Maritime security research, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, has fascinated me for many years. The focus of my PhD thesis are maritime security issues in East and West Africa. Comparing both regions offers fascinating insights into priorities of governments, international organisations, NGOs and the private sector.
Maritime security is often reduced to counter-piracy activities. However, that is only a very small part of the picture. In my research, I try to point out links between illicit activities and a lack of law enforcement at sea. Navies, coastguards and other agencies have to work together to provide maritime security.
While that is true for all countries around the globe, there are specific challenges related to maritime security in sub-Saharan Africa. For many governments, security is first and foremost a land-based issue. The sea is generally not regarded as a potential source of revenues and maritime agencies often suffer from very limited human and financial resources.
That view is slowly changing, thanks to strategies on different levels (national, regional and African Union). Maritime security will only be one part of economic development at sea but it will be important. My research will hopefully add some insights to this long-term process.
I have been and continue to be involved in several research projects related to different aspects of maritime security. One of these is the State of Maritime Piracy report, published annually by Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP), now renamed as the Stable Seas programme. OBP has collected data about the economic and the human cost of piracy and armed robbery at sea for several years. Largely based on my PhD research, I have contributed to several of the annual reports as well as some other OBP projects.
Another research project I was involved in provided interesting insights into the private maritime security industry. In cooperation with several partners, we collected and analysed information about the performance of armed guards on ships. Based on this research, I have looked at developments in the industry very closely. The involvement of private companies in the provision of maritime security in Nigeria and other parts of West Africa is particularly interesting.
Future of maritime security
I am always keen on finding out more about new research projects. Anything related to security at sea or the ‘blue economy’ in sub-Saharan Africa is of interest to me, as well as relatively narrow topics such as specific research about piracy in West Africa. A lot of information about related issues can be found in my book on the topic, available through Palgrave Macmillan here. Please contact me if you have any questions or suggestions that you would like to share.