Christian Bueger

What is the right mix of interventions for maritime security in the global South?

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.

Workshop on Ocean Infrastructures – Launch of our new research group

Our new research group on Ocean Infrastructures was launched with a workshop exploring how marine activities are shaped by various infrastructures on 13th and 14th of October.

How do infrastructures enable and restrict oceanic practices and produce new forms of agency, spatiality and materiality in the oceans? That was the key question we addressed with 20 scholars from different disciplines, including geography, international relations, law and science and technology studies. The goal of the workshop was to explore the variety of ocean infrastructures, but also the question in how far the conceptual vocabulary of infrastructures can shed new light on how the oceans are governed today.

We explored infrastructures reaching from shipping to under water tunnels and choke points, but also in how far international institutions, treaties and global ocean narratives can be conceptualized as infrastructures.

Part of the workshop was also an excursion to the maritime history of Denmark with a visit to the naval facilities at Holmen, and a public roundtable that took the current interest on critical infrastructure protection as its focus.

The workshop not only marked the launch of our research group funded by the Velux Foundation, but also kickstarted our work on an edited volume on ocean infrastructures which we hope to complete by the end of 2023.

Consequences of the Nord Stream sabotage

The sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines has drawn unprecedented attention to the under water domain and the criticality of subsea infrastructures. Indeed, the world economy depends on the ocean floor as never before in history. It is pipelines, electricity cables, and data cables, that connect the global economy.

Drawing on the research conducted as part of our ocean infrastructure research group, in particular our work on subsea data cables, I have been commenting in several news outlets on this issue, including the Wall Street Journal, Der Spiegel, and others. See the overview here.

An independent commentary on the consequences for the EU was published by The Conversation. A commentary co-authored with Tobias Liebetrau published in The Loop argues that we have to change our perspective of the under water space more generally.

The European Parliament discussed our report on October 6th and announced that our recommendations will inform an action plan on the protection of underwater infrastructures. In response, I published a commentary in EUObserver arguing that the action plan of the commission is not sufficient.

Visiting Fellow in Malta

From October to November 2022, I will be a visiting fellow at the Department of International Relations at the University of Malta. During my stay, I am working on two book projects: An introduction to maritime security (together with Tim Edmunds), and a research monograph on the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia and how it steered the fight against piracy.

I am also meeting with the broad range of institutions that focus on ocean governance in the country.

The strategic importance of subsea data cables for the African continent

Continuing our discussion of the strategic importance of subsea data cables, on September 22 and 23, 2022 we held an event with a focus on African challenges and capacity building. The expert workshop was organized in cooperation with the Atlantic Center, University of Cape Town, the EU’s Cyber for Development Initiative and Cardiff University.

The event featured speakers from the African industry, regional organizations such as NEPAD, UNIDIR, or the Indian Ocean Commission, as well as from South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique. Two of the key themes of the discussion were: 1) the digital dependency of Southern Africa implied by the lack of data centers as well as the weakness of intra-African connections; 2) the relationships and mutual responsibilities between states, local and global industry in building, maintaining and repairing digital infrastructures. Part of the event was an excursion to the cable repair ship that covers the East and West coast of Southern Africa, sponsored by Orange Maritime.

The event is part of our global dialogue on subsea data cables initiated through the help of the Danish Ministry of Education (DACANE) and the Velux Foundation (Ocean Infrastructure research group).

Presentation at European Defense Agency

I had the pleasure to present the key recommendations of our study on threats to the subsea data cable network at the meeting of the Underwater Control team of the European Defense Agency on 20.9.

The protection of subsea infrastructure is an increasing concern for the European defense community not the least in the light of Russian security policy. Protecting this infrastructure depends on strong collaboration between civil and military actors, but also between state agencies and the industry.

Assembling the maritime security community in Singapore

The Information Fusion Center based in Singapore is one of the key hubs for regional and global maritime security. It’s primary function is information sharing to increase maritime domain awareness in the Southeast Asian region. Yet, it has also been quite pro-active in organizing a community of global maritime security practitioners that assists in this task.

From 5th to 9th of September I had the pleasure to contribute to the IFC’s work at one of its key community building programme – the Regional Maritime Practitioner Programme (RMPP). RMPP is an annual one week event gathering mid-level representatives from navies, coastguards, and the shipping industry from around the world. This year’s edition saw over 80 participants from maritime security agencies from Europe, the Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific.

At the event I led two sessions and chaired a roundtable. In the first session I provided an introduction to maritime security thinking, by introducing the SafeSeas models of maritime security and the history of maritime security thinking. I concluded in arguing that the contemporary maritime security debate is driven by a dual trend of thinking in spheres of influence and geopolitics on the one hand, and planetary thinking, the climate change and biodiversity agenda on the other. The session concluded with a discussion on how we can prioritize maritime security issues, while considering the interlinkages between them.

The second session focused on the importance of information sharing and the barriers that need to be overcome to make it effective. I discussed the key rationale for information sharing and maritime domain awareness and then introduced the challenges linked to it. These are firstly, technical challenges, were the main difficulty lies in how to network the high number of networks. More pressing are socio-political challenges, linked to organization identity, concerns over privacy, or the costs of information sharing. In the following discussion we investigated how these barriers can be overcome, through trust, institutional will, standards and procedures, or reduced costs.

The roundtable provided a flight through the key emerging maritime security challenges in Southeast Asia with a focus on terrorism, narcotic smuggling, irregular migration and cyber security.

Infrastructuring in Athens

In the first week of September I was visiting Athens to attend the European International Studies Conference. At the conference I presented work on epistemic infrastructures and the sea, as well as acted as discussant for a panel on Concepts and Methods in International Practice Theory.

Part of the stay was a visit to ENISA, the EU’s cyber security agency. We discussed ENISA’s work in critical infrastructure protection and what role the agency might have in protection of subsea data cables. We also had the pleasure to meet Nisa, the agency’s cat.

Book on international practices now available

Our new edited volume provides new directions for the practice turn in international relations. Co-edited with Alena Drieschova and Ted Hopf, chapter authors explore concepts such as knowledge, power, resistance, norms, evolution, repetition, and visuality, their role in practice theorizing, how they offer gateways to dialogue among practice scholars and with constructivism, institutionalism, and discourse theory, and how these concepts provide new answer to theory puzzles such as normativity and change.

The land-sea nexus

How can we conceptualize the relations between the land and the sea? This is the key driving question of a workshop organized by the Danish Institute for International Studies, that I am participating in on the 25th and 26th of August.

In my own contribution, I study the land-sea nexus as an example of ‘nexification’. I am interested in the sociology that drives the linkage. Broadly I distinguish three types: mergers driven by intellectual curiosity, interested in how the two hang together (largely anchored in history and anthropology), those that argue that the sea is increasingly governed by rationalities that persist on land (in international law and geography), and studies driven by policy demands, that investigate how solutions to maritime problems may be sought on land.