Maritime Commerce Resumption (MCR)

With globalization, many national economies, including Canada’s, are dependent on global trade – and maritime transportation is the strongest link in the international supply chain. International shipping has become a fundamental contributor and facilitator of economic growth; but it is increasingly susceptible to events that could result in the full or partial closure of ports or associated critical infrastructure.

Canada is a maritime nation – not just a nation with maritime provinces. As such, it is dependent upon its ability to trade with other nations through the global maritime commons. In 2005, Canada derived $100 billion from international maritime trade and moved 350 million tonnes of cargo through her ports. Today, Port Metro Vancouver annually trades $75 billion in goods with more than 160 trading economies.

Following 9/11, and in recognition of her deep-seated national economic dependence upon marine commerce, Canada has spent billions of dollars on National Security and Maritime Security. Yet, even after all this spending, it is recognized that no one plan will deliver 100% security – a realization on the part of the Federal Government which led to the formulation of a Maritime Commerce Resumption (MCR) strategy, under the stewardship of Transport Canada. The federal Government realizes there will, inevitably, be a time when intelligence and warnings fail; a situation which will expose Canada to the threat spectrum which spans natural disasters to surprise terrorist attacks.

Today’s Threat
Canada is certainly not immune to the impact of natural disasters and phenomena which could seriously affect maritime commerce. Our recent history shows how adverse weather such as hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and ice-storms can paralyse all aspects of modern life. Furthermore, it is clear from today’s strategic environment that the developing threats of organized crime and non-state terrorism have catapulted maritime security into the public arena – a threat which leaves Canada facing an international management challenge.

Many terrorist groups have proved able to launch attacks within the maritime domain. The 2008 events in Mumbai dem­onstrated the relative ease with which ­terrorists can deliver their particular brand of violence from the sea.

It is clear that terrorists not only seek to disrupt and demoralize societies through terror, but they have embarked upon a broader strategy of upsetting western economies through an economic jihad. Although not the most probable, the possibility of a maritime-based terrorist attack on North America should not be discounted, and demands a multi-agency response born of integrated and coordinated government.

Maritime Commerce Resumption
As a federal policy, MCR can strengthen Canada’s resilience, commercial reputation, and national security by improving her ability to recover from a serious disruption to maritime trade. The ability for the Government of Canada to shape conditions which expedite the restoration of the national economy is fundamental for the nation’s long-term well-being.

Transport Canada has, from the outset, been clear in its ambition to forge long term relationships to deliver – at federal, provincial, and muni­cipal levels – the necessary interagency alignment and collaboration to hone MCR into a workable and successful strategy.

As the lead department with responsibility for marine safety, maritime security, and environmental protection, Transport Canada will consult both public and private ­stakeholders to facilitate a coherent course of action in the event of an incident or accident. This course of action will include recommendations for risk and ­consequence management that are focused upon three phases of the MCR process which should be considered sequentially:

  • Increase RESILIENCE from attack or incident;
  • Reduce time of informed and effective RESPONSE; and
  • Maximize efforts to RESUME normal operations.

MCR and Maritime Security
Transport Canada has developed a useful framework of four main categories upon which it bases its concept of Marine Security. These are particularly useful in providing the wider public safety domain with architecture upon which to build both capacity and capability.

  • Domain Awareness;
  • Safeguarding (Security);
  • Collaboration; and
  • Responsiveness.

There are a number of advantages to melding MCR into existing endorsed security concepts for the 17 departments with a vested interest in its development. MCR’s relationship with the following endorsed security concepts will now be explored.

Relationship with Business ­Continuity Planning (BCP)
Given BCP’s fundamental assertion that aims to restore and maintain critical services of government in an emergency situation, there is a clear link with the outlined precepts of MCR. Whereas, MCR focuses upon commercial resumption as part of the recovery to a “normal” level of activity, BCP looks to restore government activity to normal levels. BCP is the more established concept and, as such, the interdepartmental community should review corporate lessons from its inter-departmental approach to BCP to aid in their development of MCR.

Relationship with Interoperability Continuum (IC)
This capability aspiration would mirror the work and research being undertaken as part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) SAFECOM Inter-operability Continuum & SAFE Port initiatives, as well as reflect today’s nationally-endorsed Incident Management Systems, as recommended by the Canadian Police Research Centre’s Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group (CITIG).

Public Safety Canada has embraced the IC and is developing a Canadian version. This revision and expansion of the IC is intended to make the continuum more useful to the widest public safety and first responder communities in Canada.

Relationship to Incident ­Management System (IMS)
This system allows for a joint response to an incident or emergency which requires a cross mandate response. It supports an agreed-upon command and control structure that can address a spectrum of complex major events. Under IMS the lead department / agency manages resources and personnel from other bodies in order to deliver an effective and timely response. The lead agency is very much “first among equals,” demonstrating a management and facilitation role to ensure appropriate decisions are made following a process of consultation. The designation as the lead department ensures that potentially ­hamstringing consensus management is avoided and still supports the Canadian concept of Ministerial Accountability.

Canada’s well-developed IMS is encapsulated within the components laid out in the Federal Emergency Response Plan (FERP); which is based upon legislative instruments from the Emergency Management Act (EMA) and the Public Safety Act; both of which contain significant ministerial powers and waivers that could, if required, support MCR.

How MCR Fits – Way Ahead
MCR is a dynamic and versatile approach to addressing current limitations within the government’s approach to managing the issue of potential interruptions to ­maritime commerce.

The 3 core phases of MCR are inherently iterative and sequential. Their link with BCP policy is strong and benefits from the mechanics of the iterative processes which are fundamental to other established government practices.

The FERP outlines the endorsed response to major incidents and attacks by all levels of government. Its co-ordination of three layers of governance is done in such a manner as to channel resources and efforts to the point of demand. A MCR-related incident will most likely require a Federal response, which will follow SOPs as outlined within the FERP. This cabinet-endorsed document has primacy over all departmental responses and demands full compliance. Thus the FERP is the over-arching doctrine to any large scale emergency that warrants a Federal response or coordination activities.

The FERP is based upon the proven principles of IMS and tenets of IC, as well as being aligned with the likely emergency response from the US. This international co-operation is important because coherence in emergency management will do much to mitigate the conceptual differences in the Canadian-US responses to MCR incidents. Therefore, it is this congruence in IMS which mitigates the subtle differences in the national approaches to MCR to achieve a common path to recovery.

The MCR framework is an extremely powerful and useful concept. By its own definition, it is a complex organizational framework used to coordinate the various arms of federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments with the expertise and capacity of private industry.

Coherent alignment of MCR policy with existing federal emergency responses is fundamental to its enduring success and application across the maritime sector; it would thus be logical that Transport Canada provide this function. Interaction between MCR operations, BCP, FERP/MERP and the demands of embracing the Interoperability Continuum are necessary and recognizes the likely scale of effort and direction required from “whole of government” throughout the phases of an MCR-related response.

The Proof of the Pudding – MCR Exercise 2009 (Vancouver)
Led by Transport Canada, the federal government, the provincial government of British Columbia, and the municipal authorities of Vancouver conducted an MCR exercise in Vancouver in December of 2009. The associated Working Group concluded that it was necessary to deliver a comprehensive, coherent and coordinated regional MCR plan to mitigate the effects of port closure and avoid unnecessary delays in the restoration of international supply chains. The structure and breadth of the Vancouver exercise underlined the community’s awareness of the fundamental importance of good governance and sound organization within the field of MCR. This exercise could be viewed as validating the work undertaken thus far in developing the MCR Strategy.

MCR Initiatives – Capability Inventory Tool
Interoperability is at the core of MCR. The findings and recommendations of a recent Database IT project called the Capability Inventory Tool (CIT) served as an important foundation for developing improvements, and highlighting a number of areas where interoperability can be enhanced. The ACCESS-based CIT allowed policy officers to access a substantial data-base which charted the extent of all Canadian legislation and policy which pertained to MCR. This data-base exposed a number of areas where Ministerial powers and mandates overlapped and how other government departments could deliver an even more effective MCR response. It thus serves as a guide for any future development of MCR-related instruments. The database structure also has the capability to be adapted to serve as an information delivery mechanism for those responsible for implementation of MCR.

Canada is unmatched with its huge coastline, numbers of ports and livelihoods gleaned from the sea. Its MCR strategy is a well-founded and considered response to potential events which, if ignored, have the potential to rob the nation of a generation’s worth of economic development. Such strategies are essential in developed nations. Few would argue this point, having witnessed the impact of this year’s Japanese Tsunami or the devastation wrought by South Asian Terrorists in Mumbai. The Government of Canada, our people, and our economy are better positioned to ride out these events through heightened resilience, coordinated responses, and improved recovery times. MCR isn’t just a nice strategy; it is essential.

Peter Avis, a Partner at Lansdowne Technologies, specializes in Maritime Security and is the author of the book Comparing National Security Approaches to Maritime Security in the Post 9/11 Era.  His new business practice is called “Exercises, Professional Development, Performance Measurement, and Lessons Learned (E2PL).”

David Mugridge is an independent maritime security consultant working from Halifax, NS.
A Doctorate student at the Plymouth Business School, he also holds a Research Fellowship at Dalhousie University’s Centre for Foreign Policy Studies and Marine Affairs Programme.
© FrontLine Security 2011