Photo by Fairphone/Closing The Loop. Under Creative Commons license “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA.”

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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).

New report – ‘What we know about maritime environmental crime’

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.

Download the report here

Similar to our previous report on piracy, and report on maritime illicit trades, this paper provides an overview of what we know about maritime environmental crimes, how data is collected, what information is available, and which organizations are analyzing these data.

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

AMARIS holds Interpretation Workshop

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 AMARIS Core Team

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.

Routes, Cables and Spills: New research project on ocean infrastructures

SafeSeas will continue to strengthen it’s partnership with the Department of Political Science (DPS) of the University of Copenhagen through a new research project funded by the Velux Foundation’s Core Group program. The project is a collaboration between DPS, the Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity and SafeSeas will investigate three key issues in ocean governance: Chokepoints and routes, subsea data cables and the prevention of marine oil spills. Christian Bueger will lead the project together with Kimberly Peters.

Policy brief – “Simplifying Complexities: Interagency Coordination in Ghana’s Maritime Security Governance”

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.

Access the report here

Is there a role for the E3 in maritime security in the Indo-Pacific?

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.

Challenges for Shipping discussed in Al Jazeera Inside Story

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.

Event – Securing the Subsea Data Cable Network: Time to rethink?


6th of July, 14.00 (BST)

Submarine data cables are the core critical infrastructure of the digital age. 99% of the world’s digital communications transit through the global cable network: Zoom meetings, emails, hotel reservations, flight bookings, financial transactions – they all depend on it. This data does not travel through satellites or the air, but physical optic fiber cables that lay on the ocean floor. Cloud storage, 5G and the Internet of Things, will imply that the network will become even more crucial.

If the cable network is that important, why does it hardly feature in political and security debates? What are the issues at stake? Does the cable network need more and different protection?

These are the issues that a panel of experts from academia, law enforcement and industry will debate drawing on a recently published article on the issue.

Chair: Henrik Breitenbauch, Center for Military Studies, University of Copenhagen


Christian Bueger, University of Copenhagen

Tobias Liebetrau, Science Po Paris,

Timothy Walker, Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria

Kaitlin Meredith, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Global Maritime Crime Programme,

Stephen Dawe, European Subsea Cable Association

Daria Shvets, GlovoUniversitat Pompeu Fabra. Barcelona

SafeSeas research discussed at major maritime security forums

In the last week, we had the opportunity to feed key research insights from the TOCAS project into a number of policy processes. The first one was a presentation at the EU-China Expert Meeting on Maritime Security, held on the 26th and 27th of May in Bejing, At the meeting our contribution focused on the importance of a holistic understanding of blue crimes and the need to pay more attention to environmental security at sea and climate change.

Our second intervention was at the 48th SHADE meeting (May 27th), which is the major military coordination mechanism for piracy and maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean. Our presentation focused on the results from the SafeSeas survey of regional maritime security institutions. We flagged how problematic institutional proliferation and fragmentation is in the region, and called for the need to revisit the position of SHADE in the regional maritime security architecture in the mid term.

At the away day of the EU’s Military Committee in Brussels (June 2nd) we offered a review of the recent strategic choices of the EU, and flagged in particular the command structures of EU naval operations, the EU-NATO relations, as well as the consequences of Brexit. It is also time for the EU to rethink strategic issues, such as environmental security or the protection of subsea communication infrastructures.

SafeSeas comment – “Jersey fishing dispute: why the UK sent in the navy and how to resolve the spat”

By Scott Edwards & Tim Edmunds. Article originally published in The Conversation

On the morning of Thursday 6 May, French fishers threatened to blockade Jersey’s main port of St Helier, following a threat by French maritime minister Annick Girardin to cut off the island’s electricity supply. Both countries sent maritime patrol vessels to the area, including, in the UK’s case, two Royal Navy River-class ships: HMS Severn and HMS Tyne. After a tense stand-off, the UK government has announced the navy ships would return to port, but nonetheless this dispute needs to be resolved in the longer term.

Why is this happening in Jersey? A self-governing dependency of the British Crown, Jersey is surrounded on three sides by France, and at its closest point is only 14 miles from the French shore. Both British and French fishers have historically worked the island’s waters, and tensions between the two are nothing new. Naval vessels from both countries were deployed in disputes over oyster dredging as far back as the early 19th century, and periodic disputes have flared up since then.

Map of Channel Islands
Jersey is one of the Channel Islands, which are geographically close to France but politically closer to the UK. Istimages / shutterstock

Even so, and despite occasional low-level disagreements over fishing in the area, treaties and shared management structures have largely been successful in managing these tensions. Most recently, in 2000, the Granville Bay Joint Management Committee was established, which granted equitable access to licenses for both French and British vessels operating in the region’s waters.

So why are tensions emerging again now? Part of the answer is to do with Brexit. Prior to the UK’s departure from the European Union, British fishing grounds were managed jointly under the EU common fisheries policy. The policy set quotas for the whole of the EU fishing fleet, deciding who could catch what across the breadth of EU waters, including those of the UK.

Fisheries issues were important for both Britain and the EU during the Brexit process, and proved a perennial sticking point in negotiations over the withdrawal agreement. The result was a compromise that satisfied neither side. The EU retained access to British waters, but with the expectation of a partial drawdown of EU boats’ fishing rights over a five-year period, after which quota distribution will be decided in annual talks. New measures were also introduced for verifying which vessels should have access and under what conditions.

It is these new measures which have proven so problematic in the current dispute. As a Crown Dependency, Jersey is not part of the UK and was not incorporated into the common fisheries policy. However, it has been required to implement these new verification measures. This has led to renewed tensions with French fishers, who argue they were not properly informed of the new requirements and have therefore not been able to acquire licenses to access waters which in some cases they may have fished for generations.

Resolution of the dispute is complicated by its political symbolism. Locally, fisheries are a sensitive issue in Jersey due to the relatively small size of its fleet compared to that of its Normandy counterpart. More widely, the rhetorical importance of fisheries in the Brexit campaign, and the longstanding strength of fishing interests in French politics, significantly politicises what, on its own terms, is a rather technical dispute about licensing requirements.

Protester holding sign 'Fishing for Leave'
Fishing was very prominent in the Brexit campaign. Ilyas Tayfun Salci / shutterstock

Resolution needs to begin with de-escalation. The UK’s deployment of Royal Navy vessels to the area is not on the face of it unusual. Unlike many other countries, it does not have a civilian coastguard routinely tasked with law enforcement duties, and historically the navy has always played an important fisheries protection role. Indeed, Admiral Lord Nelson captained HMS Albermarie, a fisheries protection ship, in 1781, and now the modern equivalents routinely make inspections of fishing vessels.

However, even a notionally military intervention in such a high-profile public order dispute with a close ally is politically consequential, and suggests the need to develop stronger civilian enforcement capacities in British waters too. Some relevant agencies, including police forces and the Marine Management Organisation have maritime law enforcement roles, but their capacities are relatively limited, unevenly distributed between regions, and in need of further development.

Joint Anglo-French communication structures should also need to be strengthened for fisheries management disputes and any resulting public disorder incidents. The UK and France have exceptionally strong working relationships in other areas of maritime security, including a joint operations centre to tackle small boat migration, and information sharing structures between their maritime agencies. In the wake of Brexit, these are largely absent in fisheries enforcement, and the establishment of such mechanisms could go a long way to diffusing similar tensions in future.

At heart, what is happening in Jersey is a consequence of the novel regulatory and enforcement challenges presented by the Brexit process, as well as the ongoing challenge of managing historically shared resources. Without EU regulations, these issues present new challenges for both the UK and France in their relations with each other, and it will take time to develop effective replacements for the complex intergovernmental arrangements that previously regulated British waters.

Fisheries are critical to many people’s livelihoods, in both Britain and France, and indeed in Jersey, and their symbolic importance means than such disputes can quickly become politically incendiary. Going forward, UK and French policymakers need to consider how similar situations can best be avoided in future, as all parties adapt to the challenges of post-Brexit governance at sea. De-escalation should be the watchword for the current dispute; cooperation for the disputes yet to come.