Terror at Sea: Exploring Maritime Targeting by Terrorist Organizations

By Victor Asal and Justin V. Hastings

Maritime terrorism is not a prominent research topic. Terrorist attacks against maritime targets are very rare. The Global Terrorism Database (GTD) only notes 199 out of 98,000 attacks in 40 years, which is less than 0.2% of the total. Even rarer are attacks on water where the terrorists need to have some maritime capability to reach their targets. Yet the threat of terrorism is growing around the world, and an increase in maritime attacks might have a very serious impact on maritime trade and global peace and security. In a forthcoming article in Terrorism and Political Violence Victor Asal and Justin Hastings therefore examine why terrorist groups attack maritime targets, and what the organizational and ideological characteristics of such groups are. They do so by drawing on the Big Allied and Dangerous dataset (BAAD), which includes organizational data on 395 terrorist organizations from 1998 to 2005. Their findings have implications for future academic research as well as for counter-terrorism and the maritime security industry.

Terrorist groups are often relatively conservative in their choice of strategy, tactics, and targets, and attacking a seaborne target is outside their logistical and training competence. Putting together attacks on land involving a car bomb, a suicide vest, or even a massed ambush with small arms have long been part of the terrorist repertoire (and thus part of the standard training for terrorist groups). Attacking a target at sea, however, requires materials – such as boats, large quantities of fuel (if the target is far from land), possibly seaworthy communications and navigation equipment – and training — such as maritime navigation and ship operations – that are not necessarily widely known among traditional terrorist groups.

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Beyond Rivalry? EU–NATO Cooperation in Counter-Piracy Operations

By Simon J. Smith and Carmen Gebhard

Counter-piracy operations and maritime engagement in the Gulf of Aden is a puzzling case for anyone interested in the political and institutional problems underlying the attempts by both the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to cooperate in security matters. Since late 2008, both organizations have conducted counter-piracy operations off the Somali coast to reinstall some sense of stability in the region. Yet although the EU’s operation NAVFOR ‘Atalanta’ and NATO’s ‘Ocean Shield’ operate in the same theatre (and with similar mandates), there is no formal link between them either currently or at anytime previously. The two operations in fact run outside the so-called Berlin Plus framework established in 2002 to formally regulate both strategic and operational cooperation between the organisations. In reality, this means there is no joint planning or official task sharing between the two security actors. Despite this actuality, our recent article in Cooperation and Conflict (written with Carmen Gebhard), ‘The two faces of EU–NATO cooperation: Counter-piracy operations off the Somali coast’ demonstrates that cooperation and coordination between EU and NATO forces has, nevertheless, worked surprisingly well at the operational and tactical levels.

What we have tried to demonstrate is that, on closer inspection, two faces of EU–NATO cooperation become apparent. This translates into the following: while the political level remains dominated by a permanent deadlock, EU and NATO operational staffs have developed an informal and practical relationship that allows them to deliver towards their respective mandates. Based on 60 interviews with EU and NATO officials (2010–2013), the article demonstrates how the operational and tactical levels have developed ways of coordinating efforts informally despite the lack of a formal framework. The article demonstrates in detail how the two sets of operational staffs have succeeded at bypassing organizational boundaries and how they have discovered creative ways in which to individually and collectively overcome political limitations. However, although these practices are becoming increasingly institutionalized, it remains to be seen whether this will translate into formal changes between the two security actors.

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Power at Sea: Insights from a Naval Power Dataset, 1865-2011

Brian Benjamin Crisher and Mark Souva, Florida State University

Naval power is a crucial element of state power, yet existing naval datasets are limited to a small number of states and ship types. Here we present 147 years of naval data on all the world’s navies from 1865 to 2011. This country-year dataset, which we will publish in a forthcoming article in International Interactions, focuses on warships with ship-based weapons capable of using kinetic force to inflict damage on other structures or peoples. After identifying a country’s active naval forces, we create a measure of naval power based on the aggregate tonnage of the active ships. Additionally, we create count variables for ship types such as aircraft carriers or battleships. This summary paper introduces the country-year data, describes variables of interests and suggests potential questions of interest scholars could explore using the naval power dataset.

Despite the prominence of naval power and its importance for understanding foreign policy and international interactions, the academic community lacks a dataset on each state’s naval capabilities. Modelski and Thompson (1988) is the most commonly used naval data set, yet their data is limited to the great powers, only includes one or two ship types in a given period, and ends in 1993.(While the data presented by Modelski and Thompson (1988) ends in 1993, the last five years of data are actually estimates based on knowledge of construction plans in 1988, see Modelski and Thompson 1988, 90).Here we present a much larger dataset of naval power for the years 1865-2011. We present data on all of the world’s navies, not just the great powers. For these years we code data on 73 countries. In addition, our dataset includes information on a larger number of ship types, including but not limited to dreadnoughts, battleships, aircraft carriers, diesel submarines, nuclear attack submarines, and nuclear ballistic missile submarines. Armed with such expansive data we are able to construct a much clearer picture of the world’s navies and changes in naval power over time. Furthermore, this new data allows us to create a new annual measure of state naval strength, which we believe will be of interest to many researchers.

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Facts, Figures, Trends: the Contemporary Maritime Piracy Database 2001-2010

By Anamika Twyman-Ghoshal

The lack of reliable piracy data has been identified as one of the main obstacles to contemporary maritime piracy research (Worrall, 2000; Ong-Webb, 2007). Research to date has focused on selected types of piracy or on particular geographical regions where piracy occurs, usually relying on single sources of data or being wholly anecdotal. Despite major shifts in the nature of contemporary piracy, little research has been produced that examines global trends in piracy. In response to this gap, I have created the Contemporary Maritime Piracy Database (CMPD). The CMPD combines the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) piracy reports and the United States National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGIA) anti-shipping activity messages in an effort to provide a more comprehensive assessment of the nature and trends of contemporary piracy. I have already introduced the CMPD in two articles in the British Journal of Criminology (Twyman-Ghoshal & Pierce 2014) and in the International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice (Twyman-Ghoshal 2014).

The IMB remains the primary source of information on piracy attacks globally, providing a total of 74.5 percent of information for the CMPD. The NGIA adds a good amount to this dataset (over 25 percent), creating a more comprehensive dataset than has been available to date. The process of integrating these two data sources was made easier by the fact that their reports provide comparable information. Together, the new dataset (CMPD) includes all non-duplicated reported incidents of piracy between 2001 and 2010. Within this dataset, each report was coded across nine major dimensions, which include: 1) geographic location (i.e., attack location and source of attack); 2) date of attack; 3) location at sea (e.g., high seas, coastal waters, in harbor); 4) time of attack; 5) target vessel characteristics; 6) pirate characteristics; 7) pirate actions; 8) pirate motivation; and 9) responses to piracy.

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Launch of mailing list for Maritime Security Research

Christian Bueger & Jan Stockbruegger

Maritime Security research is an increasingly important area of analysis and research. Research has seen a considerable growth, not the least because of the strategic importance of regional hot spots such as the Arctic or the South China Sea and issues such as maritime piracy. Yet, many areas of scholarship and analysis, notably security studies, are only slowly recovering from seablindness. Understanding the maritime domain and how it can be governed will require more and better research. To respond to the growing demands for more cooperation and cross-fertilization between scholars and analysts working on maritime security related issues, piracy-studies.org has launched a new mailing list. You can subscribe to the mailing list here. Below we briefly outline the character of the mailing list and how it will be used.

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Into the Blue: Rethinking Maritime Security

Insights from an ESRC sponsored Ideaslab on Maritime Security at Cardiff University, 26-27 June 2014

By Jan Stockbruegger and Christian Bueger, Cardiff University

IdeaslabThe concept of maritime security is one of the most recent additions to the vocabulary of international security. If security at sea used to be discussed in the frame of concepts such as seapower, maritime safety, or less frequently maritime terrorism, maritime security offers a new umbrella term, which to some degree replaces or subordinates the older terms and discussions. The salience of maritime security is related to the significant challenges that issues such as maritime terrorism, and, perhaps most prominently, maritime piracy pose. Piracy off the coast of Somalia was one of the determining concerns that lifted maritime security on the agendas of the major security organizations, including NATO, the European Union, but also the African Union or the Southern African Development Community. The rise of the concept of maritime security and the increasing importance that security actors grant to the maritime has so far been hardly reflected in the academic literature on the subject. While piracy in Somalia, West Africa and East Asia, illegal trafficking by sea, or the rise of new naval powers such as China have received more extensive treatment in the literature, the academic discourse is only slowly catching up with the empirical developments. Compared to the attention land based security questions receive, the maritime domain remains a blind spot of security studies and international relations.

Why an Ideaslab?

To fill this gap, the ESRC sponsored Counter-Piracy Governance Project at Cardiff University organized an Ideaslab to strengthen the academic discourse on maritime security. For two days scholars and analysts working on maritime security discussed their work and ideas across disciplines and raised general theoretical as well as practical questions pertaining to the maritime. The goal was not only to cross-fertilize insights, but also start to understand the connections between concepts, governance and implementation as well as the inter-linkage between issues on the maritime security agenda. The participants of the Ideaslab reflected the multiple dimension of the maritime. Human Geographers, Security Scholars, Political Theorists, Lawyers and Architects, analysts from the Royal Navy, the UK Maritime Information Centre and the European Union, civil society, novelists and the private sector discussed the future agenda of maritime security studies. You can download the Programme and the Book of Abstracts.

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