Christian Bueger

Mediterranean Connectivity: Strategies, Threats and Opportunities – event in Rome

For centuries, the Mediterranean Sea has been one of the world’s busiest waterways. Since the opening of the Suez Canal, it has served not only as the key transport corridor for shipping between Asia and Europe but has also become a global super data highway in the age of fiber optic communications.

The Mediterranean is an increasingly important hub for energy. New underwater power cables are connecting North Africa with the Southern European electricity grid. Extensive fossil fuel exploitation in the Eastern Mediterranean is in its early stages.

Like other regional seas, the Mediterranean is becoming an industrialized space of maritime infrastructures.

The 24th Mediterranean Strategy Group meeting of the German Marshall Fund took up the challenge to reflect on what this connectivity implies for the region under the theme of “connectivity.” 45 experts from 15 countries discussed the issue in Rome.

Panelists of discussion on subsea data cables in the Mediterranean, Rome, 4.6.2024
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Critical maritime infrastructures and the blue economy

Continuing the discussion on the future of critical maritime infrastructure protection, I had the pleasure to chair a panel on the topic at the 2024 European Maritime Day.

With presentations from Iglika Yakova (DG Mare), Anne Mette Mosekjær Søndergaard (Oersted), Nathalie De Jaeger (Belgian Government), and Izabela Surwillo (Danish Institute for International Studies), we specifically looked into the link between critical maritime infrastructure protection (CMIP) and the blue economy.

CMIP allows us to evaluate blue economy ambitions in a new light, since harvesting and preserving ocean resources involves the planning, building and protection of infrastructures. These range from energy platforms, to cables, aquaculture farms to the sensors needed for ocean monitoring and restoration projects.

CMIP emphasizes that the decisive question of contemporary ocean governance is how we protect and care for ocean infrastructures. Such a line of thinking offers opportunities to overcome the fragmentation between discourses of maritime security and the blue economy.

The European Maritime Day is the annual celebration of the European Union to take stock of efforts in developing the blue economy, restoring marine biodiversity and safeguarding marine activities. The 2024 edition took place in Svendborg, Denmark at the Svendborg International Maritime Academy.

Organization by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG Mare), the event attracts more than 1.000 visitors, mainly from, science, technology and government.

2nd symposium on critical maritime infrastructure protection focused on the North Sea

The North Sea is a strategic space for the green transition. It is a paradigmatic space for heavily industrialized regional seas with a high density of infrastructure. Efficient and reliable critical maritime infrastructure protection is hence vital for the region. As part of the Edinburgh-Copenhagen partnership and in collaboration with the SafeSeas, we held a second symposium on the North Sea in Edinburgh from 23rd to 24th of May.

Drawing on the insights of the first symposium, which had focused on industry needs, the threat landscape and the responses by governments and regional organizations in the North Sea, this event investigated legal gaps, operations at sea, the cyber-physical protection nexus, as well as societal and market responses to the new threat landscape.

At the event I outlined the changing face of maritime security in the age of infrastructure, drawing on our book Understanding Maritime Security, the importance to recognize the entanglement of infrastructures and security debates, and the need to understand the North Sea as a laboratory.

The summary is available on the SafeSeas website.

Field visit to Shetlands

Shetland Islands is the proto-type of an energy island and at the heart of the green energy transition in the North Sea. Moving from oil and gas to renewable energy production is at the heart of the islands transformation. From the 19th to 22nd of May, I conducted a field visit together with Professor Andrew Neal from the University of Edinburgh to discuss with local experts the transition and explore the multitude of infrastructures on the islands, how they are entangled and how they are protected.

The visit was part of the Copenhagen Edinburgh partnership project on ‘Securing the Green Transition in the North Sea.’ A field report is in the making.

Strengthening cross-Atlantic cooperation

In contrast to other oceans, such as the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic continues to be a disintegrated space, with only few attempts to bring regional states together under a common institutional umbrella. While parts of the Atlantic have developed very close ties, such as in the Arctic, North-Atlantic, Western Africa or in the South Atlantic, cross-Atlantic relations are only weakly developed.

In autumn 2023 more than 30 regional nations signed the Declaration for the Atlantic to change this situation. The declaration created a new forum: the Partnership for Atlantic Cooperation. An Agenda for Action for the new forum was agreed as well.

The Transatlantic Leadership Network started the Digital Atlantic Initiative to think ahead of how a focus on digital technologies could add to and strengthen the agenda. Over a series of meeting subsea data cables, marine spatial planning and maritime domain awareness were explored.

I had the pleasure to feed into the process with a paper on Maritime Domain Awareness in the Atlantic and presenting it at a group meeting on the 16th of May. In the paper, I briefly discuss the benefits of MDA and present the results of a mapping of existing initiatives in the Atlantic. This leads me to the observation that a notable MDA gap exists in the South Atlantic, and that a cross-Atlantic Coast Guard Function Forum could be a useful next step for strengthening the ties in the region to address issues of marine safety and security.

The Royal Navy’s Quest for Seapower in the 21st Century – A conference visit

The First Sea Lord’s Seapower Conference is the Royal Navy’s annual flagship event, and I had the pleasure to attend and speak at this years iteration.

The 2024 edition was titled “Future navy: Maritime in the 2040s” and the debate firmly focused on the question of what mid-term challenges the Royal Navy faces and through what posture it could address them.

The event was co-organized with the Council on Geostrategy. The Council, founded in 2001, is a relatively young think tanks — if compared to the traditional British intellectual power houses, such as RUSI or Chatham House. The Council’s mission is “to strengthen Britain and re-assert [its] leadership” and it wants to “promote robust ideas” to boost the countries “discursive, diplomatic and military power”.

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How small states make a difference in maritime security – new article

Small island states are major victims of maritime insecurity, not the least because their economies fully depend on the sea. Yet, they are not helpless or just dependent on foreign support.

As Ryan Adeline, Brendon J Cannon, and I show in a new commentary published with War on the Rocks, if small states take decisive action and use capacity building support wisely they can make a major difference.

In the commentary we reflect on a recent counter-piracy operation by the Seychelles Coastguard, and why it is an important template for other countries.

Talk at German Institute for the Protection of Maritime Infrastructures

Germany’s Institute for the Protection of Maritime Infrastructures is a leading institution developing novel technology for the protection of infrastructures at sea. The institute is part of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and located in the old fishing port of Bremerhaven.

On April, 18th I had the pleasure to visit the institute and get an introduction to the technologies developed, including novel sensors and cyber solutions. I also gave a talk introducing the staff members to our understanding of the agenda of Critical Maritime Infrastructure Protection (CMIP) and how it revises the concerns of maritime security and ocean governance more broadly.