Maritime Terrorism

Although maritime terrorism has no internationally agreed upon definition, operationally it can be defined as  “Any attempt or threat to seize control of a ship by force; To damage or destroy a ship or its cargo; To injure or kill a person on board a ship; or To endanger in any way the safe navigation of a ship that moves from the territorial waters” (Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, 1988).

Maritime terrorist attacks to date have been primarily against passenger ships and ferries, including well known attacks against the SuperFerry 14 in February 2004 near Manila, Philippines, and the USS Cole in the Gulf of Aden in October 2000. More recently, Houthi rebels have also engaged in maritime terrorism, conducting attacks against US, Saudi, and Emirati warships, as well as international commercial oil tankers and other civilian ships passing through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. These attacks have utilized a diverse set of tactics, including explosive-laden drone boats, maritime mines, and fast attack craft outfitted with rocket-propelled grenades.

Combating Violent Non-State Actors

The sheer depth of the vulnerable target set at sea, combined with the expansive, ungovernable maritime space, makes the threat of maritime terrorism constant, however, effectively combating violent non-state actors requires widening the aperture to consider the litany of ways the maritime space is utilized to promote organized political violence, beyond attacks at sea.  

The maritime space offers myriad possibilities for funding onshore violence, including profits from both licit and illicit businesses that traverse the world’s oceans, and funds obtained through controlling maritime areas and levying taxes illegally. In addition to utilizing the maritime space to fund onshore campaigns of political violence, illicit actors can also exploit the vast ungovernable space to move personnel, weapons, and other equipment necessary to carry out onshore attacks. Further, nefarious actors can support their operations onshore by illegally obtaining property at sea, such as by stealing finite resources like oil, kidnapping for ransom operations, and committing armed robbery.

Understanding the centrality of maritime activity to the operations of illicit actors is critical to stemming the spread of violent conflict onshore.

Maritime Terrorism Publications

Stable Seas: Gulf of Guinea

04/16/2020 / in Maritime Terrorism, Rule Of Law / by Dr. Ifesinachi Okafor-Yarwood, Maisie Pigeon, Alex Amling, Charles Ridgway, Ibukun Adewumi, Lydelle Joubert

Stable Seas: Gulf of Guinea explores the connections between maritime governance themes and security challenges, tracking the links between crime, coastal development, and violence.

Stable Seas: Bay of Bengal

03/16/2020 / in Maritime Terrorism, Maritime Enforcement, Blue Economy / by Jay Benson - Stable Seas, Curtis Bell - Stable Seas, Gayathri Iyer - Observer Research Foundation, Lydelle Joubert - Stable Seas, Maisie Pigeon - Stable Seas, M J Rahman - World Fish, Asyura Salleh - Stable Seas, Michael Van Ginkel - Stable Seas, M A Wahab - World Fish

Maritime security challenges and opportunities facing the Bay of Bengal including piracy, fisheries, trafficking, migration, and international cooperation.

State of Piracy 2018 - Assessing The Human Cost

06/17/2019 / in Maritime Terrorism, Piracy / by Lydelle Joubert

Publication of 2018’s State of Maritime Piracy report marks the ninth year that One Earth Future (OEF) has assessed the human cost of maritime piracy. Our focus has expanded from piracy off the... Read more

Soft Targets & Black Markets: Terrorist Activities In The Maritime Domain

05/23/2019 / in Maritime Terrorism, Illicit Trades / by Meghan Curran

The sheer depth of the vulnerable target set at sea, combined with the expansive, ungovernable maritime space, makes the threat of maritime terrorism constant. There are ample opportunities to... Read more

Maritime Terrorism Blogs

Security in the Bay of Bengal

Stables Seas’ Virtual Event Prompts Dialogue on Maritime Security in the Bay of Bengal

05/28/2020 / in Maritime Terrorism

Stable Seas convenes maritime security professionals to discuss the path to a secure and prosperous Bay of Bengal.

Maritime Terrorism and More Oil Storage at Sea

Oil Storage at Sea and the Risk of Maritime Terrorism

04/24/2020 / in Maritime Terrorism, Blue Economy / by Curtis Bell

The World Has Never Stored More Oil and Gas at Sea. Does This Increase the Risk of Maritime Terrorism? The offshore tankers and storage facilities that are holding the excess supply of oil and gas... Read more

stable seas report examines maritime violence in the gulf of guinea

New Maritime Report Tracks Links Between Crime, Coastal Development, and Violence in the Gulf of Guinea

04/16/2020 / in Maritime Terrorism, Maritime Enforcement, Coastal Welfare

The Gulf of Guinea region represents one of the most complex maritime security environments in the world. A new Stable Seas report explores the connections between crime and insecurity in the... Read more

Maritime Security and Blue Ocean in Bay of Bengal

New Report on Prioritizing Maritime Security in the Bay of Bengal

03/17/2020 / in Maritime Terrorism, Maritime Enforcement, Blue Economy

New report on maritime security challenges facing the Bay of Bengal including piracy, fisheries, trafficking, migration, and international cooperation.

Rohingya Refugees

Arms Trafficking Through Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

01/15/2020 / in Maritime Terrorism, Illicit Trades, Mixed Migration / by Sarah Gutberlet

Trade in illicit arms in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, has been reported since the mid-1990s and continues today as regional instability is exacerbated by massive refugee displacement. Horrific... Read more

 Sulu Sea and Maritime Terrrorism

Threats Along the Sulu Sea: Exploring the Land-Sea Nexus

12/12/2019 / in Maritime Terrorism, Maritime Enforcement / by Kenneth Yeo Yaoren

The recent series of kidnappings along the Sulu Sea raises concerns for the security forces in the region. This article... Read more

Trinidad and Tobago Jihadism on Ocean

Jihadism and the Twin Islands: Why Securing the Maritime Space Around Trinidad and Tobago Requires the World’s Attention

11/07/2019 / in Maritime Terrorism, Maritime Enforcement / by Meghan Curran

A history of Islamist radicalization, widespread crime, and close proximity to the crisis in Venezuela are factors that make securing Trinidad’s maritime space crucial to the fight against... Read more

Meeting about Maritime Terrorism and Maritime Security

Stable Seas Presents Index and Maritime Terrorism Framework in Argentina

09/03/2019 / in Maritime Terrorism, Maritime Enforcement

The meeting convened senior military officers from more than a dozen Western Hemisphere navies. The talk introduced the nine-issue maritime security framework created by Stable Seas and discussed... Read more

Cooperation on the Sulu and Celeb Seas

Policy Workshop Uncovers Opportunities In The Sulu And Celebes Seas

07/08/2019 / in International Cooperation, Maritime Terrorism

The workshop discussed efforts to improve maritime security. Policy efforts must be attentive to socio-economic development in the poor coastal areas of the Philippines along the Sulu and Celebes... Read more

Nato Meeting on Maritime Terrorism

Stable Seas Travels to Copenhagen to Present at NATO Science for Peace and Security Workshop

05/28/2019 / in Maritime Terrorism, Maritime Enforcement

The workshop brought together a diverse group of experts to discuss parallels and potential partnerships to address a range of illicit activities at sea. Stable Seas presented the paper 'Soft... Read more

Sulu Celebes Sea Coastal Welfare

The Forgotten Key to Maritime Security in the Sulu-Celebes Seas

03/27/2019 / in Maritime Terrorism, Coastal Welfare / by Jay Benson

What is the relationship between the development of coastal communities and maritime security? Stable Seas’ recent piece in The Diplomat explores how economic exclusion and inequality of... Read more

Conflict and War in Yemen

Yemen’s War Against the Houthis Has Always Been about Ports and the Sea

08/13/2018 / in Maritime Terrorism, Rule Of Law / by Curtis Bell

For nearly two months the tragic war in Yemen has centered around a major assault on the Houthi rebels’ most important strategic asset: the Red Sea port of Hodeidah. This port, Yemen’s largest,... Read more