Barry J Ryan, Keele University
We should be embarrassed that so little has been written about the politics of the sea in the field of International Relations (IR). Traditionally limited to the study of relations between states, even the cultural turn that so reinvigorated scholarship in IR a few decades ago has maintained the focus of research on political phenomena that occur on land. Flicking through a basic textbook in IR one would be forgiven for concluding that IR is a landlocked discipline. As a discipline, its knowledge of the role played by the sea in global history is, simply put, too basic and thus dangerous. More often than not it comes down to simplistic statements about the freedom of the sea that are too rarely critically challenged. The danger lies when maritime commentary bases its analysis on this freedom, writing about it as though it has always existed, that it is sacrosanct and that it must be maintained for the good of humanity. Military intervention is usually justified on the basis that the freedom of the sea is a fundamental principle of human progress. The open sea, we are told, must be secured, for commercial reasons, for environmental reasons, and for moral reasons. Read more →
Ulrik Trolle Smed and Anders Wivel, University of Copenhagen
The piracy problem in East Africa gained international attention in particular from 2005 and onwards. In this international setting, Denmark, a small state with strong maritime interests and tradition, experienced a surprising amount of tailwind for its counterpiracy efforts and policy proposals.
Small states are traditionally characterized by their lack of influence and capabilities. They have less military and economic power than great powers, smaller territories and populations and fewer diplomats and private citizens available for influencing international affairs. In the case of piracy off the Horn of Africa, small maritime states such as the Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka are the states most vulnerable to the threats and challenges following from piracy. They come to the negotiation table seeking solutions of common interest but lack the necessary capabilities to play a decisive role. At the same time, they are usually the first to feel the consequences of new threats or indecision.
What did Denmark do to influence the international counterpiracy agenda? What lessons does the Danish experience hold for small states in the Indian Ocean aiming to minimize the risk of piracy in the region and influence international counterpiracy policy? Read more →
Christian Bueger, Cardiff University
Last week operation ‘Ocean Shield’ terminated ending NATO’s six year mission to protect the sea lanes of Western Indian Ocean. Will the world miss the operation? Most likely not. Ocean Shields was one of the so-called “big three” missions fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia. Working hand in hand with the U.S.-led Combined Maritime Forces and the European Union’s EUNAVFOR Atalanta, the operation was a vital part of the fight against Somali piracy, with more than successful results. Since 2012 no ships or hostages were taken by the Somali pirates and no major incident has been reported. With more than four years without a major piracy incident, it is logical to wrap up.
But this unique and very successful experiment should teach us a lesson. Operation Ocean Shields stands for nothing less than a revolution in how NATO carries out operations in collaboration with others. The alliance worked, for the first time, closely not only with the European Union and the navies of Russia, China and Japan, but also the private sector. Substantial synergies were reached through this collaboration. Moreover, Ocean Shields, reminds us that NATO is in its essence a maritime organization. It is an invaluable mechanism ready to respond to any crises at sea. As NATO leaves the Western Indian Ocean theatre, and becomes more active in tackling the migration crisis in the Mediterranean, it is important to capture the core lessons of Ocean Shields. How did it succeed? Read more →
Christian Bueger & Amaha Senu, Cardiff University
How do we know the sea? How can we understand the activities at sea, as well as the dangers and opportunities the sea presents? Addressing these questions is important for enhancing the public understanding of the sea. But it is also vital for securing, governing and utilizing the maritime, whether it is the littorals, Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) or the global oceans.
Knowing the sea was the subject of a one day Ideas Lab held in May 2016 at Cardiff University in conjunction with the European Maritime Day 2016. The event drew together academics from various disciplines such as computer science, political science and maritime law, as well as practitioners dealing with various aspects of the sea. The aim was to cross-fertilize ideas on how we can know the sea, how electronic infrastructure and surveillance technology can provide decision support, and how organisational hurdles in sharing information can be overcome.
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Lisa Otto, Coventry University
In a recent article published in Africa Insight, Lisa Otto puts forward the findings from her analysis of a five-year dataset for maritime crime that she collected and collated for the period 2009 to 2013. Analysis of this data, which was collected by cross-referencing reports from the International Maritime Bureau and the International Maritime Organisation, supplemented by information from other sources where possible, has allowed her to determine the contours of maritime criminal activities in Nigeria, and the Gulf of Guinea beyond. Read more →
Christian Bueger, Cardiff University
2016 marks the beginning of the transition of the counter-piracy response in the Horn of Africa. Many states have already significantly reduced their involvement in counter-piracy. Recent revisions of the counter-piracy architecture raise the question of what the future holds for the main coordination body, the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS).
Recently, the High Risk Area has been revised, which documents that international stakeholders are altering the approach they take to contain piracy. While the US-led Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) have announced in July 2015 to continue their operation, the mandates of the two other missions, NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield and the EU’s EUNAVFOR Atalanta, are under review. There are clear expectations that the EU will continue the mission in one form or another and maintain the Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa, important for situational awareness in the area. These developments need to be seen against the backdrop of the assessment that no large scale piracy attack was successful since 2012. Notwithstanding, the threat of piracy in the region persists. This is clearly highlighted by the 2015 threat assessment of the military missions and further evidenced by recent reports of low scale hijackings and hostage taking attempts. Read more →