Badge of the COE CSW.

Centre of Excellence for Operations in Confined and Shallow Waters

The NATO think-tank for operations in the littorals, i.e. in confined and shallow waters, is hosted by the German Navy.

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The Centre of Excellence for Operations in Confined and Shallow Waters (COE CSW) is a research facility for NATO based in Kiel. It is part of a network of Centres of Excellence, each of which covers a specific area of expertise. The COE CSW is the centre of expertise for maritime operations in marginal seas and littoral waters.

With an international staff – and Germany as its framework nation – the COE CSW fulfills its main task: developing practical military operational principles and procedures for shallow and confined sea areas and testing them in maneouvres.

Maritime expertise made in Germany

The geographic location of the Northern German states is but one reason for the German Navy’s distinctive experience in operating in coastal waters. Such sea areas are characterised by rugged coastlines, numerous small and miniscule islands, narrow and shallow navigation channels as well as strong currents and tides. Another charcteristic of coastal waters is dense traffic: international maritime routes, coastal and port transport, fishing, cruise line and leisure shipping all converge in the littorals.

While geography, traffic density and additional factors impede the available manoeuvring space for warships and limit the capabilities of sensors and weapons, they facilitate asymmetric threats like piracy and terrorism at the same time.

The significance of the COE CSW for NATO

In recent decades, the focus of NATO's maritime operations has shifted to such shallow and confined waters like the Adriatic Sea, the Strait of Gibraltar or the Persian Gulf. Being able to operate safely in the littorals is of vital importance for merchant shipping, and consequently for the global economy. Moreover, the Baltic Sea has risen in importance for national and Alliance defence since Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined NATO.

The COE CSW provides NATO and its nations with the required expertise for this special area of operations. With this international think-tank, Germany makes a significant contribution to the continuous transformation process of NATO. The German Navy staffs about half of the posts and provides the infrastructure for the COE CSW.

One of the results of the COE CSW’s work is the collaboration on the "Allied Tactical Procedure 94", a specific provision on self-protection of NATO vessels in foreign civilian ports. Before this, NATO had identified deficits regarding self-protection: Moored at a quay wall, a warship usually also finds itself in ‘urban terrain’ – naturally an unfamiliar environment for a vessel and its crew, especially in times of asymmetric terrorist threats. The new provision recommends specific procedures for this situation and makes reference to technical solutions.

To the COE CSW website

Learn more about Germany’s maritime think-tank for NATO on the official website of the Centre of Excellence for Operations in Confined and Shallow Waters.


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