In a future conflict, America could find itself outnumbered and outmaneuvered on the high seas, according to a 2015 report on maritime security published by Hawaii Pacific University.The authors of this report are Capt. Carl Schuster, former director of operations at the U.S. Joint Intelligence Center Pacific, and Dr. Patrick Bratton, associate professor of political science at Hawaii Pacific University. They point out that “the United States has adopted an ‘abandon ship’ policy towards the crucial merchant maritime industry” and let the number of merchant ships flying an American flag dwindle to the lowest number since the end of the Spanish-American War.
In an effort to avoid maritime taxes and regulations, the United States now increasingly registers its merchant vessels in other countries—like Panama, Liberia and Malta. Because of this trend, the number of maritime vessels flying the American flag on the high seas plunged 94 percent between 1960 and 2014.
While there were almost 3,000 merchant ships flying the U.S. flag 56 years ago, there are fewer than 200 such ships today. Only about 80 of these actually engage in international trade.
This precipitous decline in the number of U.S. merchant vessels presents a serious strategic threat to the United States. In the event of a future military conflict, it is the U.S. merchant fleet that carries military cargo and other supplies to troops. If China, or any other nation, decides to create a naval blockade or “no-go zone” at sea, any vessel flying a foreign flag can choose to remain neutral and not carry American cargo through disputed territory.
In contrast to the United States, China has expanded its merchant fleet 10-fold in the last 20 years. Now 3,941 Chinese-flagged ships carry 90 percent of China’s seaborne trade.
Captain Schuster and Dr. Bratton say America’s weakness in commercial shipping is the nation’s Achilles’ heel. To learn more about America’s vulnerability to an international trade embargo, read late columnist Ron Fraser’s article, “The Coming Siege.” ▪
Full article: Report: America Too Dependent on China’s Ships (The Trumpet)