On 19 and 20 January, King’s College in London hosted a conference titled Europe, Maritime Security and Small Navies. While my own research does not focus on Europe, I was delighted to contribute a presentation related to the other two aspects.
The whole event was organised by academics from King’s College, Maynooth University in Ireland, Cardiff University and the UK’s Defence Academy. Experts from naval and defence academies, senior academics as well as young researchers from Europe and beyond attended the conference.
Role of small navies
In my presentation, I spoke about the definition for maritime security from my PhD thesis. No standard definition for maritime security exists currently. Strategies therefore have to be written on the national level. Governments can then decide how to divide tasks between different agencies. This step is particularly important for small navies. They can concentrate on the most relevant tasks in any national maritime strategy. Furthermore, the private sector can supplement their capacities and capabilities.
Maritime security is already being privatised in some areas. Since the introduction of the ISPS Code, for example, private companies generally conduct security trainings for shipping companies and port operators, albeit with regulatory oversight from government institutions.
More recently, piracy off Somalia created demand for private maritime security companies (PMSCs). These are now widely accepted by the shipping industry. PMSCs provide armed security personnel for merchant ships in different parts of the world.
Small navies in particular will be facing important challenges in the coming years. In a world of multifaceted threats and limited resources, politicians and experts will raise questions over the privatisation of additional tasks. New technologies, for example, enable private companies or non-profit organisations to conduct surveillance of the maritime domain. This intelligence can provide law enforcement agencies with the opportunity to optimise the use of their own resources.