Christian Bueger


Turtle or Dolphin? AIMS in November. News from Addis

When the African Union concluded the negotiations on its African Integrated Maritime Strategy earlier this year it received much appraisal. The continent had finally woken up and recognized the importance of the sea, its economic potential but also what needs to be done to secure it. The strategy foregrounds the economic development potential of the sea, and as Jan Stockbruegger argued on piracy-studies.org reflects “a particular ‘African’ understanding and experience”. The conclusion of AIMS sparked some excitement across the continent and spurred debate on how the many challenges of governing the sea efficiently can be managed. Critical voices were skeptical whether the document is actually a “strategy” or should be rather seen as wishlist, pointing to ubiquitous parts of AIMS, such as the construction of giant aquariums or kick-starting a shipbuilding industry. The more critical issue is however what the relation between the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and the African Union will be in implementing the strategy. How to implement the strategy, distribute roles and responsibilities, and how to fund the actions that the strategy foresees. At present AIMS is a sensitive sprout that will require much care and indeed some fertilizers to grow into a strong tree. By summer the implementation task forces that was created within the AU legal office did not had an independent budget and an action plan and budget proposal hadn’t left the draft stage. A main hindrance for the work of the task force was that by the finalization of AIMS the bi-annual budget negotiations had already been concluded leaving little wiggle room for an AIMS budget.

What’s the state of AIMS now? To find out I met with the Taskforce in Addis Ababa. The taskforce within the African Commission remains a small team of four staff members. Its current main activity concerns the preparation of the work of a new strategic task forces. The new task force will consist of about 19 seconded representatives from regional organizations and member states working in a network structure. The task forces will lead the implementation strategy, prepare the budget as well make proposals concerning the organizational design what will eventually become a department of maritime affairs within the African Union Commission.
AIMS has had a slow start and not much of what the strategy has outlined has so far been translated into concrete projects. The first timelines of the AIMS action plan end in 2018. AIMS needs to catch up speed. 2015 will be the start of the African maritime decade. This might become a further incentive to make more efforts to translate AIMS into action.
One of the most important initial steps will be to follow the European Union account and to start developing overviews and mappings of who is doing what on the continent and what is the state of maritime governance, laws and institutions on the continent. A next step might be then to start developing a shared communication infrastructure, to ensure that the right people communicate to each other. Perhaps one solution in this regards could be a Mercury type infrastructure for the African continent. Given such a platform could be implemented relatively easily it might be a plausible step not only to ensure better continent-wide communication but to develop shared maritime situation awareness. The AU and the REC’s moreover will have to start claiming ownership and authority over maritime policy and start to orchestrate the diverse capacity building projects already going on, including those in place as part of the counter-piracy infrastructure in West and East Africa. Claiming such ownership will imply to scale up the involvement and indeed leadership in international fora such as the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.

The AU can draw on much support in implementing the strategy. The EU has announced close collaboration between the EU Maritime Strategy and AIMS. That also NATO is willing to step up its support, was one of the outcomes of an academic seminar taking place in Addis Ababa on 20th of November. The seminar titled “AU-NATO Collaboration: Towards a strategic partnership” was organized by the research division of the NATO Defense College and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Ethiopia. If the conference’s main focus were issues such as how to fix the estrangement between both organization stemming from the Lybia intervention, the support for the African Standby Forces, or training and capacity building more broadly, maritime security and AIMS was a theme that was continuously referred to as one of the areas in which more collaboration appears promising. And indeed representatives from the AU highlighted the vitality of the maritime domain, and threats such as illegal fishing, migration and piracy.
For AIMS to swim with the cleverness, agility and smartness of a dolphin, more will have to be invested in terms of political capital, but also financial resources. The African states do not stand alone in attempting to tackle such challenges. It might be time to think about the roles different actors, and organizations, including academia and think tanks can play in supporting AIMS. Perhaps it is time to create a Group of Friends of the African Integrated Maritime Strategy.


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Inside the capacity building mess: Visiting MARSIC and EUCAP Nestor

DSC_0835Capacity building is one of the most important responses to curb piracy and other forms of maritime crime. The international community has long recognized this. If the majority of capacity building projects were initially concerned about the prosecution and detention of piracy suspects the emphasis has gradually shifted towards maritime security sector reforms, and developing regional integration mechanisms in information sharing and developing collective responses. Two important missions in this regards are the EU’s MARSIC project and the civilian CSDP mission EUCAP Nestor both headquartered in Djibouti City. Both form part of a complex thicket of projects and programs, many of which are on a bilateral level. Today I had the opportunity to learn more about both of these missions.

Together with the Project Implementation Unit of the International Maritime Organization MARSIC is the backbone of the training programme of the Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC), a regional agreement concerned about developing a joint response to piracy. MARSIC, one of the least known EU capacity-building projects, assists the DCoC countries in developing and delivering their training program. If the building of the Djibouti Regional Training Centre (DRTC), which is supposed to become the core regional facility where training is conducted, is, after four years, still under construction, MARSIC has brought the training programme to life. MARSIC’s training consultant explained to me today, how course contents are selected through a prioritization procedure with national training coordinators, course content is developed with partners such as the World Maritime University based in Sweden, and how they are delivered. Courses usually take place in local hotels, are run 5 days, and are comprised of morning lectures as well as a practical day. MARSIC also runs regular piracy exercises together with the national focal points using the VENUS platform, a training version of MERCURY. Together the aim of the project is to develop a community of skilled counter-piracy practitioners. To do so MARSIC also has plans to establish a research facility, a library and online resources, although implantation suffers from technical difficulties (such as internet access) and a lack of funding, for instance for library resources. How the DRTC will be run, once construction is completed also remains an open question. This concerns not only intellectual support but also long term funding. With the closure of the Project Implementation Unit of the IMO and MARSIC ending in summer 2015 the question remains how the centre will be supported in the long run. If IMO continues its everyday support through its Maritime Security division, in the long run the centre will require a permanent donor. Yet, there are also some good news. Training coordination will be soon taken over by a local staff member and there are many indications that the training and exercises show effect. Maritime crime is a transnational problem, it is hence pivotal that DCoC as the main project emphasizing a regional responses receives ongoing support.

My second meeting was with EUCAP Nestor. Nestor is a mission that runs since 2012 and was supposed to prep up the level of capacity-building provided. As I wrote in an earlier blog it was long a mission in “search of a mission” as it faced staffing problems and it was unclear what gaps Nestor was supposed to fill. Capacity building is, as I wrote in my last lessons learned paper, one of the areas in which coordination has more or less failed so far. When Nestor was introduced this enforced the multiplicity of activities, and, one is tempted to say, the chaos and over-activity in the area. During my meeting with a representative from Nestor I was re-assured that the mission is increasingly finding its place. Nestor conducts a rich training program and following a strategic review in 2013, Nestor has a new mandate and is increasingly focused on Somalia. Offices in Mogadishu and Hargeisa will soon be opened and seven weeks training courses are run for the different coast guards of the regional entities and the Federal government. The emphasis of Nestor has shifted to a 60:20:20 formula. 60% of the activities devoted to Somalia, 20% to Djibouti, the Seychelles, and Tanzania, and the last 20% for support to the region, e.g. in the frame of DCoC. Discussing the coast guarding course revealed the many practical challenges capacity building faces. My interlocutor described the course as a “basic one”. And basic indeed it is, as part of the course content are skills such as swimming, marching or handling cameras for evidence collection.

Capacity building is one of the areas that will require ongoing investments, not only to stop piracy, but also to fight other maritime crimes. Getting the region to act together, and making nations realize what economic potential the blue economy holds and why they should care about the maritime domain will be important objectives. The coordination of capacity building is a failure. And one does not have to be a pessimist to state that it will continue to be a mess. But perhaps coordination is not the biggest issue. As Michel Soula from NATO highlighted at this week’s maritime security workshop in Geneva, duplication under the conditions of the scarcity of resources can be a virtue. Then the true issue is that the diverse capacity building missions start to learn from each other, including practical lessons, such as how to implement courses, or share facilities. Rather than coordination, the second issue might be seen in contradiction, that is, in trying to avoid that the content of training and the support in institution building and law drafting do not contradict each other.


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Maritime Security Workshop in Geneva

DSC_0756Coventry University’s Maritime Security Programme together with Geneva based Small Arms Survey and NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme organized a two day workshop titled “Building Trust to enhance maritime security” The first day of the workshop started with a keynote address by Michel Soula, Head and Deputy Assistant Secretary General in charge for Maritime Security at NATO OPS Division. He gave an overview of NATO’s current maritime operations, the progress in operationalizing the 2011 Alliance Maritime Strategy and prospects for future operations in the field. The second session focused on different understandings of maritime security, the role of non-state actors in maritime security governance and the new horizons that the EU’s maritime security strategy offers. The EU’s approach to maritime security studies was also the emphasis of the third session in which Marcus Houben from the EEAS told the story of the genesis of the strategy, and two presentations on the perspective of Greece and EU Navfor Atalanta were provided. The last session broadened the focus, legal challenges were discussed, whether NATO can play a role in West Africa, what the work of NMIOTC can be in training and capacity building, and a case study of the Baltic Sea was discussed. Day two focused on the problem of arms trafficking by the sea and discussed the different challenges that arise in relation to private military and security companies.

In the workshop I gave a presentation titled “building maritime security communities”. Drawing on an understanding of maritime security communities as ‘communities of practice’ I outlined how trust can be build through joitn projects, shared resources and everyday interaction. I drew on examples such as the CGPCS and the negotiation of its communique, the naval communication platform Mercury, and the information sharing Centres of the Djibouti Code of Conduct.

The clear signal from the workshop was that maritime security is a cross-sectoral issue area of increasing strategic importance of both the EU and NATO. Future challenges that were identified include the coordination between EU and NATO activities, how to do capacity building, how to draw on the lessons from piracy in other areas of maritime security, and how to deal with protracted maritime conflicts, notably in the Mediterranean.


Improving Information Sharing: The Mombasa ISC

DSC_0700The Mombasa Information Sharing Center is one of the three centers established by the Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC). DCoC is a regional agreement which intends to improve the collaboration between regional states through information sharing and shared training activities. DCoC is important since it is a counter-piracy project that has a strong emphasis on regional integration. Maritime crimes are transnational and preventive strategies, hence, imply to work together across borders. Moreover, one can expect that there might be a spillover and the experience of collaborating in DCoC might spur cross-border cooperation in other areas. Then agreements such as DCoC might be the seed corns of maritime security communities.

Today I visited the ISC. The center is run by Kenya Maritime Authority and situated in the building of the Port Authority within the port of Mombasa. The center also hosts the Regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (RMRCC) in charge for search and rescue operations in Kenya, Tanzania, Seychelles and Somalia. Two staff are permanently on duty, and all recent technology including high speed internet access, the Mercury platform and systems such as Ocean View are available. The staff members explained to me their everyday tasks, consisting of routine emails, VoIP calls to the national focal points and other ISC’s, and reporting. They also described the training they had received and how they handle situations when they receive a distress call. The mundane work of the center is important. If, however, the communication they engage in is a sea change in international cooperation under the absence of actual piracy threats, will highly depend on whether countries now draw on this opportunity and not only pass information to each other, but also start operating together and learning from each other.


In the field: visit to Nairobi

DSC_0689During a three day stay in Nairobi I had the opportunity to get new insights about the evolving future counter-piracy structure. I met with the UNODC’s Maritime Crime Programme to discuss their approach to capacity building and their new project of establishing a regional maritime crime forum that can potentially take over some of the coordinating work of the CGPCS. In a conversation with Alan Cole I discussed the lessons of the CGPCS. The conversation will be published on the website of the Lessons Learned Project. I also discussed with Prof. Paul Wambua, Assosciate Dean of the School of Law of the University of Nairobi, Kenya’s evolving maritime security policy and his forthcoming lessons learned paper on the role of Kenya in the Contact Group. At the offices of FAO Somalia I conversed with team members the evolving role  of FAO in counter-piracy, and their new advocacy and alternative livelihood projects, which promise to be one of the game changers in a long term preventive counter-piracy strategy.


UAE Counter-Piracy conference discusses lessons learned

Dubai Conference4Following up on the CGPCS meeting the UAE held its 4th counter-piracy conference back to back. The conference was an impressive high level meeting seeing the attendance of a range of ministers ambassadors and CEO’s. The programme of the conference is available here.
In the conference I had the pleasure to moderate the plenary session on lessons learned and the future of counter-piracy. Participants in the panel included His Excellency Joel Morgan, Minister for Home Affairs and Transport, Seychelles, Laurent Bukera the Country Director of the Somalia Office of the World Food Programme, Dr. Grahaeme Henderson, the Vice President for Shipping and Maritime of Shell Trading and Shipping, Pottengal Mukundan the Director of the International Maritime Bureau, Alamdar S. Hamdani the Deputy Chief of the Counter terrorism Section, US Department of Justice and Ron Widdows the Chairman of the World Shipping Council. The debate clearly showed the importance of strengthening regional resolution to maritime insecurity, the importance of industry leadership in developing infrastructure in Somalia and establishing reporting mechanism and the vitality of addressing the culture of impunity by chasing piracy king pins.


Day 3 of CGPCS Counter-Piracy week

DSC_0431The third day of the CGPCS counter-piracy week saw the first meeting of the new working group on coordination at sea, and the 17th plenary was held. The working group meeting co-chaired by the United Arab Emirates, the Seychelles and Japan focussed on improvements in Maritime Domain Awareness and the current situation at sea. Russia and India gave updates on their counter-piracy operations. The following plenary kicked off with updates from the Federal Government of Somalia, SHADE and EUCAP Nestor. It continued with presentations from the Trust Fund, and the Norwegian Ship Owners Association.
In the meeting I had the opportunity to address the plenary and provide the CGPCS participants with an update on the Lessons Learned Project. I outlined the core functions of the CGPCS and what they imply for the future of the CGPCS and its replicability in other areas of global governance. The transcript of my presentation is available here.
The day continued with two readings of the communique, statements of delegations, the announcement of a new trust fund for the survivors of piracy and their family and the final adoption of the communique.


Day 2 of CGPCS Counter-Piracy Week: The Agenda

JW Marriot DubaiOn the first official day of the CGPCS meeting in the JW Marriot Marquis Hotel in Dubai two working group meetings are held and the Legal Forum meets. It is the first time that the working groups meet in a new configuration following up the decision of the 16th plenary to re-organize the structure of the CGPCS. The day starts with a meeting of the working group on capacity building, co-chaired by the United Kingdom and the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC). On the agenda is the progress made by Somalia in Maritime Security Sector Reform, how to improve coordination and institutional questions, such as how the working group should function. The second session is the meeting of the working group titled “Disrupting Pirate Networks Ashore” – a group which is the continuation of Working Group 5. The agenda concerns how to further improve international coordination among criminal investigators and prosecutors in order to arrest core piracy king pins. The day continues with the inaugural meeting of the Legal Forum which is the continuation of the work of the old Working Group 2 in the form of an ad hoc forum, rather than a full-fledged working group. The day ends with a meeting on the communique.

I am participating in the CGPCS counter-piracy week in my capacity as a representative of the Lessons Learned Consortium of the CGPCS and attend the meeting to record (and understand) how the CGPCS works and what lessons can be drawn from it.


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Day 1 of Counter-Piracy week in Dubai

High Risk AreaWhile the meeting of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) formally starts on Monday, the 26th, with the CGPCS Working groups holding their meetings, the week long meeting starts with an informal consultation on the High Risk Area. In the last plenary meeting in New York the CGPCS decided to hold a meeting on this issue prior to the following plenary. The discussion concerns which area in the Western Indian Ocean should be considered at high piracy risk. The current High Risk Area covers large parts of the Western Indian Ocean and originally referred to the operational terrain of piracy activity launched from Somalia (see graph). With the decline of the number of incidents the extend of this area is contentious.

The High Risk Area (HRA) is primarily a military planing device and used to coordinate patrols, convoys, surveillance and interception by the navies operating in the area. The HRA is however also the area to which the Best Management Practice apply and hence the area in which shipping companies report their positions to the international navies. It is moreover linked to the War Risk Zone established by insurance companies as well as to the hazard pay for seafarers working in the area. In other words the extend of the area has significant economic effects on the costs of shipping.

Whether the area should be narrowed down given the drop of piracy activity is a contested issue in which those concerned about the costs of the HRA stand against those that fear the effects that narrowing down the area will have on the potential return of piracy (e.g. less compliance with BMP, less surveillance).