This blog was written by Rear Admiral Kenneth Perry, Vice Commander, Naval Mine Anti-Submarine Warfare Command and Commander Task Force 522
This week is typical of recent weeks in the Middle East, if there is such a thing as a typical week here. Cloudless sun bakes the region with summer temperatures over 115 F. It’s so hot, that when people ask if it’s a dry heat you tell them it doesn’t really matter.
In this typical week over 500 ships will sail through the Strait of Hormuz, the only sea passage from the Arabian Gulf to the open ocean and the rest of the world. About 300 of these ships are energy carriers, which in a typical week will transport about 100 million barrels of oil through the Strait’s 2-mile wide outbound traffic lane to fuel economies around the globe. The Arabian Gulf is a region where vital sea lanes, resources and U.S. interests intersect. Protecting this interconnected system of maritime trade and security is a key U.S. national interest, and defending those interests against attack from sea mines is a core mission of the Navy’s mine warfare forces.
|Strait of Hormuz||16.7||17.5||15.7||15.9||17.0|
|Suez Canal and SUMED Pipeline||4.7||4.6||3.0||3.1||3.8|
|Suez Crude Oil||1.3||1.2||0.6||0.7||0.8|
|Suez Petroleum Products||1.1||1.3||1.3||1.3||1.4|
|SUMED Crude Oil||2.4||2.1||1.2||1.1||1.7|
|Notes: · All estimates are in million barrels per day. · “N/A” is not available. · The table does not include a breakout of crude oil and petroleum products for most chokepoints because only the Panama Canal and Suez Canal have official data to confirm breakout numbers. · Adding crude oil and petroleum products may be different than the total because of rounding. · Data for Panama Canal is by fiscal years.Source: EIA estimates based on APEX Tanker Data (Lloyd’s Maritime Intelligence Unit). Panama Canal Authority and Suez Canal Authority, converted with EIA conversion factors.|
In September, the U.S. Fifth Fleet will host its first International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX). With more than 20 nations participating from Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and North America, IMCMEX 2012 will be the largest of its kind ever in this region.
Operating together in a series of at-sea maneuvers, international air, sea, and undersea forces will respond to simulated sea-mine attacks in international waters and clear maritime routes to restore freedom of navigation. The cooperation of navies from around the world promises high tactical value for the ships, aircraft, and divers involved; while demonstrating international resolve in defending maritime security against potential threats.
IMCMEX 12 focuses on interoperability among navies and also among the triad of air, ship and undersea platforms that deliver full-spectrum mine countermeasures capability. The inherent flexibility of naval forces allows IMCMEX to demonstrate capability in additional areas also, including logistics, rendering assistance to mariners and coordination with commercial shipping. Conducted in two phases, IMCMEX begins with a symposium ashore in Bahrain followed by maneuvers at sea in key locations in the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman and Gulf of Aden. The at-sea maneuvers will involve a number of mine-countermeasure techniques for defending key maritime areas around the world, including strategic chokepoints. Forces from various nations will include minesweeping and minehunting ships, helicopters, and undersea vehicles; command and support ships equipped to serve as afloat bases for MCM forces; and naval dive platoons for mine detection and disposal.
IMCMEX 12 is a defensive exercise aimed at preserving freedom of navigation in international waterways in the region. The international community has a critical shared interest in the free flow of commerce via strategic waterways.
We have important and challenging work to do to ensure our U.S. mine countermeasure forces are a viable part of the word’s preeminent maritime force. Mine-clearing operations are inherently defensive, but we must be aggressive in making sure our ships, aircraft, divers and unmanned systems are as ready as possible to defend and restore access through vital sea lanes. IMCMEX 12 will strengthen our ability to defend against sea mines and demonstrate U.S. and international resolve to protect these vital maritime areas… especially when it’s hot.