Security Issues Related to (Sea) Lines of Communication

By: LTC Arjen Wassink, NLD Army, US Central Command: Strategy Plans and Policy Directorate; Combined Strategic Analysis Group
25 June 2021


The recent Container Ship EVER GIVEN incident in the Suez Canal shows just how vulnerable global sea transport chains are. The temporary inability to travel through the canal has disrupted all supply chains globally. The consequences of the 7-day blockage have generated worldwide economic loss estimated at billions of dollars. The volume of global container transport grows each year. This increase is expected to continue given the growth of the global economy. Not only does this put pressure on the capacities of existing sea lines of communication (SLOC), but it also highlights the need for new initiatives to establish new connections between global points of supply and demand.

Key Points:

  • Infrastructure projects spanning Europe and Asia support CENTCOM’s mission to create a prosperous AOR. Opening up the energy-rich Central Asian states makes new infrastructure projects important for the AOR, Europe, and Asia.
  • Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) related transport projects could increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for most BRI and non-BRI countries, and for the world as a whole. The risks of debt traps exist but can be mitigated.
  • New lines of communication (LOC) support the global economy and therefore might also shift the balance of power and influence Great Power Competition (GPC).
    • BRI will likely result in increased overseas access and presence for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
  • The risks are not limited to the financial or economic domains, as the military balance of power between countries and regions will also likely shift and cause effects in multiple COCOMs’ AORs.

Read the complete paper here.

The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of a number of international officers within the Combined Strategic Analysis Group (CSAG) and do not necessarily reflect the views of United States Central Command, not of the nations represented within the CSAG or any other governmental agency.