What is the SafeSeas Network?

SAFE SEAS is a network of academic institutions that studies maritime security governance and efforts to support it through capacity building. The goal is to provide evidence to improve current processes and to identify and share best and promising practices. The current re-evaluation of the maritime as a space of insecurity and economic opportunity has led to a growing awareness for the weak capacities of the majority of coastal states. Protecting territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zones, preventing maritime crimes, such as piracy and illegal fishing, and ensuring the sustainable exploitation of maritime resources requires significant law enforcement capacities, information sharing tools and working maritime governance structures. These are the processes that SAFE SEAS supports.

Capacity Building Best Practices TOOLKIT

Various capacity building projects have been launched to offer assistance to countries. In particular, the Western Indian Ocean region has become an experimental space in which new forms of assistance are tested. The majority of these project was initially a response to piracy off the coast of Somalia from 2008. With the decline of piracy incidents since 2012, the efforts were broadened to focus on maritime insecurities and law enforcement at sea more generally.

A series of multi-lateral projects address the regional level. Initiatives such as the Djibouti Code of Conduct process supported by the International Maritime Organization and the European Union’s CRIMARIO project, the European Union’s Programme to Promote Regional Maritime Security (known as MASE), and the EU’s civilian capacity building mission EUCAP Nestor (recently re-branded as EUCAP Somalia) aim at strengthening regional cooperation.

Several UN agencies are involved: The Food and Agricultural Organization is in particular active in fishery governance, the International Maritime Organization in the field of port security and search and rescue at sea, while the UN Office on Drugs and Crime works in the criminal justice sector with law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, judges and prison staff. Also, a broad range of smaller scale bilateral or non-governmental projects provides equipment, training or mentoring.

The vast array of capacity building activities has led to questioning how these projects can be better coordinated to achieve synergies, avoid overlap and duplication and ensure the sustainability of the assistance. There is a clear recognition that capacity building should be based on needs and focus on the core gaps. Yet how can such needs and gaps be identified? And how can capacity building be improved?

SAFE SEAS studied lessons from maritime security capacity building in the Western Indian Ocean. The project particularly focusses on the ongoing efforts to restructure the maritime security sector in Djibouti, Kenya, Seychelles, and Somalia, but also studies Pakistan and South Africa more closely. The analysis focusses on how each country is organizing and governing maritime security.  Drawing on this evidence and on interviews with capacity building providing organizations, as well as the receivers, SafeSeas draws out guidelines and best practices for maritime security governance and the coordination, programming, and implementation of maritime security capacity building. Visit the news and results sections for the intitial outcomes.

TransnAtional Organised Crime At SEA


The Team

SAFE SEAS is led by the University of Copenhagen and the University of Bristol. The current SAFE SEAS team is lead by investigators supported by a range of pre- and postdoctoral researchers.

// Professor Christian Bueger, University of Copenhagen

Prof. Bueger is the current director of SAFE SEAS as well as a professor of international relations at the Department of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He has been studying issues of maritime security, counter-piracy operations, capacity building and maritime domain awareness since 2010 and has widely published in the area.  During his time at Cardiff University (2012-2018), he was the principal investigator of the project Counter-piracy Governance and also the principal investigator of the Lessons Learned Consortium of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. Further information is available on his personal website.

// Professor Tim Edmunds, University of Bristol

Prof. Edmunds is professor of international security, Principal investigator of the TOCAS project and the co-director of the network. He is a leading specialist in security sector reform policies and the politics of armed forces. Recently he has been in particular studying the security assistance in Somalia. Further information is available at his university website.

// Dr. Rupert Alcock, Bristol University

Dr. Alcock works as a Postdoctoral Research Associate for SAFESEAS based at the University of Bristol. He completed his PhD in Politics at the University of Bristol in March 2017 and holds an MSc in Development & Security Studies and Social Science Research Methods. Further information is available here.

Former Project Staff

Over the years several researchers have contributed to the work of the SafeSeas network.

// Mowlid Aden, Djibouti

Mr. Aden holds a BSc in Information Systems and Management from the University of London with Executive Education at The Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS), Herzylia-Israel and ENA in Paris. He is currently a Director of Security Compliance and Managing Director of the RSO at Djibouti Ports & Free Zone Authority. He was one of the research assistant analysing the lessons from Djiouti’s maritime sector.

// Alvine Marie, Seychelles

Mr. Marie completed a Master of Laws degree at Cardiff University in 2016. His wider research interests include the Legal & Political aspects of International Affairs as well as Money Laundering & Financial crime. Currently, he is working as legal officer at the Seychelles Financial Services Authority. He was one of the research assistant analysing the lessons from Seychelles maritime sector.

// Njoki Mboce, University of Nairobi

Ms. Mboke is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Nairobi School of Law, in the area of maritime law. She holds a Master of Laws (LL.M), specializing in international trade and investments and has published several articles in refereed journals such as the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators – Kenya  Chapter Journal. Ms. Mboke was one of the research assistant analysing the lessons from Kenya’s maritime sector.

// Dr. Robert McCabe, Coventry University

Dr. McCabe is a Research Fellow in Maritime Security at Coventry University. Previously he worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Cardiff University and was the research assistant of the initial phase of SafeSeas. He holds a PhD in Strategic Studies/International Security and an MA in Military History and Strategic Studies. His book Modern Maritime Piracy: Genesis, Evolution and Responses was published with Routledge in September 2017.  

Funding and Partners

SAFE SEAS current research project TOCAS is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council of the UK. From 2016 to 2018 it received financial support from the British Academy Sustainable Development Programme [GF16007]  which is part of the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund initiative to strengthen development through research. It has also received financial support by Cardiff University, University of Copenhagen, University of Bristol, University of Seychelles, and the Security Institute for Governance and Leadership in Africa of the University of Stellenbosch.