Liberal Cooperation vs. Great Power Rivalry? How the New U.S. Seapower Strategy Shapes World Order

Jan Stockbruegger, Cardiff University

Operation Unified AssistanceIn March 2015, the U.S. published its updated and revised “Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower: Forward, Engaged, Ready (CS-21R). CS-21R was developed jointly by the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard. It is one of the first official documents that tries to translate the strategic “rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific”, outlined in the 2012 Defence Guidelines (U.S. Department of Defense 2012: 2), into military practice. CS-21R is concerned, among others, with the modernization and expansion of Chinese defence systems and challenges to U.S naval supremacy in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. CS-21R is designed to reassure U.S. allies, to enhance the forward presence of U.S. maritime forces and to guarantee U.S. command of the commons and freedom of action in the maritime domain. CS-21R has far reaching implication for the future of the international system and world peace and security. The world’s oceans are no longer seen as a post-Cold War liberal space of interdependence, exchange and cooperation. Instead, CS-21R portrays the maritime domain in realist terms and as an emerging geopolitical and military battlefield. We might be witnessing the beginning of a new era of interstate conflict and rivalry over maritime power. World order, so to say, is about to change at sea, and CS-21R is a significant milestones in this process.

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Managing Security Risks at Sea: A Challenge for the Shipping Industry

Hans Liwång, (Swedish Defence University), Karl Sörenson (Swedish Defence University) and Cecilia Österman (Linnaeus University)

Cross_ocean_big_ship_strandedShip security measures are often the first and only measures preventing criminal acts at sea. At the same time ship operators have had problems defending the quality of their ship security analysis when it is challenged. Ship security management is today prescribed to be risk-based which has two objectives: to effectively reduce the security risk to acceptable levels, and to create a security culture in the organization that supports effective ship operation on an everyday basis. Handling the organizational culture is especially challenging because of the subjective nature of risk perception. Another challenge is that risk analysis often suffers from a too narrow perspective when it comes to identifying threat, hazards and consequences. In a recently published article in the WMU Journal of Maritime Affairs, the authors identify challenges for ship operators when preparing for security threats. The study investigated the methodology for risk analysis. It focuses on two central aspects: understanding the threat and understanding how a security threat can affect the crew and operation of the ship. These two areas were chosen because they are not assumed to be a natural part of a ship operator’s organizational knowledge although they are crucial for successful risk mitigation.

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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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The Fourth Annual International Maritime Security Conference ‘Governance’ 23/24 March 2015

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

merton colour crest-lgeThis 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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China’s Strategic Dilemma in the Indian Ocean

David Brewster, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University


Divisions_at_INAChina 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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Flag States, Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel and Human Rights Violations at Sea

By Jessica N.M. Schechinger, Amsterdam Center for International Law, University of Amsterdam

Armed_guard_escort_on_a_merchant_shipIt 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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