Naval Blockade
A fleet of ships is used to prevent anything from entering or leaving a port.
Already have? Needs Examples Tropeworthy?

(permanent link) added: 2013-09-10 10:33:28 sponsor: Tallens (last reply: 2013-09-24 14:59:32)

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Something that I couldn't find anywhere, which was really surprising. If we do have it under some other obscure name, please let me know. Thinking of having Running the Blockade as a separate trope.
In war logistics is everything. Armies march on their stomachs, tanks and planes need fuel, and weapons need ammunition. Though there are various ways of getting these things to the front lines, if the fighting is taking place near a major port, chances are supplies will be brought in by ship.

The enemy knows this, and to prevent those supplies from reaching their destination, a common tactic is to send a fleet of ships to surround said port and interdict any traffic in or out, thus depriving the enemy forces of the supplies they need to keep up the fight. To be more effective, this may coincide with an offensive from the other side, trapping the enemy forces between an advancing front and the blockade.

Depending on the setting, this can be done to port towns or cities, a nation's coastline, if you have a fleet large enough, or, in sci-fi works, an entire planet. Obviously, the larger the area you're trying to block off, the more ships and other resources you're going to need.

Blockades are generally differentiated by how close they are to their objective. A close blockade is probably what most people think of, a line of ships close together, well within sight of their target. This also the one that works best for a visual medium. A loose blockade positions itself just over the horizon, with the idea that enemy ships can be drawn out into an ambush. A distant blockade will take place on the open sea, such as Germany's U-Boat wolf packs being used to try and cut the supply lines between the U.S. and Britain during both World Wars. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages, like a close blockade being most effective, but requiring more resources and having no place close for ships to go if they need repairs. How these would work in space depends on the author.

Despite the force of ships surrounding their destination, there are those foolhardy enough to try and get through anyway. This is known as running the blockade.

Contrast Hold the Line, for when the good guys are trying to keep their enemies from overrunning their position.

Examples

Film
  • Star Wars
    • The Phantom Menace starts with the Trade Federation blockading the planet of Naboo. The reason given is that they hope to resolve some sort of trade dispute this way, as the source of the dispute was Senator Palpatine, and the Federation thought that blockading (and later occupying) his home planet might shut him up. Unfortunately for them, he was pulling the strings on both sides the whole time.
    • In The Empire Strikes Back when the Imperial fleet arrives over Hoth, they form a blockade to prevent Rebel ships from escaping, but they didn't seem to count on them having an ion cannon capable of disabling a Star Destroyer.
  • Thirteen Days: John F. Kennedy goes with this instead of an airstrike to deal with ships carrying missiles to Cuba. Since a blockade is technically an act of war, they decide to call it a quarantine.

Literature
  • Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium novel King David's Spaceship. The port city of Jikar was blockaded by patrols of pirate ships. The pirates demanded not only tribute but also the heads of the Masters of each Guild in the city.
  • In the Arcia Chronicles, The Church blockades Orgonda from the sea after it refuses to acknowledge Pierre Lumen (whom the clergy endorsed) as king. The blockade is eventually lifted by the Eland Mariners.
  • Following the destruction of Theramore in Tides Of War the Horde navy forms a ring around Kalimdor, blocking Alliance ships from reaching their allies there.
  • Horatio Hornblower series. Hornblower and the Hotspur involves the British blockade of the French port of Brest and Hornblower's deeds during the blockade.
  • In the Aubrey-Maturin series, the British blockade of France during the Napoleonic Wars and North America during the War of 1812 are shown, unusually, from the perspective of the blockaders. As the weather is terrible, the ships spend a long time at sea without any interesting port calls, there's little chance for loot and glory, and the hygiene and comfort of a sailing ship are what we would expect from Wooden Ships and Iron Men, the duty is understandably highly unpopular among both officers and crew.
  • Honor Harrington: This was employed by the Royal Manticoran Navy against the Solarian League by blockading wormhole termini in Solarian space.

Live-Action TV
  • Babylon 5:
    • In the episode "And Now For A Word" a Centauri battlecruiser shows up and positions itself between the station and the jumpgate, threatening to fire on any ships attempting to travel between them, unless Centauri ships that had been impounded by Babylon 5 are released.
    • The first episode of the third season had a planet the Rangers were using as a training base being surrounded by Centauri blockade mines. Sheridan and Delenn had to mount a rescue mission that got complicated when a Shadow vessel showed up.
    • Late in the fourth season, Earth Force ships have a blockade going around the colony of Proxima III. One ship participating in it ruthlessly destroys two passenger liners attmpting to escape, killing over ten thousand civilians, and provoking Sheridan into going on the offensive.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine the Klingons mined the "entire" Bajoran system to prevent Dominion ships from entering the Alpha Quadrant. However because of 2-D Space they only mined a circle around the system rather than the entire system, which would have taken centuries to do anyway.
  • During the Klingon civil war on Star Trek: The Next Generation the federation put a blockade along the Klingon-Romulan border to keep the Romulans from supplying the Duras Sisters.

Role-Playing Games
  • In Dino Attack RPG, the entire planet Earth has been placed under quarantine by the Galactic Council to prevent the spreading of the Maelstrom's forces to other planets, and the quarantine is enforced by a fleet of Space Police ships blockading the planet. Unlike most examples, other ships are allowed to travel to Earth despite the blockade, but the Space Police are enforcing the rule that nothing is allowed to leave the planet until the threat of the Maelstrom has been dealt with.

Theatre
  • In the first scene of 1776 John Adams includes blockading the colonies' ports in his list of British atrocities while trying to spur Congress to action.

Video Games
  • You can do this in some of the Civilization games. It prevents the blockaded city from working water tiles or gaining income from trade routes.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: The first part of the game takes place on the planet Taris, after the player, Carth and Bastila crash land there. To keep Bastila from escaping, the Sith blockade the planet while they conduct a search for her. Eventually Malak gets impatient and decides to destroy it all from orbit.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: One of Gault's conversations with the Bounty Hunter mentions a blockade...and Mandalorians.
  • At one point in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, Team Magma/Aqua use a team of tamed Wailmer to blockade one of the port cities, forcing you to deal with them and advance the story before you explore the ocean.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • In the Howling Fjord, the Northsea Freebooter pirates set up a blockade around the Alliance settlement of Westguard Keep. A daily quest involves breaking it by dropping bombs from a zeppelin.
    • Gadgetzan, on the coast of Tanaris, is being blockaded by Southsea pirates. One quest has the player fly over the blockade in a rocket-propelled hot air balloon and drop bombs on the pirate ships.
  • One of the Empire of the Rising Sun's moves in Red Alert 3 was to use one of its massive floating fortresses to stop all naval activity in the North Sea. The Allies and Soviets were forced to call a truce until it was dealt with. Another blockaded the Strait of Gibraltar.
  • In Dishonored, the Empress briefly mentions such a blockade being deployed around Dunwall.
  • In the Halo backstory, the UNSC blockaded the 26 Draconis System in an effort to keep FTL drive components from being shipped out, leading to an incident that sparked the Insurrection.
  • Cerberus does this a couple of times in Mass Effect 3, once at the Grissom Academy with a cruiser and a force of fighters, and another around Omega with a force of larger ships after usurping Aria T'Loak.

Western Animation
  • In the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Avatar Roku" the Gaang has to get to a temple inside the Fire Nation, the border of which is blockaded by the Fire Navy.

Real Life
  • This was part of the Union's strategy to defeat the Confederacy during the American Civil War, in what came to be known as the Anaconda Plan.
  • As noted above, was also employed to deal with Soviet ships bearing missiles to Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  • During the American Revolutionary War, the British forces under Cornwallis were holed up in the city of Yorktown. When a French fleet blockaded Yorktown and prevented the Royal Navy from re-supplying the British forces, the troops were forced to surrender.
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