Pakistan’s journey to the blue economy was the key theme of the 10th International Maritime Conference in Karachi that I had the pleasure to attend and speak at last weekend.
Following the debates in other coastal states, also Pakistan is increasingly trying to seize the opportunities that are presented by blue economy thinking. The conference in Karachi, organized by the National Institute for Maritime Affairs and the Pakistani Navy, had as its main objective to establish what blue economy may mean for the country.
The rich program incorporated the full range of sectors associated with the concept, ranging from traditional economic sectors, including ports, shipping and ship breaking, to value that can be generated through aquaculture and coral reef restoration. A parliamentarian called for a blue economy task force, and the minister for climate change gave a passionate speech on why blue economy needs to focus on environmental protection and climate change adaption, rather than profit. The conference without doubt succeeded to further increase the awareness for the oceans within Pakistan and promote the concept of blue economy.
The discussion in Pakistan is interesting and differs from other countries, as the debate in many ways is let by the #navy which understands itself as the guardian of the sea. As I learned over the conference days, the navy has made a strong commitment to marine conservation. In partnership with the IUCN, navy officers help to plant mangroves. A partnership with the NGO Ocean Quest was announced during the conference which will lead to joint projects in coral reef restoration in the Arabian Sea. This is remarkable, since in other national contexts the cooperation between military and conservation communities are weak. We might see a model case emerging here, how armed forces can engage in conservation. Yet, obviously also the Pakistani navy has to make more effort to evaluate and reduce its environmental footprint and green its operations.
I was also delighted to discuss a cooperation between SafeSeas and the National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA) during my stay.
On December 21st I had the pleasure to address the audience of the International Maritime Symposium, organized by the National Institute of Maritime Affairs Pakistan. The two day symposium had the objective to revisit the key challenges in the Indian Ocean region and to discuss consequences and policy options for Pakistan.
I was invited to speak at the panel on Maritime Security in the Context of Regional Connectivity, alongside Vice Admiral (Rtd) Iftikhar Ahmed Rao and Prof. Dr. Azhar Ahmad. Vice Admiral (Rtd.) Abdul Aleem acted as chair.
In my online presentation (download the entire script here), I revisited the current maritime security situation in the Western Indian Ocean based on our recent article (with Jan Stockbrueger) and discussed the two mega trends of maritime security – the rise of geopolitics and planetary thinking – that we identify in our forthcoming book Understanding Maritime Security (with Tim Edmunds). I then outlined some of the policy options and strategic choices for Pakistan to become an honest broker and a leading regional maritime security provider.
Twenty two navies were represented at the event, including representatives from Ghana, Kamerun, Brazil Argentina, Singapore and from the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea. The event offered the opportunity to reflect on the importance of MDA in different settings and how to extend and improve data exchange in the network.
The network relies on the FENIX system hosted by the Italian navy. FENIX is conceived as a “service-oriented infrastructure for maritime traffic tracking”. It provides tools for identifying suspicious behavior at sea, a shared list of Vessels of Interest, as well as a chat function. It hence provides similar functions, as other tools such as the U.S. platform Seavision, or the IORIS platform developed and promoted by the E.U. in the Indo-Pacific region. Such platforms can be important additional decision making instruments for operations at sea. The greatest strength of a platform such as FENIX is the communities that it connects by synchronizing data from different national and regional sources, but also by provide direct channels of communication.
Like other networks also the VRMTC/T-RMN faces the challenge of how to deal with the fact that MDA initiatives have multiplied over the years. The long term experience with the two initiatives might help to better network the networks and make a global community of maritime security practice a reality. It could in particular help to better standardize Vessels of Interest lists, and incident reporting.
Maritime Domain Awareness, in short MDA, is one of the most important solutions in the maritime security tool box. It centers on the idea that surveillance, data collection and information sharing can improve the response to maritime security incidents, deter threats, and identify suspicious behavior. The EU operates two related MDA platforms: The Common Information Sharing (CISE) platform focuses on the civil domain and is operated by the European Marine Safety Agency (EMSA); the Maritime Surveillance (MARSUR) platform focuses on military purposes and is developed by the European Defense Agency (EDA).
I had the pleasure to participate in a symposium organized by the EDA on November, 18th in Brussels. The event evaluated the state of MDA in Europe and how MARSUR could be improved. At the event, I introduced my research on MDA and discussed what barriers to information sharing must be overcome.
On the 15th and 16th of November, I am participating in the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction in the Mediterranean (SHADE Med) meeting. SHADE Med is an informal naval coordination mechanism that was created in response to the challenges that irregular migration posed in the region. It draws on the role model of a mechanism that was created for the purpose of counter-piracy in the Western Indian Ocean.
The focus of the meeting is on “New challenges to regional security in the Mediterranean”. In addition to operational updates on the operations IRINI (EU), SEA GUARDIAN (NATO) and MEDITERRANEO SICURO (Italy), the are a number of strategic themes that will be discussed. The first day focuses on the implications of the EU’s new Strategic Compass, published in early 2022. On the second day the situation in Libya, new challenges to maritime operations, and the interdependence between food, energy and climate change will be discussed.
The oceans have gained much world political attention. Yet, ocean debates continue to be structured by three visions – the oceans as closed, free or global commons. In a talk I will be giving at the Department of International Relations, University of Malta, I argue why these visions are limited. We have to ponder about alternatives. I outlines how thinking with ‘infrastructures’ can help us to go beyond territory, freedom, state-centrism and formal law, enables paying attention to technology and economics, and capturing global ocean politics in the age of the anthropocene.
The talk titled Ocean Infrastructures – Searching for a new vision for global ocean politics, takes place on November, 23rd (12.00-13.30), Boardroom 212, Old Humanities Building, Department of International Relations, Faculty of Arts.
In my lecture titled “Addressing maritime security threats through international cooperation: the opportunities and risks of forum shopping” – available online soon -, I argued that it is important to pay attention to the historical evolution of maritime security cooperation. My key objective was to contextualize the work of ReCAAP and related information sharing and maritime domain awareness centers.
I demonstrated how this history is one of changing security priorities, from inter-state disputes, to environmental concerns, to maritime terrorism, to piracy and to holistic maritime security thinking. Along of this history we see a continuous growth of institutions, forums, centers and other arrangements which aim at dealing with maritime security. Now clear institutional centers have evolved however, and the overall system that has grown can be described as overly complex or even fragmented.
That produces problems in its own right, such as the absence of global standards for maritime security reporting, but also risks of overlap and duplication. I also pointed out that one of the drivers of this is the tendency to create new bodies, rather than making old ones work, as well as the tendency, in particular by more powerful actors, to choose and pick which institutions fit their interests better, rather than working towards more coherence.
This was one of the questions that was discussed at a webinar on the situation in the Gulf of Guinea on 21.10. At the seminar organized by the Portuguese Atlantic Center in collaboration with the Gulf of Guinea Maritime Institute, the first key issue was what the state of the maritime security architecture currently is. Solomon Agada from the Nigerian Navy, and Cilles Ghehab from the GoGIN project addressed the substantial progress under way.
The debate then turned to more general questions about interventions and capacity building. Emanuel Bell Bell from the ICC Yaounde argued that more local ownership is needed and dependency needs to be reduced. In my own contribution I drew on the lessons from our book on capacity building and the research done in the frame of the AMARIS project. I argued for the importance of recognizing the political dimensions of capacity building – local, regional, and geopolitical – and turning to long term funding and maintenance questions. I also highlighted the importance of appreciating failures in capacity building to learn, not the least given much of current projects are experimental in nature.