Humans are essentially land dwellers and as Julian Corbett said in his “Some Principles of Maritime Strategy“, it is the actions of an army on an adversary and what the
navy can do to assist the army which will decide the victor between nations at war. Unknown to most of us, 90% of the world’ trade is still dependent on the sea and the vessels that travel on it. If you take out everything that goes by the sea to reach your house, you will have quite an empty home. Globalization, a much used word in this age of Information, hails the age where, thanks to technology of air transport and the Internet, narrows the distance between nations and people. However, globalization is still founded on the opening of sea lanes as much as the Internet cables are laid beneath the ocean floors.
Without the freedom of navigation and open sea trading lances, the ease at which we are able to get our necessities and information through the Internet is no longer available. My wife once remarked that in Singapore, anything that was once exclusively available in another country, will be available here within 6 months. Without the efficiency of our seaport and the numerous trading lanes that passes through here, this would not have been possible. Imagine Singapore being cut off from trade, we will be back to the fishing village without any natural resources.
However, given the importance of the sea lanes and maritime trade, scant emphasis is given to the maritime industries and its workers by our leaders, our citizens and sometimes, even our sailors. Merchant ships, nowadays, are often much automated and crewed only by a minimal crew. Navigational safety and maritime security is probably the last topic you hear in the coffee shop. An example to prove the case would be , when was the last time you seen a movie, Hollywood or not, based in the maritime domain? Please don’t say “The Pirates of the Carribean.”
My point is that not many people in the current Age of Information realize how important the sea is to us and how uncertain that foundation is today, no matter the fact that much of our daily lives are dependent on it.