Christian Bueger

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.

India’s new sea power. Reflections from Milan 2024

India’s role in global politics is evolving, and the country is increasingly emerging as an international leader. This also applies to global ocean politics and naval affairs. India is a major sea power, and its navy increasingly acts as the guardian for the Indian Ocean, protecting trade and supporting its neighbors.   

Experiencing Sea Power in Practice

In February, I had the opportunity to experience India’s new sea power in practice. The Indian navy invited me to give the opening talk at their bi-annual multinational naval exercise, called Milan. Milan is a Hindu word that can be roughly translated into English as referring to ‘meeting’, ‘gathering’ or ‘union’. Over 50 states participated in Milan. Held in the city of Visakhapatnam, the home of the navy’s Eastern Command, the event included a seminar, an exhibition, a city parade, and an exercise at sea.   

Group Picture of participants in the maritime seminar of Milan 2024

Sea Power Today

Sea power is often equated with military capabilities, measured in numbers of ships, staff, or high-end technology, with the aircraft carrier often assuming the role as the main status symbol, given only seven nations possess that asset. Milan put some of the military strength of India’s navy on display, with the country’s two aircraft carriers along with a broad range of other assets — fighter planes, helicopters, special forces — being presented to the public.

Yet, contemporary sea power means more than counting and comparing military capabilities. Milan documented at least three forms of contemporary sea power: convening power, innovation, and responsibility.

Continue reading

Maritime Domain Awareness networks – presentations in Rome

Maritime Situational and Domain Awareness (MDA) is one of the key solutions in the maritime security tool box and one of the core themes of my recent research. Since almost 20 years the Italian navy facilitates one of the most important international mechanisms for MDA, known as the Virtual-Regional Maritime Traffic Center and the Trans-Regional Maritime Network. I participated in the annual expert meeting on December 1st, and introduced the key conclusions from SafeSeas research on how to improve MDA.

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.

Forum on European Maritime Domain Awareness

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.

Presentation on Maritime Domain Awareness

Danish Navy in Port

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.

1 Comment

The IFC at ten: Attending the MARISX Information Sharing Exercise in Singapore

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


Maritime Domain Awareness in Action: Visiting the UK’s NMIC

NMIC logoContinuing my tour to centres which share and fuse information in order to enhance maritime security, two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the UK’s National Maritime Information Centre, in short: NMIC. The center is located near Portsmouth, a place it moved to last year in September, having been based prior within the Royal Navy’s headquarters in Northwood. The centre itself was created in 2011 in the run up to the London Olympics. Initial it was meant to facilitate the protection of the UK against threats from the sea during the event. The core idea behind the centre is hence that the rapid response to emergencies at sea is enhanced through a shared information infrastructure. Yet, the work of the center was soon extended to focus on improving the information available for regular law enforcement in ports, coastlines and the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. All of the ten ministries and agencies of the UK that deal with the sea are participating in the centre whose role is to facilitate conversations and joint actions among these.
NMIC started as an institutional experiment. Yet, its work was institutionalised with the conclusion of the UK’s first ever National Maritime Security Strategy (NMSS) in 2014. The NMSS provides an overarching framework for maritime security in that it identifies a range of maritime security risks, sets out the institutional architecture to respond to these. It also outlines four core tasks the architecture has to perform: understanding, influencing, preventing, protecting, and responding (UK 2014: 11-12). As the director of NMIC explained the centre primarily contributes to the task of understanding by collecting and sharing information, but also providing a space for the joint interpretation of what happens at sea. The centre however also works closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office a collaboration which intends to contribute to the task of influencing. If this wasn’t foregrounded by the director, the center also contributes to prevention, which according to the NMSS implies the sharing of information with international partners (NMSS 2014: 11).

Continue reading

Regional Information Sharing III: A visit to the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Center

JpegYesterday, I visited the Piracy Reporting Center (PRC) of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) at its office in Kuala Lumpur. The IMB works on piracy since its installment in the 1980s, and the PRC is the oldest piracy information sharing center installed as a 24 hours operational center in 1991. From the visit to PRC it became clear how much emphasis this center puts on problemsolving and organizing rapid pragmatic responses by being the first point of contact of the shipping community and getting law enforcement agencies to act. The fact that it is set up as a  non-governmental organization has clear benefits, since the PRC can put different pressure on states, e.g. through the media, then governmental centers can do. As a body, which aims at assisting the shipping industry and seafarers primarily, the IMB, is the Red Cross of the Oceans if it comes to piracy.

The visit completed my tour through the regions information sharing centers. I am currently completing a draft paper on the basis of the results which I will present at the Center of International Law of NUS on the 22nd of April. The paper argues to understand the three centers as a functional system in which each performs a different role. I also ask what the lessons from this system for other regions, in particular the Western Indian Ocean are.


Regional information sharing II: A visit to the ReCAAP ISC

JpegFollowing my recent visit to the IFC, this week I also had the pleasure to visit the second of the “big three” Information Sharing and Reporting Centres of South East Asia: the Information Sharing Centre of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery (ReCAAP ISC). The ISC was launched in November 2006, and is hence the second oldest centre devoted to piracy (after the Piracy Reporting Centre of the International Maritime Board, IMB PRC). The basis of the centre is a formal multi-lateral (government-to-government) agreement finalized in November 2004 which came into force in 2006. In comparison to IFC, it is hence a more formalized and institutionalized form of cooperation which includes a governing council which steers the work of the ISC. ReCAAP has become a major role model for agreements in other areas, including the 2010 Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC) in the Western Indian Ocean and the more recent Yaounde Code of Conduct (YCoC) operating in the Gulf of Guinea. ReCAAP has 19 “Contracting Parties” which includes the East Asian literals, but also a range of European states (Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, UK) and Australia, Japan and the US. Continue reading


Improving Information Sharing: The Mombasa ISC

DSC_0700The Mombasa Information Sharing Center is one of the three centers established by the Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC). DCoC is a regional agreement which intends to improve the collaboration between regional states through information sharing and shared training activities. DCoC is important since it is a counter-piracy project that has a strong emphasis on regional integration. Maritime crimes are transnational and preventive strategies, hence, imply to work together across borders. Moreover, one can expect that there might be a spillover and the experience of collaborating in DCoC might spur cross-border cooperation in other areas. Then agreements such as DCoC might be the seed corns of maritime security communities.

Today I visited the ISC. The center is run by Kenya Maritime Authority and situated in the building of the Port Authority within the port of Mombasa. The center also hosts the Regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (RMRCC) in charge for search and rescue operations in Kenya, Tanzania, Seychelles and Somalia. Two staff are permanently on duty, and all recent technology including high speed internet access, the Mercury platform and systems such as Ocean View are available. The staff members explained to me their everyday tasks, consisting of routine emails, VoIP calls to the national focal points and other ISC’s, and reporting. They also described the training they had received and how they handle situations when they receive a distress call. The mundane work of the center is important. If, however, the communication they engage in is a sea change in international cooperation under the absence of actual piracy threats, will highly depend on whether countries now draw on this opportunity and not only pass information to each other, but also start operating together and learning from each other.