To strengthen maritime security it is crucial that researchers work closely together. The Maritime Security mailing list was launched in 2014 by piracy-studies.org 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).
The Gulf of Guinea is a global hotspot for maritime insecurity. Ghana, a country in this region, has had its share of blue crime in its waters. This makes it a relevant object of study partly because the country continues to suffer acts of maritime insecurity, including piracy. At the same time, it is also experiencing a major push by external actors interested in helping to strengthen maritime security, with specific focus on piracy. Although piracy is the main focus of external actors’ maritime security engagements, it is neither the only nor necessarily the most pressing maritime security challenge Ghana is confronted with. For Ghanaian coastal communities, and in several other Gulf of Guinea (GoG) states, for instance, illegal fishing represents a bigger challenge to livelihoods, jobs and food security.
To combat maritime insecurity in Ghana, many external actors prefer maritime capacity building as a method of engagement. Through this intervention, external actors, such as the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN), the United States of America (USA) or individual EU countries, assist Ghana (and other GoG states) with the aim of strengthening various capacities needed to improve maritime security. Capacity building can take various forms, ranging from training to donations of equipment, such as computers or patrol boats. In short, the policy paper examines capacity building negotiations in Ghana. Read an in-depth analysis of the matter in a report by the AMARIS project. Access the report here.
The JMSC was formed in 2020 and provides the UK with one dedicated ‘centre of excellence’ of maritime security. Incorporating the National Maritime Information Centre and Joint Maritime Operations Coordination Centre, the JMSC works across multiple government departments and agencies to coordinate the UK’s maritime security responses, both nationally and globally.
This whole-of-government approach is necessary because of the range of different organisations and authorities engaged in maritime security tasks, across departments as diverse as the Home Office, MoD, DEFRA, DfT, FCDO and Marine Scotland amongst others. Coordinating between such a wide range of departments, each with their own priorities and interests, is not straightforward, and requires significant trust-building between agencies.
The JMSC’s work in this area is facilitated by a number of features:
First, it is independent from any single department, and jointly resourced between them. This independence allows it to provide an environment where agencies work together on equal footing towards their (sometimes different) priorities without any one agenda dominating.
Second, it is jointly staffed by a range of Whitehall departments and agencies. By bringing staff together into one organisation, the JMSC aims to construct a collective sense of purpose between relevant stakeholders, while retaining their individual agency identities.
Third, it has a primarily operational focus, bringing together different groups of practitioners around common problems and tasks. This has allowed the centre to side-step more politically charged issues such as inter-agency competition or resource allocation.
Finally, the Centre facilitates cross-departmental/agency information sharing through the Royal Navy’s Maritime Domain Awareness programme and individual agency information sources. Information sharing both builds trust in and of itself, but also contributes to a common understanding of threat and priority.
There are challenges to this structure, however. A consequence of the JMSC’s independence, for example, is that it is not ‘owned’ by a single ministry and is therefore jointly funded. Maintaining the JMSC’s activities requires political will to ensure the necessary funding continues past the current short term funding cycle on which it currently relies.
There are other areas where the JMSC demonstrates its value beyond its trust-building, information-sharing, and the ability to quickly respond to crises. The centre also serves a diplomatic function, for example. It has developed international relationships with other information centres such as the IFC in Singapore and national partners. Through this, it has the potential to be an important actor in the UK’s ambition to develop relationships in the Indo-Pacific.
The Indo-Pacific faces significant issues of maritime insecurity, and countries are forming their own coordinated maritime security agencies in response. The JMSC serves as an example of successful coordination and information-sharing, and lessons learnt have the potential to be shared with regional partners – increasing the UK’s influence over maritime security responses in the region.
In relation to this, Scott and Tim discussed SafeSeas’ current research on the Indo-Pacific and the fragmentation of regional responses to issues of maritime insecurity. The discussion specifically centred on the implications of this fragmentation, and the likelihood of more centralised cooperation in future. They also discussed their research on inter-agency coordination in Southeast Asia, due to the regional coordination bodies facing similar challenges to the JMSC.
Scott and Tim also visited the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Information Centre (MTIC) which administers the UK Maritime Trade Organisation (UKMTO) and the Maritime Domain Awareness Trade – Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GOG) initiative in partnership with the French Navy. The MTIC is a Royal Navy capability with the principal purpose of providing an information conduit between security forces and the wider international maritime trade. With strong relationships with the shipping industry, the MTIC is able to inform relevant regional authorities and warn and advise vessels in the near vicinity of any incidents.
Traditionally closed off to outsiders, shipping companies from across the world share information with the MTIC as their vessels pass through areas of high risk so that it can assist in responding swiftly to problems. With these strong relationships with the shipping industry, the MTIC is able to inform relevant regional authorities and warn and advise vessels in the near vicinity of any incidents. Such a reputation has taken time to develop, and there is currently no other similar mechanism elsewhere, making it an essential conduit for information across the maritime sector as a whole.
The Partnership for Conflict, Crime & Security Research, the Centre for Maritime Law & Security, and SafeSeas are hosting a webinar on ‘Trading Waste: The UK Ghana Route and the Illicit E Waste Economy’. The event will be held online at 12.00 GMT, on the 20th October.
Chaired by Dr. Kamal-Deen Ali, the event features Kanchelli Iddrisu (University of Cambridge), Professor Brenda Chalfin (University of Florida), Dr. Irekpitan Okukpon (Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies), Dr Dagna Rams (Université de Lausanne), Professor Henrik Vigh (University of Copenhagen), and Lawrence Kotoe (Environmental Protection Agency, Ghana).
The Global South has a problem with other people’s electronic waste. The world produces as much as 50 million tonnes of e-waste per year – over six kilogrammes for every person on the planet. Of this, only around 20 per cent is recycled. The rest is disposed of in landfill or informally recycled, often by hand, in countries in the Global South. Such work exposes workers, sometimes children, to hazardous and carcinogenic substances including mercury, lead and cadmium. E-waste in landfill can pollute soil and groundwater and put food supply systems and water sources at risk. A significant proportion of this waste is exported illegally to avoid costly environmental regulation and health and safety requirements.
In 2021, UKRI’s Partnership for Conflict Crime and Security Research commissioned a project to examine the UK-Ghana trade in e-waste, in partnership with the Centre for Maritime Law and Security Africa (CEMLAWS) and SafeSeas. The project zoomed in on eight different sites along the UK-Ghana e-waste trade route, starting with the manufacture of goods, following their journey through consumption, disposal, export, import and recycling, and ending with the reexport of scrap metal from Ghana. The result was a report published in July 2021.
This panel brings together leading experts on the global waste trade to discuss the report findings and reflect on their wider implications for environmental governance, maritime security and the fight against organised crime. In so doing it addresses questions:
How much do we know about the global e-waste trade? Where are the main data gaps?
What is the extent of organised criminal involvement in the global e-waste trade?
How can (and should) the global trade in e-waste best be tackled? Are new capacities, regulations and countermeasures required?
This new report, a collaboration between the Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security Research (PaCCS), the Centre for Maritime Law and Security Africa, and SafeSeas, explores the extent, nature, and impact of the e-waste trade between the UK and Ghana by mapping sites along this route. These sites act as categories in which key actors in the e-waste trade have been grouped in order to understand their significance, how they interact, how the illicit aspect of the e-waste trade is formed, and the main factors that drive this trade.
Authored by Kanchelli Iddrisu, the research consists of a literature review, interviews with 44 individuals and representatives from institutions in the UK and Ghana, and surveys handed out to these interviewees.
It makes a number of conclusions, including:
the domestic consumption of imported new and used electronics in Ghana is a major source of e-waste, with this site of e-waste generation being overlooked in much of the existing literature;
poverty is the underlying factor of the unregulated e-waste trade, and there are not enough interventions acknowledging and addressing this; the question of whether illicit e-waste operations can be categorised as ‘serious organised crime’ (SOC) requires more research;
and there needs to be a deeper understanding of the risks, harms and consequences of these activities, in order to determine the resources that should be allocated to fighting this trade.
Based on this, it makes a number of recommendations, including:
Ghana should decentralise institutions linked to reducing e-waste flows, with a stronger focus on regions in the North of Ghana; namely the Upper West, Upper East, North East, Savannah and Northern regions;
Digitisation of data should be improved across institutions to increase access to e-waste statistics;
Enforcement agencies and prosecutors should be more aware of the crimes that are concealed or made possible due to the logistical network that the e-waste trade provides;
The return of shipments of e-waste back to the UK should be facilitated;
and UK manufacturers and consumers should be made more aware of their role in this trade.
Kanchelli Iddrisu is a researcher and PhD student in Education at the University of Cambridge. Her doctoral research focuses on youth unemployment in Ghana, examining the responses young people have to this issue. She also works in a law firm, specialising in anti-corruption research in West Africa. Kanchelli holds an LLB from Kings College London, an LPC/LLM from the University of Law and an MPhil in Education, Globalisation and International Development from the University of Cambridge.
This project was commissioned by the Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security Research (PaCCS). It involved a placement with the Centre for Maritime Law and Security Africa, based in Accra, Ghana. Interviews and surveys were used to scope out the extent, nature and impact of e-waste smuggling on the UK to Ghana route. This project was supervised by Dr Tristram Riley-Smith (PaCCS Research Integrator), Professor Tim Edmunds (Safe Seas Co-Director), and Dr Kamal-Deen Ali (Executive Director of the Centre for Maritime Law and Security Africa).
What We Know About Maritime Environmental Crime is the third in a series of reports as part of the Transnational Organized Crime at Sea: New Evidence for Better Responses project. The project is a collaboration between SafeSeas, Stable Seas, and the One Earth Future Foundation. It is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security Research (PaCCS) and the One Earth Future Foundation.
The paper focuses specifically on three crimes which together make up the most visible and emblematic examples of maritime environmental crime: marine pollution; illegal mining, resource extraction, and dredging; and fisheries crimes. The scope of maritime environmental crime is broader than just these three, yet the breadth and relative infrequency of other environmental crimes mean that significantly less data is available on the others.
The paper finds that available data about maritime environmental crime is fragmented by issue and geography, and most typically focuses on the aggregate results of the crimes rather than direct monitoring of criminal activity. Data gaps should be identified and acknowledged to help guide future collection and in order to overcome the current imbalance towards collecting data on certain forms of maritime crime.
More efforts should also be made to aggregate data, especially around different forms of pollution and various fisheries crimes, to better recognize convergences and synergies.
The report was authored by Tyler Lycan and Lexie Van Buskirk, with contributions from Professor Christian Bueger, Professor Timothy Edmunds, Dr. Scott Edwards, and Dr. Conor Seyle
The Analyzing Maritime Security in Ghana (AMARIS) project held a two-day Interpretation Workshop in Casablanca, Morocco. The event took place on 25 – 26 August 2021. AMARIS is a collaboration between the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), the Centre for Maritime Law and Security in Africa (CEMLAWS) and the University of Copenhagen (UCPH). It is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. It investigates how Ghana is impacted by maritime insecurity and how it can respond through improved governance and capacity building.
The event with the core team was held at the mid-term of the project. It allowed to review the empirical evidence compiled so far and to interpret it in the light of the more general maritime security challenges.
The KAIPTC team which studies the different expressions of blue crime in Ghana noted that the most prevalent maritime crime in Ghana is illegal fishing activity. However, the focus of the international community continues to be on piracy, often downplaying the importance of other blue crimes. This mismatch and the implications for political will and priority setting require ongoing attention.
A second core focus of the debate was how Ghana is dealing with the challenges of coordinating the complexity of actors involved in maritime security. A policy paper published earlier documented how considerable this complexity is. One of the key responses of Ghana is the development of a National Integrated Maritime Strategy (NIMS) in which maritime security is one core components. The team from CEMLAWS that studies maritime security governance showed how Ghana is drafting the strategy and what kind of potential it holds to improve governance and the fight against maritime crime. However, the instrument is still being developed and we will have to wait for future developments.
Another item of the discussion were the insights on capacity building activities in Ghana developed by the UCPH team. Capacity building continues to lack coordination, and as the study shows the negotiation process is often a key hurdle since often the right priorities are not addressed or ownership not ensured.
The first discussed results document forcefully what can be learned from the paradigmatic case of Ghana and why it is important to also consider the national dimension in the maritime security debate that too often has an exclusively regional focus. Other countries can learn from Ghana’s experience. Yet, the same time many of the intricacies of dealing with maritime security come particular well to the fore.
As AMARIS moves to the next phase, more of these insights will be published both for an audience interested in the Gulf of Guinea, but also blue crime, maritime security governance and capacity building more generally.
The Gulf of Guinea is a global hotspot for maritime insecurity. The recent surge in piratical attacks in the region, but also the spread of the menace into Ghana’s maritime domain has catapulted the subject of maritime security governance into the public domain. Furthermore, in the past decade, there has been a growing awareness of a host of maritime security issues that chastise Ghana, as well as their implications for the livelihood and well-being of coastal communities. At the same time, there has been reports in the media that have highlighted the country’s fisheries crisis, illegal oil bunkering, and piracy. More recently, thousands of dead fish and over hundred dolphins washed ashore raising questions about the role of Ghana’s security agencies in safeguarding the country’s maritime domain; and whether or not these roles are being executed efficiently.
Ghana’s maritime domain is shaped by a large number of actors and stakeholders with linkages in mandates, roles and primary functions. While such an extensive maritime institutional framework could lead to greater functional or sectoral efficiency through harmonized capacities and shared information, Ghana’s institutional framework suffers from interagency frictions, duplication of efforts and uncoordinated threat responses. The policy paper deals with interagency coordination on Ghana’s maritime security governance. Read more on these issues in the policy paper.
Maritime security in the Indo Pacific is a theme that is getting increasingly political traction. While much of the debate is centered around the South China Sea, Freedom of Navigation and signaling towards China, it is also an opportunity to address the non-state dimensions of maritime security, namely maritime related extremism and blue crime. SafeSeas director Christian Bueger was invited to provide a statement at an event on June 22nd that investigated what kind of promises the coordination in the framework of the “E3” – France, Germany and the United Kingdom – holds.
What are the current challenges for the shipping industry and what is the impact of Covid stress? Al Jazeera’s show Inside Story discussed this issue and invited SafeSeas director Christian Bueger. Bueger stressed the importance of seeing Covid stress in line of more broader stress on the shipping industry and the need to better contain the negative impact from shipping in terms of CO2 emissions, pollution and oil spills. The recording of the show is available on the SafeSeas YouTube channel.