and harbours are also patrolled by enforcement officers of the Customs Service and National
Police (Carabinieri) as well as units of the Italian Navy (Marine Militaire). There is a
striking resemblance in organization to Canada. Unfortunately, there are also big differences in the legal
powers, capabilities, and willingness of the Italian maritime security units (including the navy) and their
Read a review of the Italian Approach to Maritime
Maritime Security – the Dutch Approach
At first glance, the Netherlands might seem an odd country to compare with Canada. The entire area of Holland
is smaller than that of Nova Scotia which also has a longer coastline. But, as the home to the busiest
port in the world, the Netherlands is well worth examining.
What is most interesting about the Dutch approach to maritime security is not the size of its coast guard
(Kustwache) or its equipment. Rather it is the organization of the agencies responsible for maritime
security and their relative powers. The major port, Rotterdam, has a dedicated police force. Border security
comes under Immigration but their enforcement branch, KMar, is one of the four services of the Dutch armed
As with most things in the Netherlands, there is a focused practicality to the Dutch approach. Many of
their maritime security organizations answer to multiple government departments but all responsibilities are
clearly delineated, acted upon, and effectiveness routinely assessed.
Read a review of the Dutch Approach to Maritime