What Drives Maritime Piracy in Sub-Saharan Africa?

by Brandon Prins, University of Tennessee

Southeast Asia once dominated the landscape of maritime piracy. From 1999 to 2004 Indonesia experienced nearly 100 pirate attacks per year. But just as piracy was receding in and around the Malacca Straits, attacks in the Gulfs of Guinea and Aden were on the rise. Indeed, piracy and especially hijackings exploded in the Greater Gulf of Aden after 2008 (see Map of Africa with incidents geo-coded). In a recent report for the Office of Naval Research in the United States, Brandon Prins examines trends in maritime piracy in Sub-Saharan Africa. Using newly collected and geo-coded data from the Maritime Piracy Event and Location Data Project (MPELD) Brandon Prins documents both the drivers of piracy in Sub-Saharan Africa and compares piracy to other forms of political violence witnessed in this region. He notes that given the tremendous social and political conflict occurring in many piracy prone countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, counter-piracy efforts at sea will likely fail.

Figure 1: Piracy Incidents, 2005-2013 (IMB)

Figure 1: Piracy Incidents, 2005-2013 (IMB)

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Pirate Ransom Negotiations: Resolving the Paradoxes of Extortionate Transactions with Somali Pirates

William A. Donohue (Michigan State University), Franziska Pugh (Michigan State University), Sharmaake Sabrie (Georgetown University)

Somali pirates take a very business-like approach to their craft. “We attack big ships that can pay us. However, after capturing several ships we have learned about what type of ships to target and which ship owner is able or willing to pay ransom money and the countries these ships usually come from,” remarked a pirate who was interviewed for a study just published in the journal of Negotiation and Conflict Management Research.

The study by a team from Michigan State University interviewed two former Somali pirates now living in Europe. They focused on how the pirates target and capture ships and then negotiate ransoms for the release of the ship.

The conceptual framework used to understand this negotiation process is termed Extortionate Transactions. The framework argues that these kinds of negotiations revolve around five paradoxes. The first two focus on how individuals view the circumstances that bring them into a crisis of extortion. First is the paradox of dispossession, or the more one has the less one has to lose. The hostage taker is both powerful (in the taking of hostages) but powerless (unable to affect change through legitimate channels) at the same time. Second is the paradox of detachment in that parties in the crisis are both attached and detached to one another and the situation simultaneously. They must work through one another to achieve an outcome, but they are detached in the sense that they dislike and distrust one another.

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Who Needs NATO to Fight Pirates? Why Europe Launched EU Counter-Piracy Mission Atalanta

By Marianne Riddervold, ARENA Centre for European Studies, University of Oslo

When the European Union (EU) launched EU NAVFOR Somalia (Atalanta) in 2008, it became the third multilateral anti-piracy operation established in the waters outside Somalia – all with military contributions from many of the same European states. The United States of America (the US) was establishing a ‘coalition of the willing’ anti-piracy force, the Combined Maritime Task Force (CTF-151). And in October 2008, followinga direct request from the UN Secretary-General, NATO launched humanitarian operation ‘Allied Provider’ to protect World Food Program (WFP) aid shipments to Somalia. So why then did the EU member states just one month later agree to launch an additional, and compared to the NATO mission, more long-term and clearly bigger naval military mission in the same theater? Why not instead strengthen and prolong the already established NATO mission? This puzzle is addressed in a recent article in European Security. After all, there is only a limited amount of military resources that can be deployed by the European states at any time, the EU had no previous experience in conducting maritime operations, and NATO has traditionally been the preferred security provider for many European states. Nevertheless it is the EU, and not NATO, who together with the US has taken the lead in the international political, military and diplomatic efforts to solve the situation both at sea and at land.

To account for this, in the European Security article I trace the Atlanta decision-making process in order to identify what factors led to agreement on this option. Data consists of interviews across the different EU institutions, different EU member states officials, NATO military staff and delegates to the International Maritime Organization, as well as official and informal documents from the same institutions and from different EU and NATO member states.

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A Two-Way Street: Organizing Intelligence Cooperation for the Maritime Transport Industry

By Hassan M. Eltaher

Threats to the maritime industry include threats to ships/vessels, ports, port facilities, passenger terminals, national and international waterways including their locks and approaches; international straits and multinational rivers; navigation facilities; waterside and landside moorings; human and multi-modal vehicular traffic; seaplane operations, and finally threats to Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODUs). To organize a pre-emptive, protective, defensive and problem-solving security network for a country-wide coverage of such expanses surely calls for sophisticated functional and well-tested security and intelligence systems. Some threats are occasional, others are recurrent, accidental or endemic to a particular region, and the reasons behind them are diverse. Planning and reacting to the variety of threats calls for different approaches, a good chunk of which relies on how intelligence is organized, shared and handled in cooperation with other players such as the military, the Department of Transport, the political leadership, and industry stakeholders. In this contribution Hassan M. Eltaher, the author of “Aviation & Maritime Security Intelligence”, provides a few insights into how this process is to be organized.

Transportation security and intelligence: a two-way street

Transportation security, and especially the important intelligence function within it must be treated and managed as a whole, albeit with distinct modules by mode of transportation under one centralized umbrella. In other words, transportation security must be multi-modal, but managed by one team of security and intelligence professionals at the top, and threat information touching any module must be shared by all the modules among themselves. This should ensure proper balancing between operational efficiency requirements, national security but also commercial viability.

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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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