Portugal’s relationship with the sea has been marked by encounters and disagreements, closely related to moments of prosperity or national impoverishment. With the economy deeply affected by the current PANDEMIC of COVID-19, and after the enormous recovery effort of the financial crisis of 2008, it is time for the country to think of a reunion with the sea, which contributes to the national resurgence.
From the 12th century Portugal began its first meeting with the sea, when the governing action conferred a maritime character on the different public policies, especially the economy, culture and defense. In this context, new maritime development activities have been created, national maritime mentality, will and identity promoted, maritime security promoted, and three relevant maritime assets have been incorporated into our territorial heritage: Lisbon (1147); Silves (1189); and Alcácer do Sal (1217).
The celebration of peace with Castile in 1411, together with the emergence of charismatic leaders, endowed with an innovative maritime vision (D. Dinis and D. João II), allowed society to be mobilized to the main maritime public policies in the 14th and 15th centuries and, across the sea, Portugal to discover new areas of economic exploitation, realizing the most epic achievements of our collective history , the consequences of which have persisted in time.
In contrast, between the 16th and 20th centuries, due to external conjunctures marked by successive conflicts and as a result of its international policy, Portugal was beset by the disturbing effects of various strategic circumstances, which forced a distancing from the sea and forced the country’s focus on political and military efforts aimed at preserving the empire and independence.
The last quarter of the 20th century brought peace, a decisive opportunity for Portugal to materialize a new encounter with the sea, pressing and indispensable to overcome the financial difficulties in which it has lived. However, in order for this to be possible, it is important to think about what we need to do, so that, with the contribution of the extraordinary maritime asset that is the extended continental shelf, the country can focus on the strategic vision: to resurface with the sea!
This deliberate exercise of reflection will allow to obtain an insight into the national maritime challenges in the economic, cultural, environmental, political and security dimensions, and identify ways of overcoming, translated into lines of action that explain what to do and how to do for Portugal to develop safely, exploring all the potentialities that the sea contains.
In the economic dimension, the challenges result from increasing competition for marine resources and the non-implementation of measures based on equity, solidarity and sharing, which generate growing conflicts of interest between multiple internal and external actors. Its overcoming implies: promoting areas of expertise in port infrastructure, transport, fisheries, ship building and repair, and natural resources (minerals, renewable and biological energies); promote distinctive marks of tourism, culture, leisure and sport, associated with the sustainability of the oceans, which explore the geographical circumstances of the country and the art of well-being that characterizes us; to obtain increased scientific and technological capacity to identify and exploit, with innovation and sustainability, the inert resources on the seabed of the continental shelf; develop cooperation with countries with convergent maritime interests (e.g. Brazil, Norway, Japan and South Korea), based on multilateral or bilateral partnerships, involving companies, universities and laboratories.
In the cultural dimension, the challenges stem from the weakening of critical and reflective thinking and the blurring of intangible and material values related to the sea, which cause the progressive degradation of national mentality, will and maritime identity. Its overcoming implies: developing the feelings, ideas and ways of thinking and feeling of the people on the sea, through the promotion of an active and effective literacy of the oceans, from basic to higher education; strengthen the means and increase the action of academic and scientific bodies, public and private, whose activity contributes to the development of Portugal’s maritime resources, capacities and competences; promote the research, dissemination and preservation of cultural heritage integrated by history, science, letters and arts related to the sea.
In the environmental dimension, the challenges come mainly from issues relating to sea-to-land interaction, pollution and over-exploitation of resources, which generate a crisis situation that, by affecting the sustainable development of the planet and the prospects for survival of humanity are now central themes of the international ocean agenda. Its overcoming implies: fostering a commitment of global leaders and promoting multilateral international mechanisms, which limit the irrational use of the oceans while preserving their future sustainability; improve the regulation, surveillance, surveillance and control of maritime industrial activities; contain the effects of environmental disturbances, in particular maritime pollution, actions where education, public communication, science, technology and innovation are crucial.
In the political dimension, the challenges arise from the global movement for judicial expansion in the oceans, which the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has allowed coastal states, providing them, through the extension of the continental shelf, a new area of economic exploitation. Its overcoming implies: safeguarding the interests and national maritime uniqueness in multilateral international fora with responsibilities at sea, fostering partnerships with archipelagic States, with a view to preserving the rights enshrined in us by UNCLOS; maintain an active commitment in multilateral international organizations, in the defense of sustainable development, in partnership with other interested countries, generating positive consensus and capitalizing on energies and mutual benefits; promote portugal’s maritime dimension and centrality in the Euro-Atlantic community through active and qualified participation in the United Nations, NATO, THE EU, the CPLP and the Community of Ibero-Atlantic States (CEIA).
Finally, in the security dimension, the challenges are the result of natural accidents and other maritime accidents, illicit activities, geopolitical conflicts and emerging military and hybrid threats, which aggravate the risks, dangers and losses of people, organisations and States. Its overcoming implies: strengthening international cooperation, training partners, the use of maritime situational knowledge systems, the application of legislation and the execution of operations, focusing on operations in the regions of Macaronesia (formed by the archipelagos of the Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands and Cape Verde) and the Gulf of Guinea, in partnership with allied countries and friends; articulate planning and increase security public capacities, adjusting them to the increased responsibilities that stem from the extension of the continental shelf, exploiting the potential of double-use (military-civilian) in the exercise of state authority at sea; strengthen the coordination of the different public departments with security responsibilities at sea, promoting operational synergies and involving the private sector.
The multidimensional approach, presented above, highlights the individual contribution of each field of action to Portugal’s resurgence with the sea: the economy functions as the engine of this national design; culture is the mobilizing energy of people and of collective will; the environment serves as a balance between the aspirations present and the sustainability required for future generations; politics is the instrument that transforms vision into priorities of action; and security represents the condition of tranquility indispensable to the success of the other dimensions.
In essence, the diverse nature of national maritime challenges and interdepartmental responsibility for the implementation of their lines of action demonstrate the need for their formal aggregation into two structuring, interdependent and complementary documents:
- The national maritime development strategy, focused on the economic, cultural, environmental and political dimensions;
- The national maritime safety strategy, oriented towards the security dimension.
This should be the case, because the resurgence with the sea will only be possible by ensuring permanent coordination, orchestration and mutual empowerment between sustainable development and effective security.
The good formulation of the two strategies recommended is an indispensable requirement for Portugal to make full use of the fabulous economic exploitation zone that is its extended continental shelf. However, it will serve little or nothing to formulate new national strategies for the sea, however brilliant they may be, if we are not able to successfully operationalize them, which implies the committed involvement of public and private entities with responsibilities and activities at sea, as well as the frequent monitoring of results and the consequent correction of the course followed.
For this, it is essential to implement, at the level of the Central Administration of the State, methodologies and management processes…