Six North Sea countries put subsea infrastructure security high on the agenda with joint declaration

Six North Sea countries have signed a joint declaration to cooperate on the protection of critical underwater energy and telecommunication infrastructure in the North Sea.

Source: Norwegian government

At the North Sea Summit held in April 2023, national security advisers from nine countries met to discuss better cooperation on the security of energy and telecommunications infrastructure, which resulted in the joint declaration on cooperation related to the protection of North Sea infrastructure.

The declaration, signed today, April 9, by Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, the UK, and Denmark, sets out an agreement to cooperate and share information on the protection of underwater infrastructure.

According to the Norwegian government, damage to energy pipelines and subsea fiber optic cables has placed the resilience and security of critical underwater infrastructure in the North Sea high on the agenda and it is crucial that this infrastructure is secure and resilient to preserve international communications and energy security.

“The first condition for energy independence is securing that same energy independence. The threats and challenges have increased considerably in recent months. At the North Sea Summit last year in Ostend, we have decided to work together to ensure that our data cables, oil and gas pipelines and windmill parks will be secured at the same level,” said Paul Van Tigchelt, Belgian Minister of the North Sea.

“In addition, we are going to structure the reporting of incidents on a collective and secured platform in which Belgium is investing 1 million euro. The participants of this Joint Declaration will work closely with relevant bodies and institutions such as Nota and EU. Together we can make a difference and protect our critical infrastructure at sea.”

The aim of the collaboration is to join forces in order to take appropriate measures and exchange information and best practices.

The joint declaration focuses on resilience and prevention and is therefore said to be complementary to NATO’s endeavors, which all participants involved are part of.

“With its many ports and terminals, subsea pipelines and cables, as well as offshore wind farms, the North Sea is one of the areas with the highest density of maritime infrastructure. Accordingly, it is becoming increasingly vital to securely provide Europe with sustainable energy,” said Tobias Lindner, Minister of State at the German Federal Foreign Office.

“This makes it all the more important that we cooperate more closely than ever with our neighbouring countries in order to protect critical infrastructure across borders. With this declaration, we have taken an important step toward further deepening our close cooperation in this effort, which we are also driving forward within the EU and NATO.”

To remind, an incident arose in the neighboring Baltic Sea after four gas leaks were found in September 2022 on the twin Nord Stream pipeline system, which runs from Vyborg, Russia, to Lubmin near Greifswald, Germany, and crosses the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, as well as the territorial waters of Russia, Denmark, and Germany.

Germany, Sweden and Denmark each initiated respective national investigations into the incident. The Norwegian and Swedish seismic institutes later confirmed that underwater blasts preceded the leaks, after which European authorities announced that the incident could have been the result of “deliberate actions”.

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In a letter sent to the UN Security Council together with Sweden and Denmark in July 2023, Germany said its inquiry had found subsea explosive traces in samples taken from a sailing yacht, which was chartered in the name of a person who used documents provided in order to hide the identity of the real charterer.

Both Sweden and Denmark recently closed their investigations into the incident.