In the age of passenger air travel, it can be easy to forget the critical role that maritime transportation plays in the global economy. While average citizens rarely travel by sea these days, international maritime transportation is still responsible for around 90% of global trade. Protecting the maritime infrastructure that allows for this trade, such as ships and ports, from terrorism is a major concern for the international community. As attacks, such as the suicide boat attack on the American warship U.S.S. Cole in 2000, which killed 17 American sailors, demonstrate, maritime terrorism has been a reality for decades (if not longer). Despite this, the subject has received relatively little scholarly attention in recent years. While terrorism is a persistent threat, it is not the only security concern arising from non-state actors in the maritime domain. Piracy and narcotics trafficking also threaten the economic and social wellbeing of societies in many parts of the world. With this in mind, this book aims bridge the gaps between three substantive areas of maritime security research: counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, and counter-piracy. Although maritime narcotrafficking, piracy, and maritime terrorism are all long-standing and interrelated security challenges, scholars who study these subject areas are typically segregated into three separate research networks. This stovepiping is heightened by the tendency of individual states to prioritize specific aspects of maritime security, rather than approaching the issue holistically. As a result, valuable maritime security lessons from counter-piracy and counter-narcotics operations have not been fully incorporated into counter-terrorism best practices. Lessons from counter-terrorism can also inform counter-piracy and counter-narcotics operations. With this goal in mind, Maritime Security: Counter-Terrorism Lessons from Maritime Piracy and Narcotics Interdiction brings together fifteen original papers on maritime terrorism, and maritime security more broadly, from twenty-three scholars spread across four continents. By sharing knowledge from diverse national perspectives and research communities, this book facilitates the transmission of lessons learned from counter-piracy and counter-narcotic operations to formulate recommendations for best practices and technological innovations to manage maritime terrorism.
This book originates from Counter-Terrorism Lessons from Maritime Piracy and Narcotics Interdiction, an Advanced Research Workshop (ARW) held at the Royal Danish Defence College in Copenhagen in May 2019. Funded primarily by the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme, and co-organized by the Colombian National War College, the Royal Danish Defence College, and the Haifa Research Center for Maritime Policy & Strategy, the three-day workshop gathered policymakers, senior military officers, and academics from NATO member states, international organizations, and two partner nations: Colombia and Israel. Participants engaged in extensive discussions, focusing on methods for protecting critical maritime infrastructure, such as ports, supplies, and personnel, from seaborne terrorist attacks. Presentations and roundtables also addressed the human and social factors that contribute to the defence against terrorism in the maritime domain. The discussions enhanced cooperation between maritime security experts spread across five continents. In particular, the workshop fostered partnerships between participants from Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, the United Kingdom, the United States, NATO Headquarters, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), together with Colombia and Israel. These partner nations provided the ARW with unique insights into countering a wide array of maritime violent non-state actors, including terrorists, pirates, and narcotraffickers.
The book begins with four chapters examining different aspects of narcotics smuggling. In “Lessons from Maritime Narcotics Interdiction: Interdiction in the Maritime Source, Transit, and Arrival Zones of the Western Hemisphere” (chapter 1), Aaron C. Davenport argues that effective domestic and international partnerships are essential to the success of counterdrug missions. Partnerships provide a force multiplier by encouraging unified and efficient effort by personnel from multiple agencies, and by facilitating the sharing of information and assets. The success of any counter-narcotics enterprise, Davenport demonstrates, encompasses domestic and international efforts and thus depends on cooperation among concerned nations. Sharing information between countries, together with regional, local, and private actors has proven critical to combating transnational threats and preventing illegal activities. These international partnerships are based upon a shared commitment to detect, prevent, disrupt, pre-empt, and mitigate the effects of transnational crime.
William Palomino, Robert Barreto, and Alejandra Cerón examine the connections between terrorism and narcotics smuggling in the Latin American context in “Drug Trafficking and Terrorism as Transnational Crimes in Latin America” (chapter 2). Over the decades, Latin America has seen countless organizations dedicated to the illegal cultivation and trafficking of psychoactive substances, as well as groups of insurgent fighters, and other types of criminal organizations, who have permeated the social and economic structures. This has led to new approaches to international cooperation aimed at overcoming insecurity through South-South cooperation strategies and forms of triangular cooperation, together with traditional North-South cooperation. Examining the Colombian case, they explain how the sea has been incorporated into the transnational criminal routes, concluding that it is crucial to develop regional navies to confront criminal organizations.
Focusing on the innovation of devices for drug trafficking, in “Submersibles and Drug Trafficking” (chapter 3), Daniel Rojas-Sanchez, Samuel Rivera-Paez, and Germán Afanador address the possibilities that these methods of transporting illegal substances could also be used by terrorists. They conclude that the construction and the opportunity costs currently make this unlikely; however, the Colombian experience shows that criminal enterprises’ diversification capacities could make the use of submersibles viable for more limited purposes. Therefore, efforts to combat the use of submersibles should include engagement by the international community and the employment of advanced technologies, such as intelligence gathering and analysis, and artificial intelligence. This will help mitigate the chances that terrorist organizations will get their hands on submersibles. It can also help locate places around the world with similar characteristics to those sites where illegal submersibles are built today.
Adriana Avila-Zúñiga-Nordfjeld and Dimitrios Dalaklis similarly analyse new trends in the transport of drugs and weapons in “Dealing with Hydrocarbon Theft and other Transnational Organized Crimes through the Effective Implementation of the ISPS Code” (Chapter 4). The authors focus on the theft of hydrocarbons at sea and the emerging use of packages attached to the bulbous bows of vessels, which are then recovered in Mexican ports with the use of professional divers and small boats. The effective implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) has been fundamental in identifying these new trends. Therefore, they argue, these practices should be shared internationally, and appropriate security measures should be adopted to address them. One of their principal recommendations is the use of remote-controlled underwater vehicles (commonly known as drones) by port authorities for hull inspections as a way of dealing with this problem.
The second section of the book examines the longstanding problem of maritime piracy, as well as the efforts by states to combat pirates. Andrew Lambert’s “New Problems, Old Lessons: British Responses to Piracy in the 19th Century” (chapter 5), provides a historical perspective on counter-piracy. Through a series of case studies, Lambert demonstrates that while piracy is commonly assumed to be the work of outlaws, there is a long history of states working closely with such actors for economic, political and even strategic benefit. This provides an important reminder that many of the issues faced today are not entirely new; instead, the past provides a rich and rewarding reservoir of experience for anyone interested in contemporary policies to combat maritime predation.
Moving to the contemporary era, in “Why Small Navies Prefer War Over Counter-Piracy Operations: The Challenges of Mastering Both” (chapter 6), Anders Puck Nielsen examines how small navies manage conflicting requirements when they are forced to prioritize between maritime security operations and high-intensity warfighting. Using the case of the Royal Danish Navy (RDN), Nielsen argues that in 2015 the RDN shifted from focusing on counter-piracy off the Horn of Africa to preparing to fight high intensity naval warfare alongside NATO Allies. This dramatic shift required significant flexibility by the RDN; and this flexibility is characteristic of smaller navies, which do not have the resources “to do all things at all times.”
Ursula Daxecker and Eric Frécon also look beyond the response of Great Powers in their chapter, “Pirates, Smugglers, and Government Responses to Maritime Crime: Evidence from Indonesia” (chapter 7). The authors examine maritime piracy in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore from a multilevel politics perspective. This approach allows for a better understanding of the conditions leading to piracy and the responses to it. Daxecker and Frécon argue that piracy is produced by governance configurations at regional, national, and local levels, highlighting the importance of disaggregating the state as an actor.
In “Piracy and the Privatization of Maritime Security: Isomorphic Convergence in Vessel Protection” (chapter 8), Eugenio Cusumano and Stefano Ruzza examine European countries’ differing approaches to protecting merchant vessels from Somali pirates. By comparing British, Italian, and Dutch vessel protection policies, they show that the adoption of private security companies (PSCs) was shaped by a convergence of coercive, normative, and mimetic isomorphism tendencies. Specifically, Cusumano and Ruzza argue that the widespread privatization of vessel protection was informed by three principal factors: (i) economic, manpower, and political constraints attached to the use of vessel protection detachments; (ii) perceived effectiveness and growing legitimacy of PSCs; and (iii) the deliberate emulation of vessel protection policies that had already been implemented successfully by other states.
Timothy Walker also examines aspects of African maritime security in “Overcoming the Hurdles of African Multilateral Cooperation for Enhanced Maritime Security” (chapter 9). Walker explores how southern African states and other stakeholders are responding to maritime challenges by focusing on responses to insecurity in northern Mozambique. The maritime and littoral environment in the northern Mozambique Channel and onshore in the Cabo Delgado province represents a unique nexus of African-driven counter-piracy, counter-terrorism and counter-narcotic initiatives. He also suggests that this may represent a future fulcrum or pivotal area, not simply for Mozambique, but for numerous actors around the world.
Edward R. Lucas’ chapter “Countering the ‘Unholy Alliance’: The United States’ Efforts to Combat Piracy and Violent Extremism in the Western Indian Ocean, 2001–2014” (chapter 10) also examines the nexus between terrorism and maritime piracy. Lucas argues that the United States was motivated to intervene to suppress Somali piracy primarily because it feared the pirates would form an “unholy alliance” with violent extremist groups, like al-Shabaab. While no significant nexus is known to have materialized, the perception that one would drove America’s robust response between 2008 and 2012. This was especially true in late-2008, when the outgoing George W. Bush administration sought international support for ground operations in Somalia.
In “Taking Ocean Governance Forward: Implications of Twenty Years of Maritime Security in the Western Indian Ocean,” (chapter 11), Jessica Larsen also studies the western Indian Ocean. From counter-terrorism in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to counter-piracy law enforcement and maritime security capacity-building in the late 2010s, Larsen argues that the Indian Ocean has been a testing-ground for an evolving complex of international cooperation and burden-sharing. Using actual operations as her primary data source, Larsen maps how operations have evolved over time in the Indian Ocean. The patterns of interaction she identifies move on a continuum of international cooperation from multilateral towards unilateral approaches.
The chapters in the Counter-Terrorism section present complementary perspectives on a rapidly changing domain. Beginning with Patricia Schneider’s detailed look at “Recent Trends in Global Maritime Terrorism” (chapter 12). Drawing on her own Global Terrorism Database (GTD), Schneider examines how the 72 confirmed global maritime terror attacks that occurred from 2010–2017 conform with previous trend lines in terms of the location, method and severity of terror incidents. She counters the common belief that we are all equally vulnerable to terror attacks by pinpointing the changing locales of terror activity in the maritime domain. She finds in effect that security governance too often ignores the simple fact that a handful of actors are behind most attacks, and that viable targets are often fewer in number and more constrained by location than we tend to think. Furthermore, while high-casualty, high-visibility “black swan” events can trigger rapid change in the security environment, these are rare and fundamentally unlike the common low-casualty, high-frequency and (in certain respects) predictable events that make up the bulk of maritime terror. In Schneider’s estimation, security governance policies can pivot from broad and often ineffective defensive measures to active assessment of militant groups’ goals and resources.
In “Rebel Waterways: Modern Militant Use of the Maritime Domain” (chapter 13), Patricia Blocksome and Craig Whiteside provide an exceptionally rich case study of how one terror group, the Islamic State, took advantage of the maritime domain in a prolonged campaign. Their case is a six-month long battle for control over the city of Marawi in the Philippines. As Blocksome and Whiteside show, Islamic State militants managed to exploit the maritime domain, the littoral zone of Lake Lanao which borders the city, thus enabling them to significantly extend the duration of hostilities. While not all terror groups will have the resources to master this often challenging environment, those that do may discover, as the Islamic State discovered in Marawi, that the maritime domain poses quite significant hurdles for many governments. Having grown accustomed to land-based threats, littoral zones have gone overlooked and competencies and capacities to work in this domain are often underdeveloped. Equally significant, security agencies are often blind to the jurisdictional challenges that get triggered once movement shifts to littoral zones.
Robert McCabe’s chapter, “Improving Maritime Security Sector Capacity to Counter Terrorism: Lessons from International Capacity Building Projects in the Western Indian Ocean” (chapter 14), dovetails with the conclusions of Blocksome and Whiteside’s chapter. McCabe explores how states have improved their maritime security sector capacities in response to new threats. Focusing on the link between maritime criminality and maritime terror, McCabe argues that the most robust lessons learned concern improving information sharing, institutional resilience and enforcement capacity. For McCabe, the effective development of Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) architectures is critical to the interagency, multipronged solutions that seem to work best.
Finally, Christian Bueger’s chapter, “A Glue that Withstands Heat? The Promise and Perils of Maritime Domain Awareness” (chapter 15), responds to McCabe’s hopeful assessment of MDA by exploring the possible drawbacks to this emerging solution. Looking closely at the rhetoric of MDA and the often unproven claims advanced by its supporters, Bueger gives this section of the book a sobering reality check. Each chapter comes to the same realization: security sector governance in the maritime domain is too often flat-footed and reactive. While the authors differ in their degree of optimism or pessimism regarding the emerging solutions, the section as a whole strikes a cautionary note.
Completing this book project required the assistance and support of many people and organizations. First and foremost, we would like to thank the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme for its generous support. In particular, our sincerest thanks extend to Ms Elena Beganu for her efforts in shepherding this project since its inception. We are also grateful to the Royal Danish Defence College which provided additional financial and logistical support, including providing a venue for the ARW from which this book originates. Of course, an edited volume is nothing without authors, and we want to thank all of the 23 authors who worked diligently over the past year-and-a-half to produce high-quality research. We are also deeply appreciative to additional ARW participants whose expert insights and feedback helped the authors’ revise their working papers for publication. In particular, we were honoured to have Dr Deniz Beten, Senior Advisor to the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme, Rear Admiral Orlando Grisales, Deputy Commandant of the Colombian National War College, and Rear Admiral Henrik Ryberg, Commandant of the Royal Danish Defence College, in attendance. We also want to especially thank Rear Admiral (ret.) Shaul Chorev and Rear Admiral (ret.) Ami Ayalon from the Haifa Research Center for Maritime Policy & Strategy, Rear Admiral (ret.) Nils Wang, from Naval Team Denmark, and Mr Alan Cole, the head of UNODC Global Maritime Crime Programme, for their insightful presentations. A final thanks is due to IOS Press for their diligent efforts in ensuring that this book made it to press.