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Solving maritime issues urged

Publication Date : 03-12-2013


Transnational crime is increasingly difficult to manage because of sovereignty disputes at sea, noted a defence academic at the BRIDEX 2013 Conference.

Professor Geoffrey Till is the Emeritus Professor of Maritime Studies in King’s College London and the Chairman of the Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies.

In addition to many articles and chapters on various aspects of maritime strategy and policy defence, he has written a number of books such as “Asia’s Naval Expansion: An Arms Race in the Making?” and “Seapower: A Guide for the 21st Century”.

He noted the South China Sea as an example, highlighting that the fact it is so disputed makes immediate resolution of day-to-day threats to the maritime domain, such as transnational crime, even those with universal jurisdiction such as piracy and drug-trade, difficult.

He said international criminals can be powerful enough to undermine the legitimacy of a country or government.

He also said that the opportunity costs can be quite substantial, citing a report that noted Africa loses at least 30 per cent of potential GDP through an inability to make full use of its maritime domain. He pointed out that the drugs trade makes up around five to six per cent of overall world trade, slightly more than the combined value of the trade in cars and agricultural products combined, and that it had killed far more people than international terrorism.

He notes that there are a number of enforcement issues, adding that the rewards for conducting transnational crimes are enormous, whether it is in drugs, human-trafficking or similar.

He also observed that sometimes nations, even in the same region, have different interest and priorities.

He said that the vastness of the sea makes it difficult due to relatively limited resources.

He states that western navel assets are expected to be decreased by 30 per cent while the extent of sea-based trade is expected to increase by 50 per cent over the next 20 years.

Other enforcement issues note that law enforcement at sea faces a variety of special legal constraints even though there is universality of jurisdiction when it comes to the crime of piracy and drugs, evident when it comes to prosecution when they are caught, among others.

In the face of such extensive problems, he said that navies and coastguards seem to have an increasingly important role to play and make a very real contribution to the maintenance of good order at sea because of their command and control systems, their platforms, weaponry and sensors, capacity for operational planning, discipline and training and general incorruptibility.

He however said that the sheer diversity of threats means there will be no quick and easy “silver bullet”.

He stressed that comprehensive and transnational approaches will always be necessary and this means nationals and regional organisations have to make painful and difficult choices among their competing priorities.

“More encouragingly, solving some of these problems in the maritime domain may well ease the problems that many countries face ashore,” he said.



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