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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Rising Powers in Maritime Security? Comparing the Strategies of Brazil and India

By Adriana Erthal Abdenur and Danilo Marcondes de Souza Neto

In the fluid, highly uncertain context of the post-Cold War period, rising powers have begun to engage more intensely in region-building, redefining their strategic vicinities through a combination of inter-state cooperation and military build-up. Although this topic has been addressed in depth with respect to China’s behaviour in the Pacific and Russia’s actions in the Arctic, relatively little has been published on region-building efforts by rising powers in the Southern Hemisphere. In the article Region-Building by Rising Powers: the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean Rims Compared, published last March in the Journal of the Indian Ocean Region, we compare the strategies that these two countries have pursued within their respective maritime spaces: the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. Although the geopolitics of those two regions are vastly different—broadly put, the Indian Ocean is marked by much sharper tensions and competitive dynamics—we find that these two rising powers have increasingly turned to the seas, and more specifically to maritime perimeters, as they work to increase opportunities and influence abroad.

In the case of Brazil, the government has drawn an analogy to the Amazon—long its foremost defence concern—to launch the “Blue Amazon” campaign, geared at convincing primarily domestic audiences of the need to improve naval dissuasion power in the South Atlantic, particularly in light of the discovery (announced in the mid and late 2000s) of substantial oil reserves on and off the Brazilian continental shelf in the Atlantic. Concurrently, Brazil has launched a naval upgrading programme that centres on the development, in cooperation with France, of a nuclear-powered attack submarine. Finally, Brazil has stepped up its cooperation with states all around the South Atlantic perimeter, in South America as well as in Africa, both bilaterally and multilaterally. Bilaterally, Brazil has become an important provider of South-South development cooperation to these states, but it also helps coastal states in Africa to conduct their own continental shelf surveys and to upgrade their naval forces. On the multilateral front, Brazil has worked to revive the South Atlantic Zone of Peace and Cooperation, a Cold War-era construct that had lost steam after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Through this effort, Brazil has tried to strengthen local states’ positions in favour of a non-nuclear South Atlantic, and one where the presence of “external actors” is minimized.  This takes place just as tensions over the Malvinas/Falklands have resurfaced between Argentina the United Kingdom. Greater attention to the South Atlantic has also meant that Brazil has reaffirmed its commitment to improving its Antarctic programme, including by cooperating with its South American neighbours.

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Africa’s Maritime Domain: Can the Regional States Ensure a Stable Regime in the Indian Ocean Region?

by P.V. Rao

The unstable and fragile political regimes of many of the African littoral countries in the Indian Ocean Region compound the problems of managing their maritime domains. Maritime criminal and illegal operations are confined not only to the coastal states but also to the island states of the continent. The inability of these states to combat the threats regularly posed by maritime non-state actors has resulted in the enormous naval militarisation of the African waters by foreign naval forces, Western and non-Western. How far and how long the states of the region should depend on foreign countries for ensuring the safety of their coastal zones will also determine the level of independence that these states will retain to keep their maritime wealth and domain under their sovereign control.

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