Current maritime disputes ranging from the Arctic to the South China Sea are motivated by multiple factors ranging from national security concerns to the expectations of economic opportunities. Unfortunately, these disputes are proving to be difficult to resolve, in spite of international agreements such as those documented in the Law of the Sea Treaty.
A brief history of maritime governance aids in understanding the limitations of international organisations such as the UN and its International Maritime Organization in providing suitable mechanisms for dispute resolution. Recognition of these limitations can help in gauging the prospects for timely resolution.
A failure to resolve disputes in areas such as the South China Sea can have significant implications, not only for the parties directly involved, but for the international community that depends upon unfettered maritime commerce.
Donald C. Winter is an Independent Consultant and a Professor of Engineering Practice at the University of Michigan. At the University of Michigan, he teaches graduate level courses on Systems Engineering, Safety and Reliability, and Maritime Policy.
Dr Winter served as the 74th Secretary of the US Navy from January 2006 to March 2009. Previously, Dr Winter held multiple positions in the aerospace and defense industry as a systems engineer, program manager and corporate executive.
Dr Winter received a doctorate in physics from the University of Michigan in 1972. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 2002.