Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Maritime Security in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean

Since the end of the cold war, maritime security has become a regional issue. An aspect of maritime security, neglected by academic study is maritime law enforcement and interdiction. This research will examine the current maritime security organisations, institutions and agreements that exist, or are in the process of formation in both the Southeast Asian and Caribbean regions. Maritime Security in this instance refers to Policing and Interdiction on the high seas and territorial waters.

Violent crimes at sea include armed attack, robbery, piracy and smuggling of illicit drugs. Whereas armed attack and piracy directly affect those people who make their living at sea, smuggling introduces a black-market aspect, and tends to raise the level of crime within a specific region.

Currently, the ‘war on terror’ has meant that security at sea and in port is undergoing renewed examination by authorities. Increasingly piracy, violence, illegal drugs, as well as arms and people smuggling have given a higher profile to regional maritime security, since coastal states are increasingly willing to take responsibility for policing seas within their immediate areas, rather than relying on major foreign powers. Yet continuing political pressure from foreign powers suggests that perspective of each actor continues to determine national priorities.

The purpose of this comparative study is to determine whether Southeast Asia is in the process of establishing a maritime security management regime that might address violence and crime occurring within regional maritime areas, that satisfies the political imperatives of all actors.

This research will attempt to observe:

  • Whether practical and long-term strategic management of regional maritime security possible in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean Sea;
  • The perceptions that prevail within each region regarding maritime policing;
  • The level of current inter-operability and cooperation between states, regarding maritime policing, a sustainable and resilient occurrence;
  • How the agencies and institutions of cooperation within Southeast Asia and the Caribbean Sea are developing processes of integration and coordination of maritime policing and interdiction;
  • The relationship between requirements for international support to maritime states and their incorporation (or otherwise) into regional maritime security initiatives.

For Southeast Asia and the Caribbean Sea, maritime security has required that coastal states collaborate and coordinate military and police forces but there are limits to cooperation. A major hurdle is the question of sovereignty rights within territorial waters. Allowing foreign patrol craft to pursue suspects into another state’s territorial waters has been a major hurdle to be overcome if true cooperation is to develop. Both Southeast Asian and Caribbean Sea state governments are subject to global influences which threaten state sovereignty. Therefore cooperation on security has been cautious.

Sensitive to the security priorities of all parties, this research will include only unclassified information to be used to develop a doctoral thesis, which will be submitted in late 2008 for assessment. Various people, including academics, coast guard representatives, government policy makers, shipping company representatives, marine underwriters and other interested stakeholders are being invited to participate in this research. The results of this research will be available, and should prove useful to coastal state policy makers and those involved in the practice of providing maritime security in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean Sea, when considering options for managing the security of legitimate maritime users.

Timothy A. Martin
PhD Candidate
School of International and Political Studies
Faculty of Arts
Deakin University
Waurn Ponds
Victoria, Australia