Christian Bueger

How does NATO contribute to critical maritime infrastructure protection?

Critical maritime infrastructure protection (CMIP) is an increasingly important component of maritime security. Following up our discussion of the principles and challenges of CMIP, published with Marine Policy last year, in a new short article I discuss the role of NATO.

The article published with the Institute for Maritime Strategy’s online journal MOC , reviews the range of activities that NATO has developed, including a new coordination cell, a new center and a digital initiative to improve maritime domain awareness. This provides solid foundations for the work of the organization in CMIP. Yet, it raises the question of how this work relates to other initiatives launched in regional seas, such as the North Sea, given that the role of military is limited.

Are the pirates of Somalia back in business?

In a new commentary published with SafeSeas I reflect on the current wave of piracy incidents off the coast of Somalia. The pirates have shown considerable activity over the past weeks, and use the current Red Sea crisis as a window of opportunity. Contrary to optimistic voices that suggest that the current counter-piracy structures can cope with this, I take a more critical stance, and argue that a strong signal is required to prevent further escalation.

New short article on the spatial dimensions of maritime security

In a new article, I argue that maritime security today concerns a least six spatial dimensions: surface, airspace, low orbit, deep sea, seabed and cyber.

While much of our attention goes to the surface, maritime security strategy needs to broaden the scope. In particular the seabed requires more strategic thinking considering its hosts major infrastructures. The article is published by the Korea Institute for Maritime Strategy and available in Korean and English.

Navies and the blue economy: Strategic thinking at Indian Ocean Naval Symposium

In December 2023 I had the pleasure to participate in the 8th Indian Ocean Naval Symposium organized by the Thai Navy.

The Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) is one of the most important maritime security arrangement in the region. It is the only format that brings security actors from south east Asia, the bay of Bengal and the western Indian Ocean together to discuss security at sea. It also includes important maritime states, including China, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia as observers.

Delegates at 8th IONS, Bangkok, 12.2023
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Seabed security: Naval Forum in Spain

The seabed is rapidly becoming a new space of concern in security politics. In Europe, largely triggered by the 2022 sabotage of he Nord Stream pipelines, but also investments by Russia in subsea capabilities, NATO countries are reevaluating their dependency on subsea infrastructures such as pipelines and data and electricity cables.

As part of their EU presidency, the Spanish Navy hosted a Forum focused on the issue on November, 16th at naval headquarters in Madrid. Titled the “Seabed, a new area of interest and dispute”, 150 participants, including high level representatives from all major European navies, discussed the importance of the seabed, and different responses.

The first panel focused on the strategic picture, deep seabed mining and subsea data cables. In the second panels, the navies of Spain, Italy and France provided an overview of the defense and coordination projects they are currently developing. The French representative showed how the navy is implementing its dedicated seabed strategy, while Italy discussed how their response is structured by technological innovation, maritime stakeholder communities, a legal review and the creation of a new coordination center.

In my contribution to panel 1, I firstly argued for the need to think maritime security in dimensional terms. I then demonstrated how substantively our dependency on the seabed has been accelerating in the past two decades, a trend that will continue with the green energy transition is unfolding. Two make that point, I provided a review of how the seabed has been used throughout history. I then investigated the hypothetical landscape of threats based on our recent article on the issue. I ended in an evaluation of current European responses and its challenges.

Source: Critical Maritime Infrastructure Protection: What’s the trouble?, Marine Policy, 155: 105772, 2023 (with Tobias Liebetrau).

The main responses are led by NATO and the EU. NATO has developed a coordination cell in its headquarters which organizes a stakeholder network described as ‘community of trust’. At NATO Maritime Command a center for critical infrastructure protection is being developed which will operate in a similar way as the NATO Shipping Center to enhance information sharing and coordination with industry.

The EU is currently evaluating the vulnerability of subsea infrastructures, and has recently launched its EU Maritime Security Strategy that entails significant plans for infrastructure protection. A key actor driving the agenda is the European Defense Agency.

More efforts will be needed, however, in improving maritime domain awareness and subsea awareness, reliable information sharing and standards for the self-protection by the industry.

Debating the future of maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean

What’s the state of progress and arising challenges for maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean? From 14.-16.11. I had the pleasure to follow large parts of a ministerial conference addressing this issue in Mauritius online. I chaired one session on the first day and provided comments in the concluding sessions.

Below is the write up of my intervention:

Towards holistic maritime security: Finetuning the maritime security system in the Western Indian Ocean

Maritime security solutions in the Western Indian Ocean have made significant progress. A decade after the crisis caused by piracy attacks in the region, a sustainable and well-functioning maritime security structure has been built.

While often referred to as a maritime security ‘architecture’, this term seems no longer appropriate. An architecture is a metaphor that points to a project in planning and construction. Maritime security has progressed in the region to a degree, that it is now better to refer to a ‘system’ – a system that needs to be finetuned and improved, but which has been well established.

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Discussions on maritime security and infrastructures in Geneva

While the global attention for the oceans continues to be unprecedented, maritime security and critical maritime infrastructure protection lack an institutional home within the United Nations system. While different UN agencies deal with aspects of the agenda, the debate is dispersed and lacks a holistic outlook. This includes the International Maritime Organization, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the Food and Agricultural Organization, the UN Environment Programme, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction or the UN Conference on Trade and Development. Maritime security has also been high on the agenda of the UN Security Council. This risks global fragmentation and the question of the relation between regional and global ocean governance continues to be unsettled.

On November 9th I had the pleasure to discuss with UN bodies in Geneva how this situation can be addressed.

Discussing security challenges in the Mediterranean in Athens

The Mediterranean is an increasing volatile region and close attention for the range of security challenges is needed. I had the pleasure to discuss these challenges with colleagues at an event co-organized by the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) and NATO, held in Athens on 3.11.2023.

In my talk I was reviewing the set of maritime security issues in the region, highlighting the need to think beyond the problem of irregular migration at sea.