The U.S. Naval War College gathered experts in naval operations and maritime law for a conference Dec. 17-18 on an upcoming revision to the San Remo Manual, the principal legal document regarding armed conflicts at sea.
“The San Remo Manual is one of the most respected compilations of the law of naval warfare, and we are so proud to engage in the exploratory discussions to update it,” Rear Adm. Shoshana S. Chatfield, Naval War College president, told the group in her welcome address.
“Rapid advancements in naval technology and the ways in which modern navies fight warrant a close review of the manual to ensure that it remains as accurate and relevant as it was when it was originally published 25 years ago,” she said.
Adopted in 1994, the San Remo Manual was a then-contemporary restatement of international law regarding armed conflicts at sea and the first major document of its kind since 1913. Now, work is beginning to revise the manual with an eye toward the modern nature of warfighting. An international group of experts from around the world is expected to meet in the next two years for official deliberations.
James Kraska, chairman of the college’s Stockton Center for International Law and one of two U.S. representatives to the international experts group, said that advancements in unmanned, autonomous and other warfighting techniques have changed how navies act, and the law needs to respond.
"We have to ensure the San Remo Manual remains relevant to today's warfighters preparing to deter or, if necessary, win naval conflict at sea," Kraska said.
The other U.S. representative is Raul "Pete" Pedrozo, a retired Navy captain and former Stockton Center professor who is currently principal deputy staff judge advocate at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii.
Tom Culora, dean of the college’s Center for Naval Warfare Studies, is a retired Navy aviator who commanded the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) while he was in uniform. Culora told the attendees that, in his experience in the fleet, the issues being discussed are vital.
“As a former consumer of the San Reno Manual, I know how important that is for the warfighters,” Culora said.
“And while the document itself is incredibly critical, I think the dialogue that will happen over the next two years is equally as critical. It peels back the foundations of why different nations feel the way they do, what they think about these critical issues,” he said.
Looking ahead, Kraska and Pedrozo will participate in deliberations of the international group of experts in Australia in June and in Denmark in October.