We are pleased to announce the Call for Papers for our first conference on the theme ‘Society and the Sea’.
For more information: http://www.gre.ac.uk/society-and-the-sea/home
We are pleased to announce the Call for Papers for our first conference on the theme ‘Society and the Sea’.
For more information: http://www.gre.ac.uk/society-and-the-sea/home
By Lisa Otto
South Africa became involved as a counter-piracy actor rather late in the day, after repeated calls for it to make a contribution to the scourge that was then facing the continent – Somali piracy. Despite the rise of the Somali pirate problem coming in 2007, it was not until the outward ‘ballooning’ effect of the pirates’ reach began to extend southwards towards the Mozambican Channel, that South Africa’s interest was suitably piqued.
In December 2010 Somali pirates struck off Mozambique’s coast, and the South African Department of Defence responded to this attack on its immediate neighbour by deploying warships to Mozambique. This effort was known as Operation Copper and constituted the very beginning of South Africa’s engagement in counter-piracy efforts beyond endeavours of verbal condemnation.
Not acting on its own recognisance, but rather generously acquiescing to Mozambique’s request for assistance, piracy was suddenly thrust from the periphery of South Africa’s international agenda to a more central position than it previously enjoyed. Albeit one that did yet not necessarily beget much strategic priority.
In February 2012, South Africa’s engagement in counter-piracy became formalised through a Memorandum of Understanding signed in partnership with Mozambique and Tanzania, under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Subsequently the countries have seen some success, notably in April 2012 when the partnership was put to use to fend off a pirate attack in Tanzanian waters, in collaboration with the European Union (EU) deployment.
Beyond this, Operation Copper has also worked at training efforts as a capacity-building mechanism with neighbouring countries. More recently, South Africa has begun to focus its attentions the Gulf of Guinea also, with the navy being active there in the last two years.
At the time of South Africa’s entrance as an actor in the counter piracy environment, maritime piracy in Somalia had been a problem of global concern for some years. By 2011 this experience had led to a number of experts alluding to the emergence of a new hotspot for Somali pirates in Southern African waters. Given pirates’ dynamic nature and ability to adapt to the challenges they faced, the presence of international forces in the Gulf of Aden would force pirates further south in pursuance of their victims. The trend known as ballooning saw Somali pirates venture far afield.
It was this thinking that underpinned a theory that Southern Africa would soon face dealing with the pirate scourge. This notion, coupled with the need for security in the maritime domain in light of resource discoveries off the coast of Tanzania and Mozambique as well as the active ports at Dar es Salaam, Beira and Maputo seemed to necessitate action. This, along with the successful pirate attacks in Mozambican waters in 2010, the threat must have seemed quite real to South Africa, and potentially also posed a risk to its interests off Southern Africa’s eastern coastline.
Yet, the Somali pirate scourge dwindled significantly in 2012 and 2013 as a number of activities and developments both on land and at sea paid off. Beyond this, Somali pirates have not managed to sustain their campaign further into the Indian Ocean, and ultimately southwards, given logistical challenges. The absence of a safe haven outside Somalia, as well as having to go without the intricate support network in Somalia that provide the very foundations for their activities worsens matters. Establishing new such networks (which would require an environment devoid of effective governance comparable to the erstwhile Somalia) is a task more difficult in the Southern African region given its comparative condition of peace and security. Another option would be the use of a mother ship based in international waters, but this too would require access to a regular supply of food, water, fuel and other items, usually provided by on-shore networks contracted by pirate groups.
Given this and the limited defence budget in South Africa, it may seem curious that the country committed of its limited naval assets to these endeavours. In fact, the allocation to Operation Copper alone in the 2013 budget was R585 million (US$56 million) from a total annual budget of R40 billion (or US$3.9 billion).
Says defence analyst Helmoed Heitman, “either South Africa accepts regional security responsibilities and funds an appropriate defence force, or we wind our neck in, keep quiet and hope nothing goes wrong”. He posits that despite the role of a defence force being to address threats, the budget leaves no room for this, nor for the unexpected. Thus, one might conclude that the expenditure on counter-piracy operations is a frivolous expense, given the state’s primary responsibility of protecting its territory – a place to which pirates have yet to venture. Others may argue that the fact that pirates have not entered South African waters is credit to the capabilities of the navy.
On the balance of this information, how pragmatic is South Africa’s engagement in counter-piracy? Is it a worthy exercise in foreign policy, employing foresight, or does it constitute funds misspent on threat not immediately real to South Africa?
While Heitman makes apt observations with respect to the military budget, it is worth noting that South Africa’s security apparatus are most often deployed in assistance of other nations, often in Africa. South Africa does not fear any immediate threat to its territory, and is therefore able to make use of its defence forces as a tool in the furtherance of its foreign policy objectives, key amongst which is the precedence of Africa.
The fear of pirates’ southward migration offered Pretoria the opportunity to participate through its region in keeping with the country’s foreign policy and the practice of engaging the region as a first port of call. A SADC-based initiative would also be consistent with the African Agenda and the ideal of ensuring that the collective security of the Southern African neighbourhood is safeguarded. These considerations serve to motivate the pursuance of the issue in a way that befits South Africa’s model of foreign policy quite perfectly.
Counter-piracy activities have also allowed South Africa to push back at pirate frontiers farther away from home, effectively assisting neighbours through collaborative efforts, all the while, keeping the trouble at a safe distance from South Africa’s doorstep. This may be considered a pragmatic policy decision – indeed, South Africa is a littoral state with 3,751km of coast line, dotted along which sit a number of crucially important ports with significance not just for South African but for the region as a whole.
Given South Africa’s status as an emerging nation, it also has globalised interests, being impacted by costs brought on by piracy on the global economy, as well as the domestic concerns felt by neighbours. Furthermore, it acts to bolster South Africa’s perceived involvement in a fashionable issue of international proportions, without requiring all too much effort on the part of Pretoria. This too falls squarely in line with South Africa’s implied foreign policy objective of being the foremost African actor participating in the international space – the go-to partner on the continent who leads by example where issues of African security are concerned.
In conclusion, while the cost of South Africa’s counter-piracy engagement may, on the face of it, not appear to equal its benefit, South Africa has managed to structure this engagement in a way that plays to the global image that it works to portray, while expending relatively little resources. From a practical point of view the cost does not seem to meet the minimal realities of its risk, but perhaps in this instance South Africa has made its play on the basis of strategy rather than economics.
Is it necessary for its own security to be actively fighting the pirate threat? No, it is not. But, given the transnational nature of the crime, and nondiscriminatory nature of its effects, it is of crucial importance that states, littoral and landlocked become involved, acknowledge a shared responsibility and tackle the crime as a collective. Experts have long held that a coordinated effort by the international community is needed to turn the tide in the fight against piracy. This is South Africa’s effort to do just that – in this case a responsible global actor, but primarily one taking a path of pragmatic foreign policy.
A version of this article was first published in the African Armed Forces Journal in November 2014 as a winning entry of the AAFJ Denel writing competition, and the full version may be accessed there.
Industry stakeholders and government officials from various countries met in London on 23 and 24 September to discuss maritime piracy in in West Africa under an inative organised by the America-based Oceans Beyond Piracy. With piratical act in the Gulf of Guinea rendering these waters some of the most dangerous in the world, threatening economic and security imperatives in the region of geostratefic importance; this issue was the focus of the discussion.
Following the meetings, in a conversation with one government official in attendance, the question of defining piracy was raised and the wide range of definitions varying in scope were highlighted. It was, however, decided that these interpretations had sufficient commonality for any fine -tuning to be set aside.
This, in my opinion, is an oversight and one that challenges how the problem may be approached. To provide background here, it is worth noting how piracy is defined, and why events in West Africa occur on the periphery of this definition.
International law under Article 101 of the United Nations Law of the Sea of 1982 holds that piracy is any violence, detention or depredation that take place on the high seas, is perpetrated for private gain, and gain, and occurs between at least two vessels. Much of this definition is based on law used to combat piracy during the so -called golden age in the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as an interpretation emanating for the Harvard Draft, compiled by academics in 1932.
In West Africa acts of piracy predominately take place in territorial waters, and have been perpetrated for motives that enmesh private gain, through organised criminal activity, with political grounds and forms of protest. On this basis, and unless expressly defined as piracy under the domestic law of the country in whose waters these acts take place, the internationally accepted definition can really not be applied here. In short, the use of the word piracy to describe these acts is mostly inaccurate and constitutes a misnomer. Nonetheless, scholars, government institutions, oil majors and shipping companies tend to refer to acts of robbery- at – sea and associated crimes as piracy, often for ease of reference.
While this approach make the phenomenon perhaps easier to categorize, what it fails to acknowledge is that the acts in West African waters present distinct model of piracy, which, although having similarities to other manifestations of the phenomenon, presents itself in a unique way. Of course, the word that we used to describe things are of utmost importance because they inform the way in which we understand them, and also often attach automatic assumptions and expectations. The key to being able to address piracy successfully is then in understanding differences within the phenomenon and appreciating the idiosyncrasies at play in various maritime domains.
Questions of piracy are further complicated by a dearth of domestic legislation in affected West African countries, which stems from sea-blindness- the failure to appreciate the sea as a political and economic domain that requires securitising. Not only does a legal framework often not exist under which prosecutions can take place, the lack of such framework underscore a shortfall in understanding amongst the various officials whose job it now becomes to tackle maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea. Moreover, the international definition is this also inadequate to serve as guidance for these countries in building their own understanding and addressing piratical acts in their territorial waters.
As this is a problem that is affecting numerous countries within the Gulf in Guinea sub- region (although mainly emanating from Nigeria), states are also likely to take different routes to solving this definitional problem when attempting to construct framework for countering piracy . While there is a regional appetite for cooperation amongst states, this may in itself present a stumbling block in what routes regional platforms may have for their collective security.
There is an impression that due to the difficult nature of the task of fine- tuning definitions to be more inclusive of various manifestations of piracy, alongside the struggle in achieving consensus, it is considered too onerous a task, and one for which attendees at these September meetings simply did not have the enthusiasm.
The question of definition may seem a minor element of the issue at hand and consideration of being clearer on the words we use may be considered trivial, but is it important that there at least be some attempt at getting these basics right – once an understanding on what the problem, and could present an opportunity for streamlining of definition and method, bolstering a coppertative approach, which will go a long way towards achieving a shared vision on immediate and long- term actions to be taken.
Hosted by Lisa Otto
Lisa Otto holds a MA in International Peace and Security from King’s College London’s War Studies Department, which she achieved with Distinction, as well as BA and BA Honours degrees from the University of Johannesburg. She is now pursuing doctoral studies in Politics under the auspices of the SARChI Chair in African Diplomacy. and is currently conducting visiting research at the GMI. Her doctoral study investigates the evolution of maritime piracy in Nigeria.
Lisa’s research interests include non-traditional threats to security, particularly in Africa, as well as African foreign policy and engagement at the regional and international levels. Before returning to UJ to begin her doctorate, Lisa worked with the Institute for Security Studies and the South African Institute of International Affairs. She has also worked on projects with Transparency International, the African Union, Corruption Watch, and the European Commission, and has conducted field research in Finland, South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique and Ethiopia.
Nigeria and Piracy: the Evolution of a Complex Problem
While piracy is certainly not a new predicament off West Africa’s coast, it is one that has certainly become more punctuated in recent years, particularly off the shores of Nigeria. Piracy there challenges our traditional understanding of the crime, taking on a more domestic nature, and one that tends to centre on the region’s thriving oil industry. It is with the legacy of this industry too that it finds its origins, which, enmeshed with defining features of the Nigerian state (corruption, neo-patrimonialism, poverty, and criminality), has come to pose a significant threat to economic and security imperatives in Nigeria and the sub-region. Actors tasked with tackling the phenomenon have been implicated in the crime itself, rendering it an exceedingly complex problem to solve. This presentation will unpack the nature of piracy in Nigeria (and by extension West Africa), offering insight into underlying causal factors of the crime, how it plays out on these troubled waters, and what efforts are being taken to bring it to an end.
For more information on getting to the venue click here
The twenty-second New Researchers in Maritime History Conference will be hosted by the University
of Greenwich in the historic Old Royal Naval College. The conference provides a unique opportunity
for emerging scholars to present their work to a supportive audience in one of the world’s most
iconic maritime settings.
Applications to present will be accepted from both research degree students and by independent
scholars. The organisers welcome contributions that address all aspects of maritime history.
Anyone interested in attending the conference without presenting a paper is warmly invited to register via our booking site . http://newresearchersmaritimehistory2015.eventbrite.co.uk
The registration fee includes a welcome reception including keynote address on the Friday evening;
lunch and refreshments throughout the day on the Saturday plus conference materials.
£35 standard fee; £30 student fee; presenters attend for free.
Contact the conference secretariat at: +44 (0)20 8331 7612 or email@example.com
Thursday 20 November 2014
HQS Wellington, Temple Stairs, Victoria Embankment, London WC2R 2PN
The Blue Economy – the extensive interdependent range of economic activities that depend on the sea – offers huge potential for sustainable economic growth. This has been identified in the EC ‘Blue Growth’ strategy, with an emphasis on marine knowledge, spatial planning and integrated maritime surveillance. In January 2014 the Commission launched Horizon 2020, the EU’s largest ever research and innovation programme. Within the UK, current government initiatives to promote marine and maritime growth include the Marine Industries Leadership Council with representatives from the main sectors. Indications of rising international awareness of the importance of blue growth, include the action agenda for the Global Oceans Commission (2013-), the activities of the Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts and Islands (2002-), and the five-day Global Oceans Action Summit for Food Security and Blue Growth (The Hague, April 2014).
Taking as a starting point the three elements of the EC Blue Growth strategy, the Blue Economy symposium will examine these in relation to future UK opportunities in marine/maritime exploration, exploitation, energy and enterprise. What are the gaps in marine knowledge, spatial planning requirements and surveillance capacity that UK technology and skill can fill? What is needed to ensure that public policy and private interests combine to benefit the UK’s Blue Economy?
Coffee and Registration
Welcome and Introduction
Professor Sarah Palmer, Chair of Greenwich Forum
|Keynote Address: Simon Reddy, Global Ocean Commission
|Theme 1: Exploration
Professor Ed Hill, National Oceanography Centre
Koen Verbruggen, Geological Survey Ireland
Robert Ward, International Hydrographic Organisation
|Theme 2: Exploitation
Dr Philomène Verlaan, IMarEST
John Breslin, Smartbay Ireland
Dr Adrian Glover, Natural History Museum TBC
|Theme 3: Energy
Michael Cowling, Crown Estate
Martin Wright, Aurora Ventures Ltd.
Oil and Gas UK TBC
|Theme 4: Enterprise
Gregory Darling, Gardline/Marine Industries Leadership Council
Martin Hampson, Satellite Applications Catapult
|Keynote Address: The Rt Hon Matthew Hancock, Minister of State for Business and Enterprise
|Concluding Comments and Drinks Reception
End of Event
to book a place click here
Here at the Greenwich Maritime Institute we are very lucky to have some fantastic supporters. Only today Micheal Clark, a History student graduating in 2006, visited us to donate some wonderful books. Micheal Clark has been a reviewer of titles for The Northern Mariner.
The Norther Mariner is a fully refereed journal devoted to all aspects of the North Atlantic and North Pacific. It publishes essays,notes and documents on a variety of naval and maritime history, including merchant shipping, maritime labour, naval history, shipbuilding, fishing, ports, trade, nautical archaeology and maritime societies. TNM/LMN is published quarterly by The Canadian Nautical Research Society in association with the North American Society for Oceanic History (NASOH)
One example title is : The rise of an early modern shipping industry, Whitby’s golden fleet, 1600-1750 by Rosalin Barker
The ancient but isolated town of Whitby has mad a huge contribution to the maritime history of Britain: Captain Cook learned sailing and navigation here; during the eighteenth century the town was a provider of an exceptionally large number of transport ships in wartime; an in the nineteenth century Whitby became a major whaling port. This book examines how it came to be a such an important shipping center.
All are welcome to come and read this title amongst others in our Greenwich Maritime Institute office at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich.
By Lisa Otto
Visiting Researcher – Greenwich Maritime Institute
D.Phil Candidate – University of Johannesburg
The World International Studies Conference, convened 6 – 9 August at the Goethe University in Frankfurt hosted a maritime security panel series, entitled Maritime Securityscapes. This saw three panels and two roundtables discussing a variety of maritime issues.
The three maritime security panels comprised discussions on contemporary piracy, non-state actors in maritime security, and the securitisation of the maritime; while the two roundtables discussed lessons from the Contact Group on Piracy and off the Coast of Somalia, and the future of maritime security studies.
This initiative has been to the great credit of Christian Beuger of Cardiff University (and formerly of the GMI), who put in a lot of work to propose, put together and coordinate this panel series, effectively bringing together the small but flourishing group of researchers in the field of maritime security studies.
Lisa Otto, a visiting researcher at GMI who attended the conference and presented a paper there, now offers a snapshot of some of the interesting discussions made on the various maritime security panels.
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Lessons from the Contact Group on Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia:
This roundtable was perhaps one of the more interesting discussions had by maritime security experts in attendance and discussed the successes and failures of the CGPCS and interrogated whether there were opportunities to transfer lessons learned to address piracy in other regional contexts.
The CGPCS was established to address a finite problem, and came about in response to inertia or slow-moving responses to the piracy problem off the Somali coast. Given United Nations resolutions on the matter, the scope was there for the creation of such a body, essentially legitimised by the United Nations.
The discussants agreed that the CGPCS’ successes came primarily as a result of its limited geographic and sectoral focus, and the informal nature of its structure, engaging a large number of state and non-state stakeholders. This meant few barriers to entry for stakeholders, limited red tape, all the while granting ownership and legitimacy to this uncommon exercise in global governance in the eyes of the 600+ stakeholders involved.
These, however, are also described as being the characteristics responsible for the Contact Group’s weaknesses, as large membership created a duplication of efforts.
Nonetheless, several positive outcomes resulted from the CGPCS including shared awareness between multi-national forces present in the Gulf of Aden, as well as the Best Management Practices manual, the maritime security centre for the Horn of Africa, and multi-national agreements for prosecution.
Currently, questions abound regarding what to do with the mechanism now that piracy off the coast of Somalia has declined dramatically in recent years. Speakers noted that pirates may still be present in Somalia, albeit dormant at present, which raises the risk for a great resurgence of piracy there should naval forces present there leave.
One suggestion put forward, was the establishment of a small secretariat that could act as a meeting point for stakeholders, which could convene when necessary to address threats and concerns related to maritime security, and sea piracy in particular. Furthermore, capacities will need to be transitioned, such that functions currently performed by international partners may be taken over by local institutions, who are then supported in their efforts by these partners.
As for the transferability of idea and template of the CGPCS, discussants and participants noted that lessons and successes in this instance are not likely to be applicable in other geographical settings where piracy currently presents a problem to the differing contexts in which they occur. In Somalia, one was dealing with a failed state and a threat within international waters, which thus rendered the issues within the remit of the international community to respond to. In other regions of the world, West Africa for example, the breadth of piracy crosses the waters of various territories, affecting states that may be weak but are certainly not failed. Furthermore, in this instance, the threat does not emanate from the high seas but from territorial waters, placing the concern under the jurisdiction of individual sovereign states rather than the international community.
Ultimately, while the initiative of the CGPCS has been widely considered as a success, it seems that this is unlikely to be duplicated in other contexts.
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Look out for further installments this week for more insight into current debates in maritime security studies, as discussed at the WISC Conference.