University of Tasmania
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The strategic implications of perceived levels of sea blindness in Australia's LNG trade dynamic

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Version 2 2024-02-05, 05:41
Version 1 2023-05-28, 11:07
posted on 2024-02-05, 05:41 authored by Martin, PJ

In what has been described as the Maritime Century, where the world's oceans have become increasingly significant carriers of trade, the notion of ‚ 'sea blindness' is an interesting development. The term was first coined by the Royal Navy's Admiral of the Fleet in the early 1980s ‚'to reflect the apparent lack of political and public awareness of the importance of the use of the sea and the contribution of the Royal navy to their prosperity.'

There is a perception that Australia has long experienced a 'sea blindness', where the sense of the sea and surroundings generally developed by an island people is not so in Australians. However, reference to ‚'sea blindness' is not restricted to Australia's circumstance alone. Britain's 'dangerously weak Royal Navy' and reliance on sea traffic elicited the phrase in 2009 when Britain's policymakers were branded as suffering 'sea blindness', an accusation substantiated in relation to the need for security, vulnerability to interruption of supply, and a weakened naval force structure. This research seeks to explore if ‚ 'sea blindness' exists in the Australian maritime circumstance, using the Australia's LNG trade dynamic as an object of analysis.

Three possible alternative scenarios to mitigate the impact of sea blindness were identified. To select the optimal scenario (alternative), the thesis used a methodology based on the Randomised Expert Panel Opinion Marginalising Procedure (REPOMP) approach with a comprehensive hierarchy of primitive and marginal criteria. A panel of experts is then involved to assess the significance of the criteria and the compliance of each alternative with the primitive criteria.

The thesis seeks input from a wide range of government, commercial, academic, and non-government experts in Australia's circumstance to facilitate the formulation of feasible alternative policies dealing with the sea blindness issue. The expert information then informs recommendations on the optimal alternative. Data collection for the study is conducted in two phases. In Phase I, five selected experts provided a contextual check on proposed alternatives to address the sea blindness issue. They also helped fine-tune the alternatives, the hierarchy of criteria, and the response scales to be used for assessing individual criteria's significance and compliance, along with the respondent's confidence in their assessments. Phase II conducted an online survey with over 226 experts using the LimeSurvey platform, which ensured anonymity of the respondents. The survey received 54 complete expert answers.

Since the experts also provided their level of confidence in their own estimates, the subsequent data analysis required the use of fuzzified REPOMP (fREPOMP), detailed in Appendix B. The thesis justifies the use of this methodology. The output of fREPOMP is the distribution of the ranking score, or Ranking Ball (RB), of a given alternative using the computer-intensive fuzzy Bootstrap calculation, where the RB is calculated by a novel fuzzy Churchman-Ackoff model. fREPOMP uses three collusion modes of the normalised confidence assessments and four types of fuzzy Bootstrap algorithms. Prior to an analysis of the results, the thesis provides a detailed description of the methodology, the algorithmic process, and a flow chart. Data analysis is conducted within four setups which are: comparing the ranking of alternatives based on RB distributions; the influence of the collusion mode; the influence of the expert origin panels; and the influence of the type of Bootstrap procedure. A detailed discussion of the results is provided after each of the comparisons.

The thesis also compares the results of the fREPOMP methodology with similar methodologies, based on the REPOMP and fuzzy Churchman-Ackoff models. A table summarises the methods based on three aspects of comparison: modelled uncertainty, results per alternative, and volume of possible setup comparison tasks. The table highlights the superiority of fREPOMP over the other methods, as fREPOMP relies on a large set of comparison tasks, generates detailed results in the form of fuzzy distributions of the RB, and is able to deal properly with both stochastic and fuzzy uncertainty. The method demonstrates versatility and the capacity for the Decision Maker to make robust conclusions based on its use.

The Conclusion chapter of the thesis summarises the research and its findings, and outlines the innovative contributions made. The thesis suggests five different strategic policies to mitigate the effect of sea blindness on the Australian maritime circumstance. Each relies on data analysis and a discussion of the results. Directions of future research are also outlined in detail at the end of the Conclusion chapter. The research identified several issues to indicate a lack of Australian engagement in maritime matters, argued to be symptomatic of sea blindness. These include the waning Australian flagged shipping circumstance against a backdrop of increased Asian sovereign shipping interest in the Pacific, compounded by Australia's limited downstream engagement with the LNG ship trade dynamic. Australia's fractious view of the maritime domain impacts on the capacity for maritime matters to gain traction in the Commonwealth and state / territory institutional framework, where only one position could be identified to deal with the commercial shipping circumstance leaving the Department of Defence to carry the weight of maritime guidance for government. While there is a need for Australia to have a pool of maritime skills for the management, security and protection of the nation, there is an absence of public and government interest in that same venture.



Australian Maritime College

Publication status

  • Unpublished

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