The Maritime Dimension of Conflict Prevention and Resolution: Lessons Learned from East Africa

Francois Vreÿ, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

Africa’s maritime domain has steadily emerged as an important security landscape for Africans as well as for the wider international community. This importance is portrayed by the ever-growing number of naval vessels in African waters, but also in the turn to maritime matters taking place in the peace and security agenda of the African Union. It cannot be ignored that piracy off Somalia set the scene for much of the global maritime awakening. However, it is also necessary to place events off Africa within the wider realm of responses to conflict. Conflict prevention and conflict resolution are established ways to react to complex conflicts. Over time both have matured in a way that offers some useful pathways to understand and respond to the threats and conflicts of the early 21st century. Yet much of the learning curve to prevent or resolve complex and dangerous violent conflicts took place on land. Nevertheless Africa is experiencing rather dangerous and violent maritime spill-overs of landward conflicts. Though the international response is encapsulated by naval missions doing anti-piracy, a recent article in the Journal of the Indian Ocean Region, argues that it is also time to set the ongoing and even future maritime missions off Africa within the larger conflict resolution framework. East Africa offers the leeway to bring together some elements of theory and practice of maritime conflict resolution.

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What can Shippers do against Pirate Attacks? Insights from Situational Crime Prevention

By Jon. M. Shane and Shannon Magnuson, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York City

The shipping industry cannot rely on the navies and traditional law enforcement to protect them from pirate attacks and to hold pirates accountable. Patrolling the open waters is different from patrolling on land, crime is easier to perpetrate, harder to detect and harder to prevent. When pirates attack, an armed confrontation is likely, and violence occurs rather frequently (almost 37% in this study). The effectiveness of traditional law enforcement and prosecution efforts are limited in an international context, particularly when dealing with failed states. The limitations of traditional law enforcement are reflected in the dramatic increases in yearly piracy incidents. Even when traditional law enforcement operations are successful, the prosecution is beset by numerous delays and legal obstacles and incarceration is never guaranteed, all of which may attenuate the deterrent effect of arrest and prosecution. However, a recent study in Justice Quarterly argues that pirate attacks are not inevitable. Merchant marines and their vessels can protect themselves by taking measures that alter the transit environment. Situational crime prevention theory provides the framework for proactively deterring offending, in this case maritime piracy.


Situational Analysis – A Partial Solution?

Situational crime prevention (SCP) is a form of “opportunity theory,” It is a micro-level theory that accounts for the interaction between the victim, the offender and the environment. The basic premise is that a strong, visible defense will deter or delay a crime and does not necessarily rely on the criminal justice system to detect and prosecute offenders, or control crime.

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Illegal Fishing and Organized Crime: A Threat to Maritime Security?

Don Liddick, Penn State-Fayette

Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing is a significant transnational crime problem that costs developing nations up to $15 billion in economic losses annually (Liddick 2011). Perpetrators include established organized crime groups as well as commercial fishing operations; moreover the incidence of IUU fishing is often shaped and facilitated by corrupt public officials. Various economic drivers, the exceptionally high value of some species, and the Flag of Convenience (FOC) system of vessel registration contribute to the significance of the problem. Negative environmental impacts involve the depletion of fish stocks, damage to coral reefs, and stress on marine mammals and birds. Social and economic impacts are severe as well, and are most especially prevalent in developing nations. While an impressive number of initiatives, public and private, have been undertaken to address the problem, the very conditions that give rise to IUU fishing render attempts to combat the problem quite difficult. Don Liddick analyses the problem of illegal fishing in a recent article in Trends in Organized Crime.


Global Scope

As much as 75% of the world’s fish stocks are either depleted or overexploited, with the collapse or near collapse of some fish species. While this depletion is caused in part by perfectly legal, yet irresponsible, overconsumption, it is also true that at least 15% of the total world catch – anywhere from 11 to 26 million tons annually—is associated with IUU fishing (Agnew et al 2009). In addition to stress on fish stocks and associated negative impacts on broader marine ecosystems, IUU fishing precipitates damage to the food security and livelihood of coastal populations. In Europe, perhaps half of all seafood consumed has illicit origins, and in some fisheries, illicit activity accounts for approximately one-third of all catches.

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Counter-Piracy Lite? The EU’s ‘Soft’ Maritime Security Drive in the Gulf of Guinea

By Brendan Flynn, National University of Ireland

Operation Atalanta (EU NAVFOR) has unquestionably grabbed the limelight as the EU’s most important contribution to combating piracy. However, that mission’s mandate ends in 2014, and while it may be extended it appears to be scaling down as the piracy epidemic off the coast of Somalia has much reduced. Does this mean the EU is no longer interested in anti-piracy? Not really, but perhaps the emphasis is shifting towards softer (and cheaper) maritime security initiatives.

This summer alone the EU’s Maritime Strategy has been published which includes anti-piracy as a key theme, although the document itself is a rather disappointing mish-mash of many concerns. Of more direct relevance has been the steady progress of a dedicated EU anti-piracy mission for the Gulf of Guinea the so-called CRIMGO initiative (Critical Maritime Routes Gulf of Guinea). This project is actually one of several “Crimson” initiatives which were pioneered since 2008 by the Commission Directorate for Development. These are tailored to specific trade routes, with ones for the Straits of Malacca, Indian Ocean, etc.

CRIMGO is very different to Operation Atalanta but rather closer to the EUCAP NESTOR mission. For one thing there is no question of any permanent naval patrols in West African waters by EU navies. Secondly, much of the action takes place on land. The core of CRIMGO is about training local maritime security and anti-piracy elites and developing capacities to tackle the problem locally. Note, there is no EU building up of the actual hard infrastructure to combat piracy, such as through transfers of vessels, aircraft, drones or others measures.

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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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