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To strengthen maritime security it is crucial that researchers work closely together. The Maritime Security mailing list was launched in 2014 by to facilitate cooperation between maritime security researchers and other interested actors. To subscribe to the mailing list please follow the link here.

To facilitate collaboration and dialogue across the different sectors and domains of maritime security in different regional waters and the global oceans, subscribers are invited to join the list and use it to

  • Inform about recent studies, articles and books in the field of maritime security (including promoting their own work).
  • Circulate call for papers and advertise events, workshops and conferences. These should be directed at or of interested for analysts and scholars in the field of maritime security and should be not-for-profit.
  • Raise questions on distinct research topics in the field of maritime security or invite to comment on a piece of work, such as a draft paper.
  • Point to major new policy documents and developments which are of general interest to the group (such as a new maritime security strategy).

Brexit: how the UK is preparing to secure its seas outside the EU

Scott Edwards and Tim Edmunds recently wrote a short article for The Conversation, drawing upon insights from the SafeSeas Policy Brief ‘Delivering Maritime Security after Brexit: time for a joined-up approach‘.

Four dinghies carrying 53 migrants who tried to cross the English Channel from France were intercepted by British and French authorities in early April. The crossings are a reminder of the importance of maritime security and safety to the UK.

Brexit has led to many uncertainties, including over the governance of the UK’s seas in the future. Withdrawal from EU regulations at the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 2020 raises questions over how to face the difficult task of managing maritime risks which are currently managed alongside the EU.

Uncertainty has also spurred new government efforts by shining a light on the need to secure UK waters, something we’ve written about in a new report.

The UK faces rapidly evolving risks to its shipping lanes, fishing grounds and marine infrastructure. These risks include illegal fishing, human trafficking, organised crime such as smuggling, terrorism, and the potential for protests at sea.

Terrorist attacks could cause significant loss of life if targeted against ferries and cruise liners. Illegal fishing could affect the livelihoods of fishers and marine biodiversity, while other risks could have an impact on the wider economy in a context where 95% of Britain’s trade flows via the ocean.

These risks tend to interlink with each other in ways that are increasingly well documented in other regions of the world. In Somalia, for example, local fishers losing their stock as a result of illegal fishing have turned to piracy. What unintended consequences of new risks might appear in UK waters is still not fully understood.

Maritime security threats can also take place simultaneously. Without greater understanding of these risks, it’s difficult to know which should be prioritised.

Added complication of Brexit

These issues have been complicated by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. During the current transition period the UK manages its waters within a wider EU maritime governance framework and under EU regulations, as it did while it was an EU member. While the UK isn’t expected to cease all cooperation with the EU when this comes to an end, it will be required to depend more on national enforcement and regulations.

This shift is most visible in the fisheries sector. As part of the EU, British fisheries were managed under the Common Fisheries Policy meaning both UK and EU fishing boats had access to quotas in UK waters. Such arrangements are likely to come to an end with the UK choosing to regulate its own waters.

UK ports are also a hotspot for change as they seem likely to withdraw from EU port legislation. This could lead to new national regulatory challenges such as a need to balance harmonisation with the EU with the pursual of British priorities like the creation of freeports, aimed to give British trade a competitive edge.

Taking sole responsibility is made difficult by other complicating factors. In the UK, different risks are managed by different government agencies, with problems of jurisdictional overlap.

Depending where it takes place, multiple agencies could be involved in illegal fishing, for example. This could include the Marine Management Organisation, Marine Scotland, and the Royal Navy’s Fishery Protection Squadron. Other agencies may contribute boats or intelligence, such as the National Maritime Information Centre, Border Force and the National Crime Agency.

Yet, a common understanding of the threats and consistent communication between departments is lacking in some areas. This is more of a problem for devolved issues such as fisheries, which add even more authorities, departments and agencies to the picture. The relationships between these different organisations are likely to be further tested by the challenges posed by Brexit.

Opportunity for reform

But Brexit also offers the UK an opportunity to improve its maritime security. The leak of Operation Yellowhammer in 2019 raised the public profile of maritime issues such as delayed freight in ports, the illegal entry of EU fishing boats into UK waters and potential clashes between fishing vessels. This came at a time where there were high profile landings of illegal migrants along the south coast of the UK, while Operation Yellowhammer warned of stretched maritime enforcement capabilities.

The UK has started off well. In 2019, the UK government created the Joint Maritime Security Centre (JMSC) to coordinate all the different agencies involved and foster interaction between them. The JMSC conducted a joint UK maritime security exercise at the end of 2019, highlighting how coordination can improve enforcement. It is also preparing a new UK maritime security strategy.

Interactions between the different government agencies involved in managing the risks to the UK seas need to become more frequent and overcome existing divides to create habits of cooperation and communication. Other groups such as fishing communities need to be included in deliberations. Transparency and information sharing in the process of drafting a new maritime security strategy can help to identify common goals, encourage involvement, and establish a shared basis for action.

A review of resources would also be worthwhile to identify the means the UK has to secure its waters, what gaps exist, and how these means can best be shared.

SAVE THE DATE: ‘Do we have the right data for fighting maritime piracy?’ Webinar

SAVE THE DATE: 9th June, 15.00 BST

SafeSeas is pleased to announce a webinar event held on the 9th of June, 15.00 BST, in collaboration with Stable Seas, to accompany the release of our new report ‘What we know about piracy’.

Click here for the full report

Piracy attacks continue to be rampant and threaten the shipping industry. In the Gulf of Guinea and other regions attacks continue despite substantial international efforts and self-protective measures. Good policies and effective responses depend on solid data. The right data allows us to identify patterns and criminal networks, target interventions better and provides clues about what deterrence measures work. It is also important to raise awareness and draw political attention to the problem.

Piracy data has been systematically collected since the 1980s, initially by the International Maritime Bureau and International Maritime Organization. Since the 2000s the number of actors collecting data on piracy has increased. Regional organizations and maritime domain awareness programmes collect data for particular regions, or to support military missions.

Over the years different definitions of what should count as piracy and what information should be included (e.g. degree of violence) in such reports have developed. Data collection is increasingly fragmented, and reports come to different conclusions on trends. 

This not only raises the question of whether and how such data could be harmonized, but also whether the data collected meets the needs of all users. Are law enforcement agencies, the shipping industry, security analysts as well as the general public getting the right information and picture?

The event, ‘Do we have the right data for fighting maritime piracy?’, will answer these questions by drawing upon insights from the new report and through discussion with different stakeholders and experts.

The programme and more details will be announced shortly.

To keep up to date with SafeSeas activities, follow us on twitter or subscribe to our email list. Stable Seas can be followed here.

New Report: What we know about piracy

SafeSeas is pleased to announce the first report resulting from collaboration with Stable Seas: What we know about Piracy

Click here for the full report

Royal Navy and Royal Marines Commandos board a Somalian whaler in the Indian Ocean off the Horn of Africa, By Royal Navy

Authored by Lydelle Joubert, the report draws on desk-based research conducted between June 2019 and March 2020. It provides a systematic overview of data, answering the questions:

  • How is data on piracy and armed robbery collected?
  • By whom?
  • What kinds of information are available?
  • How accessible is the data?
  • What are the blind spots?

Asking these questions is of key importance. Analysis of piracy data can strengthen maritime domain awareness and give a predictive capability to help manage unavoidable security risks. However, this predictive capability will be limited as long as essential elements of information are lacking. Through the identification of what data is being collected and what gaps remain, this report marks an important first step in improving analysis.

It is the first of three reports that will be produced by the collaborative efforts of SafeSeas and Stable Seas, and will be followed by similar data overviews on smuggling at sea and on maritime environmental crimes.

The release of the report will be accompanied by a webinar event on the 9th of June, details of which can be found here.

To keep up to date with SafeSeas activities, follow us on twitter or subscribe to our email list. Stable Seas can be followed here.

Relaunch of SafeSeas newsletter

SafeSeas is pleased to announce the relaunch of its newsletter. Sent out every two months, it will serve as a digest of recent SafeSeas’ activity. Updates will also be sent to you directly to inform you of our events, publications, and resources.

With an exciting range of events and publications forthcoming from multiple projects, now is the perfect time to join the SafeSeas maritime security community.

You can subscribe to the newsletter to the right-hand side of this page or here

Updates can also be followed as they happen on the safeseas website.

Student Conference on Maritime Security

On the 6th and 7th of May the 2nd annual student conference on maritime security was held in collaboration with the scholars from the SafeSeas network. At the conference students reported on the results of the research projects that they have been carrying out in relation to the seminar on maritime security at the University of Copenhagen. Diverse topics were covered including smuggling at sea, the regional dynamics in the Barent Sea and Arctic as well as the link between infrastructures, energy security and maritime security. Overall 30 contributions were discussed. This year the meeting was held on zoom.

Delivering Maritime Security after Brexit: time for a joined-up approach

SafeSeas Director Tim Edmunds and research associate Scott Edwards have produced a Policy Report based on the ideas discussed at the recent SafeSea’s event ‘Securing Britain’s Seas‘.

HMS Tyne Makes a Sharp Turn on Exercise with Fishery Protection Squadron by Royal Navy

The UK faces three critical challenges in this area: first, the need to respond effectively to a complex security environment, with important transnational dimensions; second the need to address the current patchiness of capacity amongst different geographic spaces and regions; and finally, the need to address problems of fragmentation and compartmentalisation between the multiple departments and agencies tasked with delivering UK maritime security. These challenges are likely to intensify in consequence of the Brexit process, when key collective EU maritime governance arrangements will either cease to apply or be subject to transformative revision.

The University of Bristol and the SafeSeas network held an IdeasLab on maritime security in Bristol on 28 February 2020 to identify responses and priorities for policy and research. Participants from all major UK maritime security agencies attended, as did academics representing disciplines ranging from international law to security studies. This Policy Report summarises the findings of the IdeasLab and outlines key policy implications for UK government and other maritime stakeholders.

The full report can be found here as a PDF:

Or here as a webpage:

How to improve the delivery of capacity building? Insights from a coordination meeting

How can capacity building training for maritime security be better coordinated in West and Central Africa? This was the core question of a recent meeting – ‘Strategic Dialogue Workshop On West and Central Africa Maritime Security Training Capacity’ – held from 25 – 28 February 2020 in Accra, Ghana. The focus of the gathering was the Gulf of Guinea as this region has become a blue crime hotspot due to the prevalence of criminal activities, such as piracy, illegal fishing, oil bunkering, smuggling of arms and drugs, and human trafficking. These crimes called, according to the organizers of the dialogue, for firm interventions, and building the capacity of actors and partners in this region. This blogpost highlights some of the issues that were discussed during the meeting.  

Crime fighting
The workshop was organized by INTERPOL, UNODC, and the U.S. State Department to serve as a forum to gather and exchange ideas for building and strengthening the capacity of various actors active in the maritime domain in the region. Furthermore, the goal of the workshop was to discover knowledge gaps at partner organizations, to get an overview of the kinds of training programs run by other organizations and to gain more insights into the training needs and priorities of participating organizations/nations. In addition to the delegates from regional states, the meeting was attended by representatives from, among others, the European Union, the U.S. State Department, US Naval Forces Africa, US Africa Command, UNODC, INTERPOL, International Maritime Organization, the EU’s Gulf of Guinea Inter-Regional Network (GoGIN) Project, Regional Centre for Maritime Security of Central Africa, Interregional Coordination Centre (ICC), and the Danish Embassy in Ghana. In their opening remarks the representatives emphasized crime fighting at sea and the development of a legal framework for the entire Gulf of Guinea to enhance prosecutions across the region as a priority; with the Yaoundé Architecture serving as the point of departure for dialogues and collaborations.

According to the INTERPOL, the rise of crimes at sea in the Gulf of Guinea has not only generated interest in the region from international organizations and their partners, but also from criminals and crime syndicates that aim to benefit from the lack of region-wide jurisdiction to combat these crimes. The participants cited cases in which criminals and pirates had been apprehended only for them to go free, due to a lack of solid legal framework for prosecutions or due to tempering with the crime scene. These situations therefore amplified the need for capacity building in investigative areas. In light of this, the INTERPOL and Interregional Coordination Centre (ICC), floated the notion of ‘Capacity Building in the Investigative Area/Crimes’ and ‘Train the Trainer-concept’, which were met with enthusiasm as the mood was that these concepts had the potential to enhance the spread of knowledge and ideas in institutions, thus strengthening the capacity of the local, national and regional partners. While there was a lot of discussions on crime fighting at sea and prosecution, there was no mention of crime prevention. However, the representative of the Danish Embassy pointed out that his country believes in ‘crime prevention on land rather than in crime fighting at sea. We need to know why these crimes happen and what we can do about it.’


During the workshop the lack of coordination of training, lack of overview of training content and participants of courses, and lack of overview of the providers of training, were issues that were raised. The speakers observed that their organizations provided and participated in a wide variety of trainings, but lacked an overview of who had organized or participated in which workshops, trainings and seminars. There was also a lack of overview of the content of the various courses. The observations amplified calls for ‘harmonization’, that is ‘bringing skills and knowledge together,’ which will then result in ‘harmonization of standard operations procedures’, ‘harmonization of course content’, and ‘harmonization’ of training contents, training programs and list of participants.

One major proposal at the event for how to achieve harmonization was the development of a coordination database which details courses on offer, course content, organizer and registered participants. To gain insights into which training programs are on offer, participants suggested ‘Tracking the Training’ – which gives insights into the offered programs and ideally, who participated in them. Tracking is key as it helps to eradicate duplication of training efforts and eliminate the number of people attending the same course more than once. Finally, ‘Tracking the Training’, according to the participants, could record the host of training capabilities of regional centres and national assets.

Organizers and participants agreed that such harmonization processes would lead to better results of training programs. It would also achieve a better overview of attendants leading to the eradication of duplication as there have been instances where one person had attended the same training more than once with different providers. Participants also emphasized the need for harmonizing standard operations procedures through ‘Simulation Trials/Operations’ that provide insights on what works and what does not, so that these can be improved or included in the existing capacity building training material. Moreover, such simulations are practical and have the potential of tapping into and drawing from local resources. By drawing from local resources, the UNODC noted, that the financial burden on donors will be reduced.

In sum, the workshop made some important proposals on how coordination of training activities might be improved. The discussed harmonization measures could indeed be important steps in this regard. Yet, one needs to be cautious about the limits of any coordination attempts insofar as coordination problems are often not primarily technical problems. They might be the outcome of different interpretations, priorities and divergent political interests between providers and receivers of training or between agencies. The AMARIS project will closely follow future coordination activities in Ghana and the region as part of its Work Package 3. As evidence from other regions indicates, increasing transparency on capacity building activities will also be in West and Central Africa a very important step in improving delivery and its efficiency.

Dr. Humphrey Asamoah joins SafeSeas as a project coordinator

It is with great pleasure that SafeSeas welcome our new postdoctoral researcher, Humphrey Asamoah Agyekum. Humphrey will be joining the project ‘AMARIS: Analysing Maritime Insecurity in Ghana’ funded by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA). The project led by Safeseas, is based at the University of Copenhagen. The project which has three work packages, is a research as well as a capacity building enterprise. With well-established links in Ghanaian security institutions and his deep understanding of security issues in the West African region, Humphrey will be the main focal point for our Ghanaian partners. In this role, he will be coordinating the activities of and liaising with our Ghanaian partners.  

Apart from that, Humphrey as a researcher aims to deepen our understanding of maritime security challenges and maritime security governance along the Gulf of Guinea. Humphrey is passionate about security and security (sector) governance in the West African region; with particular interest in Ghana and Guinea-Bissau. In 2016, he received his PhD in anthropology at the University of Copenhagen with a study on the transformation of the Ghana Armed Forces; evolving from coup makers to an institution that abides by the country’s democratic rules. Humphrey was previously a postdoc at the  University of Amsterdam. He has authored, apart from several scientific journal articles, the book ‘From Bullies to Officers and Gentlemen: How Notions of Professionalism and Civility Transformed the Ghana Armed Forces’.  

Humphrey has extensive fieldwork experience in Guinea-Bissau, Ghana and the United Kingdom. He recently attended the Strategic Dialogue Workshop on West and Central Africa Maritime Security Training Capacity, organized by UNODC, INTERPOL and U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs in Accra, Ghana.  

A Moment of Opportunity? Britain and the Maritime Security Challenge

On 28 February 2020, SafeSeas hosted an IdeasLab in Bristol on UK maritime security after Brexit, with the kind support of PolicyBristol, Migration Mobilities Bristol, and the Bristol Global Insecurities Centre. Titled ‘Securing Britain’s Seas’, the goal of the day was to ask how maritime insecurities and blue crimes  impact on UK interests, explore how current governance arrangements work in response to these, and consider how these may be challenged and transformed both by a rapidly changing security environment and the challenges of Brexit.

The IdeasLab provided an opportunity for policymakers, practitioners, and academics from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds, including security studies, law, social policy and politics, to engage with one another. Participants from all major UK maritime security agencies, including high level participation, exchanged views and knowledge with leading academics in order to advance understanding of the UK’s maritime security environment.

HMS Bristol, photo by ‘Random Acts of Language’ licensed under Creative Commons

Panels focused on three core themes of importance for British maritime security. The first covered ‘Threats, risks and opportunities’, chaired by SafeSeas Co-Director Professor Timothy Edmunds, and featured Dan O’Mahoney (Director, Joint Maritime Security Centre), James Driver (Head of Maritime Security and Resilience Division, Department for Transport) and Dr. Sofia Galani (University of Bristol). Discussions revolved around the complexity of maritime security governance in the UK context. This complexity is visible in relation to the diversity of challenges at hand – including the protection of maritime trade routes, the prospect of a terrorist attack at sea, threats to marine critical infrastructure, human trafficking and movement of people, the smuggling of illicit goods, the maintenance of public order at sea, and marine environmental management including fisheries protection – and also to the web of different authorities, departments, agencies and private actors engaged in the UK maritime space.

These challenges are often ‘invisible’ in the sense that the general public and politicians are often less invested in the maritime arena than other areas of public policy. Gaps also exist in the legal framework governing the maritime domain – for example around port management – and more work needs to be done to encourage inter-operability and coordination between agencies. However, the panel also highlighted a moment of opportunity in this area too, with a renewed focus on maritime security issues following the 2019 oil tanker crisis in the Straits of Hormuz, the implications of the Brexit process and the prospect of a new UK Maritime Security Strategy in the near future.

The second panel, chaired by Professor Bridget Anderson (University of Bristol), focused on ‘Boundaries, borders and maritime regions’ and featured Professor Sir Malcolm Evans (University of Bristol), Joe Legg (Maritime desk, Foreign and Commonwealth Office), and Ann Singleton (University of Bristol). The discussion raised interesting questions on what should be considered British seas, and how these boundaries have been, or are being, constructed. Panellists agreed on the fundamentally transnational nature of the UK maritime region, incorporating UK home waters, but also critically important maritime spaces such as the North Sea and Mediterranean as well as overseas territories and the international maritime trade routes.

Above all the panel emphasised the need to manage the UK’s maritime boundaries and borders humanely and with proper regard to safety at sea, particularly in relation to the movement of vulnerable people and migrants. There was also intense discussion over the extent to which security responses are appropriate for such issues and the inter-linkages between maritime security and other areas such as migration policy.

Finally the third panel, chaired by Professor Christian Bueger (University of Copenhagen & SafeSeas co-director), addressed  ‘Governance and coordination’ and featured Caroline Cowan (Fisheries Lead, Scottish Government), and Professor Richard Barnes (University of Hull). The panel and discussion highlighted the need for coordinated and inclusive governance in the maritime domain, and for more work to be done on the inter-connected nature of many maritime security threats and scalable nature of responses across these. The panel also highlighted the potential for localised issues (such as conflicts over fisheries access) to escalate to national or regional level problems (and vice versa).

Hirta (Marine Fisheries Vessel) Arriving Aberdeen Harbour 18/06/2019 by Rab Lawrence license by Creative Commons

Discussions again emphasised the broad and diverse nature of the interest groups engaged in maritime security and the difficulties of ensuring fair and effective governance across these and their various identities and interests. Participants highlighted the importance of Scotland in the UK maritime security picture, with 62 per cent of the UK’s (home) Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) located off the Scottish coast, the remote nature of much of this territory, and the devolved nature of many marine environmental management and policing issues. Moreover, and even within government, there is sometimes a lack of understanding over jurisdictional issues between national and devolved authorities engaged in UK maritime security governance.

Overall, the IdeasLab discussions were extremely rich and productive. They highlighted the complexity of the maritime security challenge, the multiple, diverse and sometimes conflicting nature of security governance in this area and the potentially transformative impact of the UK’s exit from the EU on existing practices, arrangements and relationships.  Insights from the ideaslab will be expanded upon and presented in an upcoming policy brief produced by SafeSeas.