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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Combatting Maritime Piracy: African Perspectives on an Emerging Threat

Henri Fouché, University of South Africa (UNISA)

080906-N-1082Z-055In 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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Pirate Mania: Counter-Piracy and the Security-Development Nexus in Somalia

Brittany Gilmer, Florida International University

Anti-Piracy OperationsFollowing 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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