Towards Blue Justice: Common Heritage and Common Interest in the Maritime

Peter Sutch, Cardiff University

The importance and complexity of our political, economic and environmental relationship to the sea makes the evolution of a contemporary normative vision of the maritime essential. We need Blue Justice for the blue economy and for the increasingly contentious politics of the maritime. In this blog I want to make a plea for a renewed political theory of the Maritime – A second Grotian moment that generates a Mare Iustitia rather than a Mare Liberum.

In a recent and fascinating piece on this website, Barry J. Ryan urged a critical engagement with the sea and its architecture of freedom and argued persuasively for a normative vision for the sea. Because readers of this blog will have access to that work I want to start there and begin to outline the contours of blue justice. Barry Ryan took the tensions between the freedom of the sea and the idea that the sea is the common heritage of mankind (as well as our outdated distinction between politics on land and politics at sea) as the starting point for his critical and normative argument. He also showed how powerful states carve up this common heritage securing for themselves, rather than mankind, the commercial and military benefits of our common freedom of the sea. We can learn a lot from this – we clearly need normative principles that encourage us to pursue activities in the maritime with at least some concession to the common good. But the foundations of blue justice are such that determining the common good is even more complex than this suggests. The multiple and fragmented legal frameworks that apply to the sea divide the maritime as much as the freedom grabbing of littoral states. Read more →

Somali sea hijack is a warning signal: the pirates are down but not out

Christian Bueger & Robert McCabe, Cardiff University

The hijacking of an oil tanker on its way to Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, has sparked international attention. For almost five years nothing was heard from the Somali pirates. International naval patrols as well as self-defence measures and armed security guards on ships had, it seemed, solved the problem.

Between 2008 and 2012 hundreds of merchant vessels transiting the Western Indian Ocean were attacked. The area became the most dangerous water way in the world. Piracy became a threat to international trade, but also for the development of regional countries.

The hijacking of the Aris 13 – the first involving a large commercial vessel since autumn 2012 – begs the question: have the pirates returned? Read more →

International Relations Must Challenge the Freedom of Security at Sea

Barry J Ryan, Keele University

We should be embarrassed that so little has been written about the politics of the sea in the field of International Relations (IR). Traditionally limited to the study of relations between states, even the cultural turn that so reinvigorated scholarship in IR a few decades ago has maintained the focus of research on political phenomena that occur on land. Flicking through a basic textbook in IR one would be forgiven for concluding that IR is a landlocked discipline. As a discipline, its knowledge of the role played by the sea in global history is, simply put, too basic and thus dangerous. More often than not it comes down to simplistic statements about the freedom of the sea that are too rarely critically challenged. The danger lies when maritime commentary bases its analysis on this freedom, writing about it as though it has always existed, that it is sacrosanct and that it must be maintained for the good of humanity. Military intervention is usually justified on the basis that the freedom of the sea is a fundamental principle of human progress. The open sea, we are told, must be secured, for commercial reasons, for environmental reasons, and for moral reasons. Read more →

How do small states influence international counterpiracy policy?

Ulrik Trolle Smed and Anders Wivel, University of Copenhagen

The piracy problem in East Africa gained international attention in particular from 2005 and onwards. In this international setting, Denmark, a small state with strong maritime interests and tradition, experienced a surprising amount of tailwind for its counterpiracy efforts and policy proposals.

Small states are traditionally characterized by their lack of influence and capabilities. They have less military and economic power than great powers, smaller territories and populations and fewer diplomats and private citizens available for influencing international affairs. In the case of piracy off the Horn of Africa, small maritime states such as the Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka are the states most vulnerable to the threats and challenges following from piracy. They come to the negotiation table seeking solutions of common interest but lack the necessary capabilities to play a decisive role. At the same time, they are usually the first to feel the consequences of new threats or indecision.

What did Denmark do to influence the international counterpiracy agenda? What lessons does the Danish experience hold for small states in the Indian Ocean aiming to minimize the risk of piracy in the region and influence international counterpiracy policy? Read more →

NATO’s fight against Somali pirates: the end of an unsung success story

Christian Bueger, Cardiff University

Last week operation ‘Ocean Shield’ terminated ending NATO’s six year mission to protect the sea lanes of Western Indian Ocean. Will the world miss the operation? Most likely not. Ocean Shields was one of the so-called “big three” missions fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia. Working hand in hand with the U.S.-led Combined Maritime Forces and the European Union’s EUNAVFOR Atalanta, the operation was a vital part of the fight against Somali piracy, with more than successful results. Since 2012 no ships or hostages were taken by the Somali pirates and no major incident has been reported. With more than four years without a major piracy incident, it is logical to wrap up.

But this unique and very successful experiment should teach us a lesson. Operation Ocean Shields stands for nothing less than a revolution in how NATO carries out operations in collaboration with others. The alliance worked, for the first time, closely not only with the European Union and the navies of Russia, China and Japan, but also the private sector. Substantial synergies were reached through this collaboration. Moreover, Ocean Shields, reminds us that NATO is in its essence a maritime organization. It is an invaluable mechanism ready to respond to any crises at sea. As NATO leaves the Western Indian Ocean theatre, and becomes more active in tackling the migration crisis in the Mediterranean, it is important to capture the core lessons of Ocean Shields. How did it succeed? Read more →

Knowing the Sea: The Prospects and Perils of Maritime Domain Awareness

Christian Bueger & Amaha Senu, Cardiff University

How do we know the sea? How can we understand the activities at sea, as well as the dangers and opportunities the sea presents? Addressing these questions is important for enhancing the public understanding of the sea. But it is also vital for securing, governing and utilizing the maritime, whether it is the littorals, Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) or the global oceans.

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Knowing the sea was the subject of a one day Ideas Lab held in May 2016 at Cardiff University in conjunction with the European Maritime Day 2016. The event drew together academics from various disciplines such as computer science, political science and maritime law,  as well as practitioners dealing with various aspects of the sea. The aim was to cross-fertilize ideas on how we can know the sea, how electronic infrastructure and surveillance technology can provide decision support, and how organisational hurdles in sharing information can be overcome.

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How do small states influence international counterpiracy policy?

Ulrik Trolle Smed and Anders Wivel, University of Copenhagen

The piracy problem in East Africa gained international attention in particular from 2005 and onwards. In this international setting, Denmark, a small state with strong maritime interests and tradition, experienced a surprising amount of tailwind for its counterpiracy efforts and policy proposals.

Small states are traditionally characterized by their lack of influence and capabilities. They have less military and economic power than great powers, smaller territories and populations and fewer diplomats and private citizens available for influencing international affairs. In the case of piracy off the Horn of Africa, small maritime states such as the Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka are the states most vulnerable to the threats and challenges following from piracy. They come to the negotiation table seeking solutions of common interest but lack the necessary capabilities to play a decisive role. At the same time, they are usually the first to feel the consequences of new threats or indecision.

What did Denmark do to influence the international counterpiracy agenda? What lessons does the Danish experience hold for small states in the Indian Ocean aiming to minimize the risk of piracy in the region and influence international counterpiracy policy? Read more →

What Future for the Contact Group on Somali Piracy? Options for Reform

Christian Bueger, Cardiff University

2016 marks the beginning of the transition of the counter-piracy response in the Horn of Africa. Many states have already significantly reduced their involvement in counter-piracy. Recent revisions of the counter-piracy architecture raise the question of what the future holds for the main coordination body, the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS).

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Recently, the High Risk Area has been revised, which documents that international stakeholders are altering the approach they take to contain piracy. While the US-led Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) have announced in July 2015 to continue their operation, the mandates of the two other missions, NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield and the EU’s EUNAVFOR Atalanta, are under review. There are clear expectations that the EU will continue the mission in one form or another and maintain the Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa, important for situational awareness in the area. These developments need to be seen against the backdrop of the assessment that no large scale piracy attack was successful since 2012. Notwithstanding, the threat of piracy in the region persists. This is clearly highlighted by the 2015 threat assessment of the military missions and further evidenced by recent reports of low scale hijackings and hostage taking attempts.  Read more →

Contemporary Piracy as an Issue of Academic Inquiry: A Bibliography

Jan Stockbruegger, Brown University, & Christian Bueger, Cardiff University

We have compiled a new version of the Piracy Studies Bibliography, which you can access as PDF here.

The aim of this bibliography is to gather a comprehensive collection of academic works on contemporary (post WWII) maritime piracy, with a focus on academic books, journals and working paper. In addition the bibliography includes some titles on the history of piracy, and some general interest literature on piracy. The present version includes almost 600 entries. It documents the extent to which piracy has become a serious issue of academic inquiry, and how investigations of piracy contribute to general discourse and debates in International Relations, Area Studies, Maritime Studies, International Law, Criminology, and other disciplines. We hope that this bibliography helps you a little bit to find your way through the piracy studies literature. Please access the bibliography here.

Economic Factors for Piracy: The Effect of Commodity Price Shocks

Alexander Knorr, University of Colorado

The_Battle_of_Trafalgar_by_William_Clarkson_StanfieldModern maritime piracy has become a significant issue which costs the global economy $24.5 billion per year. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) reports that attacks in major waterways have increased over the past decades. Extensive research has been done with regard to countering piracy and understanding the resurgence of attacks since the early ‘90s. What are the mechanisms which drive different people in different countries across the globe to all participate in such illegal activities? One of these mechanisms is addressed in a research notes article recently published in the journal Studies in Conflicts and Terrorism.

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Norm Subsidiarity in Maritime Security: Why East Asian States Cooperate in Counter-Piracy

Terrence Lee and Kevin McGahan, National University of Singapore

Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia are the three key littoral countries that border the Straits of Malacca, a major waterway and transit area in Southeast Asia which has traditionally witnessed a fair amount of maritime piracy through the ages.  While these countries generally hold many things in common, such as historical, linguistic and cultural ties, they are also differ significantly in terms of strategic and economic interests.  Despite these important differences, why have Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia been able to cooperate in implementing and enforcing an anti-piracy regime that has been relatively effective? In a recently published article in the Pacific Review, we seek to engage this research question. We initially draw on theories in international relations that are informed by rational choice to explain international cooperation, namely neorealism and neoliberal institutionalism. We argue that key developments of the anti-piracy regime are not fully explained by such rationalist theories, which often stress strategic and material interests of states. In fact, despite rising levels of piracy in the Straits that threatened commercial and strategic goals, for many years the littoral states demonstrated only modest cooperative initiatives.

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