Secure flows!

Reliable transport of people, goods and information by land, water and air.

Heinz Schulte
griephan defence and security publications and
board member of the German Maritime Institute (DMI)


Unfortunately, many of us are used to finding goods from all over the world fresh in the supermarket or ordering them online for same-day home delivery without wasting a thought on the complex logistics behind this. The same applies to parts of the political class: The secure flow of people, goods and information within the complex environment of networked globalisation is simply taken for granted. However, these flows are highly vulnerable and require more political attention than ever.
In late 2012 the Federation of German Industries (BDI) founded a committee for security in industry with four key tasks. One is to safeguard global trade and logistics flows. That is hardly surprising if one considers that logistics hub Germany regularly achieves top scores in the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index (LPI) – with Singapore as its Asian
counterpart. And Germany’s container fleet ranks among those of the world’s leading shipping nations. What is surprising is that Germany, as an exceedingly successful export nation and guardian of the Euro – the leading international reserve currency alongside the dollar, does not pay the security of its transport infrastructure and logistics supply chain the attention it deserves. This is an international responsibility! Any attempt to replace the globalisation of international value chains by national isolation, is doomed to fail.

Critical Infrastructure & the public

One new aspect, which is only slowly being introduced into the public discourse, is cyber-(in)security. Why should you physically destroy a bridge, if you can paralyse the entire traffic flow with a single click. This brings us to “critical infrastructure”, which comprises not only banks, oil refineries, (nuclear) power stations and, above all, physical hubs (sea and airports, rail hubs) but also technically vulnerable traffic control systems (locks, air traffic control, etc.). Highly developed industrial nations that largely depend on “just-in-time” logistics, need a robust and resilient “critical infrastructure”.
Even Berlin does not contest the need to generate a political narrative out of this insight that should meet with pubic approval. It’s not really that difficult: While we used to see smoking chimneys in the Ruhr Area as a backdrop to TV news reports about Germany’s economic performance, the images now rather show container loading loading quays. When reading about Germany’s economic power just pay attention to how often you find a container terminal in the accompanying picture. The objective now is to make “secure flows” a matter of public concern rather than just a topic for experts.
Otherwise the result will be distorted images and emotions that cause political harm. We are talking about opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The principle applies that those who set standards, create markets! TTIP is certainly not just about chlorine chicken! It is about Europe retaining its control over international trade flows and investment partnerships together with the United States, before China takes over. Washington’s main focus is on China’s growing power. Beijing was able to add the yuan to the basket of currencies used as a yardstick by the International Monetary Fund alongside the dollar and euro. China has already launched its own counterpart to the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which has now been joined by India, Australia, and leading European states. All this has a direct impact on safeguarding global flows. And this answers the question whether TTIP should only be discussed within a small circle of experts.

In Germany’s interests

One should mention an old adage here: Everything is interrelated. Germany is not just interested in the smooth flow of people, goods and information in its role as a leading trade power and guardian of the euro. Technology hub Germany can also make an innovative contribution to safeguarding and optimising these very flows. For example, telematics on the motorway. You can simply reduce it to the collection of the HGV road toll or understand it as a smart control system for just-in-time logistics. Put to intelligent use and taking account of data privacy, telematics informs the driver that congestion on the motorway and the delayed arrival of a ship at a mooring place other than its scheduled berth mean that the optimum route and travel time need to be recalculated.
In brief: The reliable transport of passengers, goods and information by land, water and air is of major importance for Germany. Safeguarding worldwide flows (think container screening) raw materials (secure delivery), people (illegal migration/terrorism), information (data security) and finances (money laundering) defines the age of globalisation. Securing global flows generates costs (new technologies, protection of critical infrastructure, insurance).
Finally, it is an insight worth repeating that those who set standards, create markets. This process is embodied by terms like good governance, rule of law and anti-corruption, among others. Binding standards should be anchored in Transatlantic and Transpacific trade and investment agreements. They are a prerequisite for secure flows!

Dr. Uwe H. Wehrstedt
Sunday March 26th, 2017

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