Global Shipping Game: Game Report
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Players agreed that the United States should ratify UNCLOS as soon as possible. Players cited a number of reasons why UNCLOS ratification should be considered as a national imperative. First, without ratification, the United States does not have a seat at the table despite the fact that UNCLOS was originally drafted with U.S. interests in mind. Second, the United States has not yet ratified this treaty and other states that have ratified it have the ability to modify it while the United States remains dormant. If the United States ratifies UNCLOS after modification by other states, then it must be accepted as modified, with amendments that may not be favorable to the United States. Third, failure to ratify UNCLOS will mean that the United States will not be able to file for an Expanded Continental Shelf Claim in order to extract resources beyond the 200 mile Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ). Fourth, ratification would increase the certainty or predictability of the future security and political environment that industry desires in order to invest in economic development of the Arctic region. Thus, non-ratification risks the loss of future economic interests by the United States.
Non-ratification of UNCLOS may also negatively impact other U.S. interests and other regions. Taking note of U.S. non-ratification, other states may disregard key aspects of international law, such as Freedom of Navigation (FON) or rights under the EEZ. They may feel that if the U.S. government does not recognize the rules, then why should they? The impacts of nations withdrawing from the convention or challenging it could spill over into unintended consequences elsewhere, such as conflict in the South China Sea.
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Players in the Arctic groups identified the need for building Arctic partnerships and focusing on a “whole of government” approach in order to build Arctic Domain Awareness (ADA), with an emphasis on the vastness of the maritime passages and respond to crises. Players in the Arctic groups asserted that the United States should take an active leadership role in Arctic policies, issues, and development. Players further asserted that UNCLOS ratification would facilitate establishing the U.S. as a leader in Arctic issues including ADA. Conversely, continued non- ratification of UNCLOS could result in Russia emerging as the dominant power in the region, potentially claiming sovereignty of half the Arctic basin, and assuming a leadership role concerning Arctic issues (Schlauder, 2007). Overall, the United States role in the Arctic could be marginalized if actions, policies, and investments fail to keep pace with economic development in the Arctic.
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Finally, the linkage between the need for the U.S. to maintain a strong position to defend U.S. and allies interests and the need to ratify UNCLOS has been cited in previous war games with international players at the Naval War College, such as the recent Global Maritime Partnership Game. Players perceived a gradual erosion of U.S. influence among current and future maritime partners that may have negative effects on U.S. interests. The need for U.S. leadership to ratify UNCLOS is warranted in order to prevent the erosion of U.S. influence among partners and in theaters of operation.