December 17, 2023 – An expert conference on critical infrastructure in the maritime domain took place at the premises of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing in Zagreb. The event was organized by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway in the Republic of Croatia, the Croatian Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA), and the Norwegian Center for Security and Resilience UTSYN, with support provided by the Norwegian Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace
With the goal to explore solutions, ideas, and strategic partnerships to address these challenges, an expert conference “Critical infrastructure in the maritime sector” brought together Croatian and Norwegian entities from government, industry, and the scientific community. During a whole-day conference, the experts from various sectors discussed and exchanged views on current threats and vulnerabilities to critical infrastructures in the maritime domain.
“Although Croatia and Norway are located in different parts of Europe, both countries face many of the same challenges, from the need to modernize the ferry fleet and use green technology, to the protection of coastal and maritime infrastructure. The geopolitical situation reminds us of the importance of continuous investment and adaptation to next-generation technologies. Today, we heard a number of stimulating points of view from both sides, and we exchanged experiences that will help both sides in further development”, said Mr. E. Arne Sannes Bjørnstad, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway to the Republic of Croatia.
Maritime critical infrastructure includes gas and oil installations, energy facilities, communication cables, transportation, food, and industrial facilities. The list of threats encompasses accidents, terrorism, hybrid operations, diversions, and various others.
In addition to government and military officials from both countries, the conference saw participation from representatives of Norwegian and Croatian companies operating critical infrastructure, as well as those involved in security, defense, technology, and the construction/maintenance of critical infrastructure. Representatives from Croatian universities and faculties, as well as representatives of EU security bodies, were also present.
Opening presentations at the conference were given by Zdravko Jakop, State Secretary in the Ministry of Defense, and Damir Trut, Director of the Directorate for Civil Protection of the Ministry of the Interior. Subsequent presentations were delivered by the Norwegian Ambassador to Croatia, Arne Sannes Bjoernstad, SOA Director Daniel Markić, and Commodore Thomas Andersen, Deputy Chief of Staff Operations, Norwegian Navy. They then engaged in a panel discussion on threats and political responses to them.
In the following two panels, representatives from the expert community, critical infrastructure operators, and industry discussed vulnerabilities and risks to critical infrastructure, as well as new solutions and possibilities for protecting critical infrastructure.
“In an ever-changing security environment, nations should prioritize the protection of their critical infrastructure to ensure the provision of stable energy and telecommunications services to the public. Nations must embrace technology and utilize tools for surveillance at sea, land and in the air. There are challenges in coordination across sectors, but industry and research institutes should engage early in the dialogue with decision makers to ensure the right technology solutions are used“, asserted Kyrre Lohne, Vice President of Government Relations and Business Development, Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace, which supported the organization of the conference.
Throughout the conference, similarities in the importance of critical infrastructure in the maritime domain for both countries and the overall security of Europe were emphasized. Croatia and Norway, as maritime nations with extensive coastlines crucial for various economic strategic interests, consider the discussion on protecting and maintaining maritime security in the current security situation a priority.
Croatian homeland security system sees such comprehensive synergy of all involved stakeholders, both governmental and non-governmental, as the most effective way to protect all aspects of national security, including the security of the Croatian maritime domain and infrastructure, emphasized Croatian conference participants.
Conference participants highlighted that modern economies and societies rely on maritime infrastructure for the development and assurance of trade, supply chains, digital communications, energy, and food security. The complexity of protecting critical infrastructure requires a comprehensive approach involving numerous stakeholders. Strengthening the resilience of societies and infrastructure supporting economic and social development requires a joint effort by government bodies, as well as the involvement of industry and the scientific community in strategic partnerships to elevate the level of national maritime readiness.