Maritime Crime, Maritime Security, seaborne trade, territorializing, choke points, UNCLOS, EEZ, BRI, China, cyber crime


This paper explores what is meant by ‘Maritime Crime’ and ‘Maritime Security’, building on the work of Natalie Klein and Christian Bueger. The term Maritime Security means different things to different people, while Maritime Crime, whereas perhaps easier to define, has been neglected by criminologists and crime scientists whose perspective has largely remained landlocked.  Given the enormous value of maritime assets – not just ships but offshore energy platforms, wind turbines, ports and harbours – this is a strange omission.  The seas carry some 90 percent of world trade by volume and 70 percent by value and cover 71 percent of the earth’s surface. International communication depends on undersea cables. The value of seaborne traffic, whether goods, raw materials or information, makes it supremely attractive to criminals. It also acts as a magnet for fraud. An obvious manifestation is the continuing scourge of piracy, which, while technically a crime, straddles the porous border between crime and security studies. Increasing automation also increases vulnerability to cyber-attack. The paper draws on other scholars’ earlier work and identifies two different if complementary approaches.  A ‘negative’ approach, which sees ‘security’ as protection against a range of threats, and a ‘positive’ approach which seeks to build good order at sea and on the littoral shore and to make sustainable use of the seas’ and oceans’ vast resources. This includes the development of the ‘Blue Economy’.  Although sea levels may rise with global warming, paradoxically a process of territorialisation is underway as states seek not only to exploit their Exclusive Economic Zones but even to extend them, by utilising the provisions of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Thus, in a political and legal sense the ‘high seas’ are not rising at all but being stripped away.  

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