17 January 2023

(Book review) Routledge Handbook of Maritime Security

Title: Routledge Handbook of Maritime Security (a collection of writings)

Editors: Ruxandra-Laura Boşilcă, Susana Ferreira, Barry J. Ryan

Number of pages: 408

Year of publication: 2022

Publisher: Routledge


Review by Gabriella Gianova and Andreas Aditya Salim

This book presents a critical and substantial analysis of maritime security and strategic questions that touch on economic, socio-cultural, and legal aspects.

The writings within this book are composed by leading maritime security experts who delve into theories about maritime security, their implementation, and are supplemented with descriptions of the most current challenges in maritime security efforts.

The book is divided into two parts: the first part explores new perspectives and approaches to maritime security, while the second part discusses recent developments in maritime security practices at both regional and international levels.

The first part of this book consists of 12 chapters. The first chapter emphasizes the crucial role of the sea in Europe’s modernization. Chapter 2 historically discusses the tensions as well as cooperation between state and non-state actors at sea.

Chapter 3 elaborates on the state’s role at sea and examines the influence of maritime security on traditional conceptions of maritime space. Chapter 4 adopts a geopolitical perspective. From this perspective, maritime security is viewed as an element of broader military actions known as maritime strategy.

Chapter 5 explains that military competition will persist, but it will be increasingly deployed for the purpose of enforcing international law through international maritime security institutions. In Chapter 6, which covers global maritime governance, the authors delve into the interaction between the concept of sovereignty and the management of maritime areas and security.

Chapter 7 delves into the legal perspective. Maritime law has made two significant contributions to maritime regulation: it has mitigated conflicts between states regarding maritime issues and aided in establishing clear jurisdictional principles that enable states to respond to threats posed by non-state actors.

Chapter 8 presents the constructivist perspective in maritime security. Chapter 9 discusses the gender construct within maritime affairs, which, according to the authors, has infiltrated maritime security practices and norms.

Chapters 10 and 11 offer anthropological and ethnographic viewpoints in maritime security. The ethnographic perspective illustrates how maritime security is a local, historical, and, most importantly, a cultural phenomenon, as seen in the Global South. Chapter 12 deals with the perspective of cultural representation.

Furthermore, the second part of this book consists of 13 chapters. Chapter 13 discusses the lack of human rights protection at sea. This human rights issue extends to Chapter 14, which explains that migration poses challenges to traditional security concepts, requiring a reconceptualization of “security” around individual human rights and needs.

Chapter 16 explains maritime security as a response to “blue criminality.” This chapter explores various forms of maritime terrorism and their connection to organized crime. Chapter 17 discusses the maritime energy sector. According to the authors, maritime security in this context involves identifying sea-based vulnerabilities to the global political economy, where oil and gas shipments often fall victim to “blue criminality.”

Chapter 18 outlines how the future of maritime security will increasingly intertwine with cybersecurity. Chapter 19 introduces the structural factors that give rise to blue criminality, as explained in the previous chapters. Maritime vulnerabilities, the authors argue, arise from poor governance of natural resources on land.

Chapter 20 addresses IUU fishing from the perspective of blue crime. The authors emphasize the link between poverty, food insecurity, gender discrimination, and weak governance as factors contributing to illegal fishing practices.

Chapter 21 discusses the challenges faced by small island developing states in achieving maritime security. Chapter 22 delves deeper into the economic aspects of maritime security with the emergence of the blue economy. Chapter 23 further discusses pluralistic understandings of maritime security.

Chapter 24 is closely tied to topics covered in the first part of the book. This chapter provides numerous examples to illustrate the ongoing interaction between naval actors and non-governmental actors—sometimes in competition, sometimes in conflict, and sometimes in cooperation.

Chapter 25 emphasizes one of the most pressing issues that arises when non-state actors collaborate with state actors. Unique maritime legal disparities emerge when small flag states, like Panama, with a high percentage of ship registration, lack military capacity and diplomatic influence to secure their fleets.

In response, private military contractors hired to fill this gap, initially to combat piracy, have since become a new norm in maritime security, even aboard vessels of militarily powerful nations. The last five chapters of the book explain new norms and practices in maritime security from regional perspectives.

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