Nordstream leaks: are our arteries safe?: HFW

Sector-focused global law firm HFW has noted that, just prior to recent events taking place in the Baltic Sea, the UK Government in August 2022 published a report titled ‘National Strategy for Maritime Security’ in August 2022 in response to the increased global tensions and pressures being placed on global trade and data.

HFW’s Paul Dean and Tom Walters, along with several other partner contributors, observed that the report was prescient in that it highlighted the vulnerability of the UK as a result of its dependency on maritime trade.

“The need to protect our ports, shipping routes and subsea infrastructure so as to preserve, not just access to goods, but information that supports the UK economy has never been more important.”

The wider implications in the report were also recognized as the protection of the UK’s critical infrastructure also extended beyond the UK’s Territorial Sea and Exclusive Economic Zone to the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.

The UK’s dependency on maritime trade and the importance of the infrastructure around our coastline is significant. By way of example: 95% of all goods by weight were imported by sea in 2020, 70% of all container moves are handled by 10 UK Ports, 99% of the UK’s global telecoms traffic is transmitted via subsea fibre optic cables and offshore wind produced 27% more electricity in 2020 than the previous year.

HFW said that the alleged sabotage and attacks on the NordStream pipelines in the Baltic highlighted the importance of the UK’s and many other nation state’s critical infrastructure. It also reminded us of the levels that some actors might go to in order to place pressure on stakeholders in the pursuit of political goals.

“This in turn raises a number of legal issues that will no doubt be played out in the international arena. These will become increasingly pertinent as competition between states for limited resources, disputes over maritime boundaries and greater emphasis on the use of hard (military or economic threat) and soft (negotiation or influence) power become more common.”