This week the industry fair MAST Northern Coasts was held in Copenhagen, bringing a range of international naval and industry representatives to the city. The exhibition was accompanied by a small conference at which I had the pleasure to give a talk on maritime domain awareness (MDA). Drawing on the research on MDA in different regions, I looked into the questions of what is difficult in implementing MDA and why we don’t see the emergence of a Baltic regional MDA structure.
On May 28th we had the pleasure to co-host a strategy meeting of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) in Copenhagen. Held in association with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Danish Shipping and the Indian Ocean Commission the main objective of the meeting was to discuss the future strategy of the group. The discussion was based on a report that I have written together with Jessica Larsen from the Danish Institute of International Studies.Continue reading
Singapore is host to one of the most successful initiatives for sharing information and developing maritime domain awareness on a regional level. The Information Fusion Centre (known as IFC) operated by the Singaporean navy has become a global template for how to improve the flow of maritime information, conduct solid analysis of activities and trends at sea, but also to react rapidly to any maritime incident across borders and jurisdictions.
On the 14th of May the IFC celebrated its 10th anniversary. At the celebration it also launched the new information sharing platform of the centre. The celebration was part of the annual exercise MARISX.
I had the opportunity to attend the event as an observer. Following my earlier visits to the IFC in 2018 and 2015 (see my article on the IFC here), I could for the first time see the exercise in action. MARISX brought together participants from ASEAN navies and coastguards, and various international partners, including Australia, China, Germany, India, Seychelles, the UK or the US. For three days participants had the opportunity to try out the brand new IFC Real-time Information-sharing System (IRIS) to address real life scenarios, such as illegal fishing, illegal migration or piracy incidents. The participants also discussed how such incidents can be better managed jointly using the platform. A number of national operational centers (OPCENs) from different countries participated remotely in the exercise. Also representatives from the shipping industry, including the Singapore Shipping Association or Intertanko, as well as international organisations such as Interpol and UNODC contributed to the event.Continue reading
As part of the biennial naval exercise Aman, the Pakistani government is organizing an International Maritime Conference. This years iteration had the theme “Global Geopolitics in Transition: Rethinking Maritime Dynamics in the Indian Ocean Region”. As part of the conference I gave a keynote address on the second day of the event. I argued that Pakistan needs to peer towards the Western Indian Ocean, rather then rely on a broader regional construct and then asked what is the right security architecture for that region. Further information on the conference is available here. Download a copy of my talk here, or read it below. Continue reading
From the 28th to the 30th of January the UNODC’s Global Maritime Crime Programme organised two events to identify new challenges and opportunities for countries to respond to maritime insecurity.
The first event discussed with representatives from the Indian Ocean region how the 190 parties to the 1988 ‘United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances’ can make better use of Article 17 which address illicit traffic at sea and prescribes how suspicious vessels can be boarded on the high seas. Participants highlighted in particular the need for better information sharing and working points of contact, but also the value of bilateral and regional MoU.
The second event addressed one of the core gaps in the current ocean regimes, namely how to protect undersea data cables from organised crime. Data cables are one of the most important infrastructures of today’s digital economy, but no legal provisions exist so far how on how crime against them could be prosecuted. The meeting called for ongoing work in this area by UNODC in collaboration with other stakeholders.
In the end of January I had the pleasure to visit Singapore to attend two events on maritime security in Southeast Asia organised by the Maritime Security Programme of RSIS. The first event was a a strategic review and an outlook into the prospective developments in 2019. Particular attention was paid to the question of how the geo-strategic environment influences the region, and what the prospects for a rule-based ocean governance regime in the near future holds.
The second event focussed on Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA). MDA is often considered to be one of the keys for addressing maritime insecurity as it provides the knowledge and understanding for policy, institutional reforms as well as operational responses. The one day event had the objective to review the state of MDA on a national and regional level. Participants agreed about the value of MDA, but identified quite significant hurdles to achieve better knowledge of the sea.
In my opening talk at the event I introduced our work on key guidelines for MDA in the frame of the Safeseas network. I summarized some of the promises and argued that many of the known hurdles can be overcome through institutional procedures. The slides of the talk are available here.
The 6th annual legal conference of the NATO Centre of Excellence on Operations in Confined and Shallow Waters (COE CSW) legal conference took place in Copenhagen, Denmark from the 25 to 27th of September. More than 130 naval officers, attorneys, and professors from 30 countries across the globe discussed contemporary maritime issues including cyber threats, self-defense, ocean conservation and marine pollution, and regional security challenges. I had the pleasure to participate in the events.
At the 2017 Our Oceans Conference, Seychelles president Danny Faure announced that the country would soon begin drafting a maritime security strategy:
“Maritime security is an extremely important component of the sustainable development of the ocean economy. One of the expected results of the blue economy strategy is greater protection for Seychelles’ ocean space and resources through better coordination across different sectors, application of protective measures and greater use of surveillance and enforcement tools. This is certainly a formidable challenge for a SIDS like Seychelles. But, because of our limited and competing resources, it is particularly important that we have a well thought-out maritime security strategy”.
On December 15th the governmental working group that will draft the Seychelles Comprehensive Maritime Security Strategy held its inaugural meeting. At the meeting, I gave a short briefing on the lessons from other maritime security strategies for Seychelles. I also introduced some of the results of the project SafeSeas so the research outcomes can inform the planning process.
On the 6th of December, I contributed to a symposium on illegal fishery in Seychelles waters and the wider Western Indian Ocean region. Titled “Stopping Illegal Fishing: Protecting the ‘Blue Gold’ of Seychelles” the objective of the event was to raise awareness for the problem and to offer a platform for the policy dialogue on how to improve a national and regional multi-agency response. Given Seychelles’ status as a regional and global leader in ocean governance, it is important that the country continues to be pro-active in this important security and development matter.
The event was co-organised by the Blue Economy Research Institute, the James Mancham Center for Peace and Security, both from the University of Seychelles and my project SafeSeas. Speakers at the event represent the Seychelles Blue Economy department, the Seychelles Fishing Authority, Seychelles Fishing Boat Owner Association, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission as well Fish-I Africa. I offered some introductory remarks and chaired one of the two panels.
In my introductory remarks, I stressed that contemporary ocean governance is best appreciated through four conceptual lenses: 1) maritime security, 2) blue economy, 3( ocean health, and 4) blue justice. Each of these agendas are often seen as seperate. Yet, the problem of illegal fishery documents well how all of these hang together. Fisheries, is a major resource in the blue economy, in order to generate revenue from it, it needs to be sustainably managed, and fish require healthy oceans. Sustainable fisheries, raises major distributive justice questions, namely who is to fish how much where and when? Do the revenues go to international cooperations, to the state, or to the small-scale, artisanal professional fishermen or the amateur fishermen. Finally, fisheries is also a security problem. We have learned that organised criminals combine their illicit activities, such as smuggling with illegal fisheries, and we have learned from Somalia that illegal fisheries can create grievances and provide the justifications for engaging in crime.
On November the 1st I am giving a presentation at a symposium of the Indian Navy. Hosted by the Indian Navy Naval War College in Goa the two-day event is focussed on “Addressing Regional Maritime Challenges” and brings together over one hundred representatives from Indian and Indian Ocean navies. Held for the first time, the Goa Maritime Enclave intends to strengthen collaboration and joint learning across the Indian Ocean. As such it is a further addition to other formats such as the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium or the Sri Lanka Navy’s Galle Dialogue strengthening the maritime ties in the region.
My talk draws on my recent research on maritime domain awareness and capacity building. I firstly contextualize maritime domain awareness historically, arguing that we have witnessed a series of revolutions in “knowing the sea”, starting out from the British Empires approach to turn the oceans into governable and knowable zones, the rise of attempts to track and monitor maritime traffic for search and rescue as well as environmental management purposes, up to the current day big data revolution in which advanced surveillance technology and anomaly detection is geared at supporting maritime security operations. Zooming in on the Western Indian Ocean I then investigate the claim that maritime domain awareness by virtue strengthens cooperation. I argue that on the one side, the competition between architectures points to a strong geo-political motive in building maritime domain awareness, on the other side we can observe the rise of communities of practice with the objective of working together. I conclude by arguing that advancing shared maritime domain awareness will imply to provide some order to the current complexity of architectures, to re-politicize these projects, to work towards more trust and confidence to enable sharing of information (between agencies and countries), as well as to avoid living in technological fantasies and rely on pragmatic low tech work instead. The slides of the talk are available as pdf here.