Global Directions, Merton College Oxford in Conjunction with the Hudson Trust and the First Sea Lord’s Fellowship
Anja Shortland, Julia Amos and Sarah Percy
This year’s conference was on the theme of “governance” and explored both state and non-state responses to insecurity, risks and opportunities in the maritime domain. It saw the return of leading international academics and policy officials who have been engaged since the first such event and the expanded interest both in terms of numbers and their background. It was a timely examination in light of developments in the Indian Ocean which have seen UN activity extend from piracy to other maritime crime, and stresses on national governance leading to significant insecurity in the maritime zones of West Africa and SE Asia, and resultant international political, including G7, interest.
Formal institutions, laws, regulations and enforcement usually arise when it is perceived to be in a state’s national interest to provide them or contribute to a collective effort. Informal and extra-legal institutions are private sector solutions to the absence of law and order or the lack of state enforcement of rules and norms.
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David Brewster, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University
China is facing a growing strategic dilemma in the Indian Ocean. The balance of power in the Indian Ocean is changing, driven by the erosion of the longstanding US strategic predominance and the rise of China and India as major powers. Many analysts see a significant danger of an increasing strategic contest between China and India in the Indian Ocean as they jostle for influence and position in ways reminiscent of US-Soviet rivalry during the Cold War. China’s strategic relationship with the United States in the Indian Ocean is relatively stable. But China faces considerable long term geostrategic disadvantages in the Indian Ocean as compared with India and has few options available to mitigate those disadvantages. In a recent article in the Journal of the Indian Ocean Region, David Brewster explores these vulnerabilities and contrasts them with a common narrative in which a Chinese juggernaut is developing a threatening security presence in the region.
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By Jessica N.M. Schechinger, Amsterdam Center for International Law, University of Amsterdam
It is considered to be the task of a flag state to provide security to commercial vessels flying its flag (Spearin 2012). Yet flag states increasingly transfer this task by allowing ship-owners to hire Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP) in order to protect vessel, cargo, and crew against piracy. In the Indian Ocean, for example, there are reportedly over 140 companies providing armed protection to vessels, employing a minimum of 2,700 armed guards (Tondini 2012). Compared to the classic situation where PCASP operate on land, more actors (both states and non-state actors), nationalities and jurisdictions are involved when PCASP operate on the high seas. Matters are often complicated due to the possibility of overlapping jurisdictions for the prescription and/or the enforcement of rules. The use of PCASP to protect international trade at sea can thus be rather problematic in practice, particularly in terms of accountability for human rights violations. A recent book chapter by Jessica N.M. Schechinger addresses this issue. It analyses the legal implications of human rights violations at sea by PCASP, and discusses the possible responsibility of flag states under international law.
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Henri Fouché, University of South Africa (UNISA)
In 2014 the South African Journal Acta Criminologica (Southern African Journal of Criminology) published a special edition on African perspectives on combating maritime crime. Most articles are based on papers presented at a conference entitled “Sea Piracy: International and Continental Responses” organised by the University of South Africa (UNISA) and which took place from 3-5 September 2013 at Muldersdrift, Gauteng province. The aim of the conference was to discuss and explore best practices for dealing with maritime piracy in terms of pro-active responses, jurisdiction and prosecution as well as new avenues for further research in the area of violent and organised crime in the maritime domain. Sixty delegates from navies, police, academia, and government departments, commercial shipping and international organisations participated in the conference. The conference took place at a time when the lessons learned from dealing with piracy off Somalia were able to be analysed, good practices extracted and recommendations formulated to deal with, not only piracy, but also possible future threats to security emanating from the African Maritime Domain.
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Brittany Gilmer, Florida International University
Following the 2009 hijacking of the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama and kidnapping of its captain, rethinking the existing framework for combating piracy off the coast of Somali was next to inevitable. The Maersk Alabama hijacking not only raised questions about the size and capabilities of existing military deterrence efforts, but it also sparked discussions of increasing private security aboard shipping vessels. Since the introduction of private security aboard shipping vessels, the number of successful piracy attacks has steadily decreased. However, despite the steady decrease, counter piracy actors were calling for an expansion of the counter piracy framework to include strategies for combating piracy onshore in Somalia. In addition, counter piracy programming began seeping into the mandates of organizations that did not traditionally address piracy. The simultaneous expansion of the international counter piracy regime was co-constitutive of a growing sense of pirate mania. Until now, the geopolitics, actors, and motives behind these intersecting phenomena have not been examined in depth. Brittany Gilmer fills this gap in her book on Political Geographies of Piracy, which was published by Palgrave Macmillan in October 2014.
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Sara McLaughlin Mitchell, University of Iowa and Stephen C. Nemeth, Oklahoma State University
Finding ways to resolve maritime disputes and to peaceably allocate maritime resources has become an important concern in international politics. Increasing global population growth combined with the increasing scarcity of some maritime resources has resulted in more frequent diplomatic claims between countries over maritime areas in the last few decades. Recent clashes between Japan and China over the maritime space around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands highlight the tensions that can arise in situations where two states make competing maritime claims. Japan and China have issued competing ownership claims, engaged in controversial attempts to drill for oil and natural gas, issued threats of air space violations in the area, and authorized clashes between their coast guard vessels over the islands. While both states have pursued strategies to privatize the area around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands through Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claims, they have also sought to resolve their differences through a global institution, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
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