The United States Navy has proposed a "global maritime partnership" of like-minded countries working together to combat common threats at sea. The idea was floated at a maritime conference in Sydney on security and cooperation. Phil Mercer reports from Sydney.

Among those addressing the 2008 Sea Power Conference was Admiral Robert F. Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific fleet.

Willard outlined a new U.S. maritime strategy that involves closer cooperation between the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

He also told the meeting that U.S. forces will pursue a greater role in the Asia-Pacific region. This will include such non-combat activities as the use of hospital and amphibious ships to conduct disaster relief operations and health checks in poorer countries.

A major theme at the conference was cooperation in maintaining regional security and identifying strategic challenges.

Captain Peter Leavy of the Australian Navy says the Americans want to see closer naval cooperation in these areas.

"The United States have proposed what they've called a 'global maritime partnership,' which is essentially like-minded countries working together for combating common threats at sea, and essentially that cop-on-the-beat-type role that navies have done for centuries - being out there, being visible, being present and contributing to security," he said.

The Sea Power conference brought together senior naval officers from 33 countries including the United States, Britain, India, Pakistan and Singapore.

In recent years, countries including the United States and Australia have expressed concern over growing piracy, and the threat of sea-going terrorism.

The Australian navy is relatively small by international standards, with a fleet of only nine major warships, but is considered by experts to be extremely capable and effective.

It plays an important role with United States in helping to stabilize the Asia-Pacific region, as well as protecting Australia's maritime borders from drug traffickers and people smugglers.