NATO launches hub to safeguard critical undersea infrastructure

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NATO has inaugurated a specialised centre focused on the security of extensive undersea energy pipelines and cables, which are crucial for global communications, energy supply, and economic stability yet remain vulnerable to attacks.

The newly established NATO Maritime Centre for Security of Critical Undersea Infrastructure (CUI) is based at NATO Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) in Northwood, UK. The centre, which recently achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC), serves as a networking and knowledge hub that supports Commander MARCOM in decision-making, force deployment, and action coordination.

Royal Navy Vice Admiral Mike Utley, Commander MARCOM, said: “Securing CUI goes beyond posturing to deter future aggression; it includes robust coordination, to actively monitor and counter malign or hybrid threats, denying any aggressor the cover of ‘plausible deniability’.

“Through the wide networks we are establishing in the new centre, that job will become much easier to achieve. And if, in the future, nations seek NATO assistance, we will be ready to help them using our networks and data.”

The centre functions as the operational hub at MARCOM, whilst a strategic hub is located at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. This dual-hub structure aims to enhance cooperation between NATO allies, partners, and the private sector. The importance of civilian stakeholder engagement was highlighted by the Norwegian Oil Industry, which expressed its support in a joint statement along with Offshore Norge, gas transport operator Gassco AS, and energy company Equinor ASA.

“It’s been a year of strong teamwork defining and establishing the centre here at MARCOM, and we are now seeing the results as we reach this important milestone,” said Danish Navy Captain Niels Markussen, Director of the NATO Shipping Centre.

“We’ve overcome many challenges to get here. Strong cooperation from cross-functional areas across MARCOM have been key to success, including operations, intelligence, IT, and Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC). We’ve also worked tirelessly with other NATO entities including NATO HQ, SHAPE, SACT, and CMRE, as well as many civilian organisations.”

The formal launch comes after NATO HQ hosted the inaugural meeting of NATO’s Critical Undersea Infrastructure Network last week, where senior experts exchanged information and shared expertise against the backdrop of evolving threats to CUI.

Professor James Bergeron, MARCOM’s Political Advisor, drew attention to the centre’s role in surveillance and accountability.

“Protecting every inch of CUI is hard,” Bergeron admitted. “But what we can do, and it’s a phrase we’ve used a lot lately, is try to deny deniability. If a malefactor is going to try to harass, undermine or clandestinely attack offshore infrastructure, undersea infrastructure, the main thing we seek to achieve is that they cannot get away with it.

“Instead, they will be spotted, the cameras will be snapping, the underwater sensors will be monitoring, and there will be a signals trail of liability, so that they’re not going to be able to deny their actions and will ultimately be held liable.”

Allies first agreed to establish the Maritime Centre for Security of Critical Undersea Infrastructure at MARCOM during the Vilnius Summit last year—a decision reaffirmed by Defence Ministers in February. Contributing nations now include Denmark, Germany, Norway, Poland, Türkiye, the UK, and the USA, with Greece, Portugal, and Sweden soon to join.

The establishment of the centre represents a significant part of NATO’s ongoing efforts to safeguard critical undersea infrastructure. By bolstering coordination and employing advanced monitoring technologies, the alliance aims to protect these vital assets from malign activities and assure accountability for any actions that might threaten them.

See also: BT highlights the role of satellites in future-proofing networks

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Tags: critical infrastructure, infrastructure, marcom, Maritime Centre for Security of Critical Undersea Infrastructure, maritime command, nato, Networks, Security, telecoms, undersea cables


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