Transnational challenges demand multilateral efforts
“We must continue in good spirit of partnership and alliances to support our continent and ensure that trade can advance freely. No one nation can deal with the challenges that we face in the world today. The ocean is so vast that a united effort is required to make sure that our oceans are safe.”
The effects of maritime instability in sub-Saharan Africa ripple around the world and make international cooperation a prerequisite for a secure African maritime domain. States must engage with their neighbors and foreign entities that use their waters to protect freedom of navigation and marine resources as well as counter regional security threats. The international cooperation score measures participation in and commitment to multilateral efforts that facilitate maritime security and governance.
High scores for international cooperation are strongly linked to a stronger rule of law and greater maritime enforcement capacity. This is not surprising; sound domestic political institutions are necessary for meaningful participation in regional and global legal efforts. Countries that participate in global and regional efforts are more likely to partake in multilateral initiatives to share information, build regional maritime domain awareness, and improve a country’s maritime enforcement capacity.
Strong international cooperation scores are also linked to better maritime mixed migration scores. This suggests the same countries that participate in global maritime legal agreements are also better at reducing the vulnerability of migrants to human trafficking and various forms of exploitation.
This section is divided into five parts. The first will discuss global legal efforts, including seven multilateral treaties related to the maritime domain. The second will highlight the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS 2050) and Lomé Charter as examples of continental coordination. Next, we compare two regional maritime security strategies: the Yaoundé Code of Conduct (West and Central Africa) and the Jeddah Amendment to the Djibouti Code of Conduct (East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula). The fourth part highlights disputes of maritime boundaries as impediments to governance. The final section concludes with a discussion of our methodology.
Regional coordination requires strong international law
The high seas are governed by international law, and numerous global agreements form a loose governance structure to preserve certain freedoms, like fishing and navigation, protect marine resources, and restrict illicit activities. In the Stable Seas Maritime Security Index, states are measured by their participation and commitment to seven international treaties:
- United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
- UNCLOS Part XI
- UN Fish Stocks Agreement
- Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA)
- UN Food and Agriculture Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA)
- UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (CTOT)
- UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances
UNCLOS enshrines state practice as international law, with particular regard to the freedom of navigation and maritime boundaries of 12 nautical miles for the territorial sea and 200 nautical miles for the Exclusive Economic Zone. Part XI lays down principles for the responsible exploitation of the seabed. The UN Fish Stocks Agreement establishes rules for the coordinated management of international fisheries. SUA criminalizes threats to the shipping industry and seafarers. CTOT establishes protocols for three transnational organized crimes present in the maritime space: trafficking in persons, smuggling of migrants, and trafficking in arms. The Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances establishes an international legal framework for combating international drug trafficking and money laundering, a particular issue of concern to African coasts that have become major transshipment points in the global narcotics trade.
Progress through the PSMA
The 2009 Port State Measures Agreement counters illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU) through the application of a new legal regime to fishing vessels docking at foreign ports. Ports of participating states can now inspect foreign fishing vessels, request documentation, and even deny service to suspect vessels. This agreement is a huge step towards combating one of the African continent’s most intractable problems, yet only half of sub-Saharan African states have ratified it. However, the agreement is quickly gaining traction. Kenya, Djibouti, and Namibia all ratified the PSMA in late 2017.
An ambitious plan for governing African waters
In January of 2014, the African Union (AU) adopted Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS)2 to provide a framework for enhanced governance in Africa’s maritime domain, develop a platform for shared maritime policy, and facilitate the development of the Blue Economy. Implementation of the ambitious strategy continues to be challenging, but huge strides were made by the adoption of the African Charter on Maritime Security, Safety and Development in Africa (the Lomé Charter) in October 2016. The Lomé Charter moves the AIM strategy from a soft law, non-binding approach to a hard law, legally binding treaty which clearly defines the blue economy and emphasizes linkages between maritime safety, security, and marine resource development.1
The African maritime domain is confronted with a variety of security and governance challenges from piracy to human trafficking and waste dumping to IUU Fishing. AIMS builds a comprehensive, unified set of maritime policies to address these challenges, including issues of economic development, environmental protection, maritime crime, disaster management, and maritime law.3
The document serves as a vision of shared policy, and has been strongly reinforced by the Lomé Charter, but it requires continued commitment. Coordinated efforts will need to be made in the areas of:
- Developing political will. AIMS suggests several areas in which domestic laws regarding maritime governance should be synchronized. This level of integration on maritime policy will require substantial political will and the resolution of ongoing maritime boundary disputes.
- Data collection and research. There is a dearth of data and basic research on many maritime issues in Africa. AIMS identifies rectifying this gap as being key to the formation of empirically informed policies.
- Infrastructure, equipment, and trained personnel. In order to implement AIMS, states and other actors in the region will need to significantly upgrade equipment and infrastructure necessary for maritime domain awareness such as patrol vessels, port facilities, and remote sensing systems. The region also needs more trained maritime professionals in skill sets such as fisheries management, navigation, and maritime law.
Perhaps the best way to ensure the success of AIMS and the Lomé Charter would be to establish an institutional home for implementation efforts. The AU currently has no office or department focused exclusively on its maritime initiatives. The establishment of a well-resourced and politically influential entity to oversee these efforts would greatly improve implementation.
The ramifications of full implementation of AIMS and the Lomé Charter make tackling these formidable challenges worth the effort. Successful implementation has the potential to drastically reduce maritime crime, improve governance, and unlock the potential of Africa’s blue economy.
A model for regional maritime security cooperation
African states coordinate to address maritime security challenges on both sides of the continent. The Yaoundé Code of Conduct in the Gulf of Guinea and the Jeddah Amendment to the Djibouti Code of Conduct in the Western Indian Ocean are at different stages of implementation, but they share a fundamental goal: to improve maritime governance.
The Yaoundé Code of Conduct
The Yaoundé process identifies twelve types of maritime crime and provides a structure for enhancing all-around maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea through regional information-sharing, capacity building, and coordination of multinational maritime security operations. By sharing information regarding emerging threats and ensuring that regional maritime security actors have the institutional and logistical arrangements in place for multinational operations, the region can better respond to the transnational nature of maritime crime.
The Interregional Coordination Center coordinates activities for the Gulf of Guinea between two regionally based centers, the Regional Center for Maritime Security in Central Africa (CRESMAC) and the Regional Center for Maritime Security in West Africa (CRESMAO). The structure is then further divided into five zones, each with its own Multinational Maritime Coordination Center (MMCC). The MMCC in Zone D is particularly well-equipped to communicate with other information sharing centers and coordinate at-sea interdictions.
A strength of the process is that it makes use of existing regional institutions such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). By building upon these established institutions, the ICC can leverage existing relationships with individual states and the larger African Union system.
The Djibouti Code of Conduct
In East Africa, the Djibouti Code of Conduct developed as a response to the piracy crisis in the mid- to late 2000s. In January 2017, the Jeddah Amendment expanded the scope of maritime crimes addressed by the Djibouti Code of Conduct and incorporated efforts to develop the blue economy.
The agreement lays out plans for regional capacity building and information sharing. It establishes three multinational information exchange centers, based in Sana’a, Yemen, Mombasa, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to lead coordination efforts among northern, central, and southern groupings of signatory states. In addition, the DCoC places a premium on maritime domain awareness, and efforts are being made in conjunction with a variety of international partners across the Western Indian Ocean to put in place additional automatic identification and radar systems to provide regional maritime security forces with a clearer picture of their operating environment.
It is yet to be seen if the DCoC can be effective in addressing the larger scope of the Jeddah Amendment. If it is to meet this new challenge, it will have to overcome several other challenges first.
Most of the difficulties presented by this change of scope are due to the DCoC’s origin as a response to piracy. The urgency of the situation meant that signatory states were eager to cooperate to address the pressing security threat, but there may not be sufficient political will to pivot toward a broader framework for cooperative maritime governance. Due to the urgent nature of its formation, the DCoC is not rooted in existing regional organizations. This means DCoC efforts cannot leverage the broader resources of such organizations.
Disputes undermine maritime security, governance, and the Blue Economy
UNCLOS defines the territorial sea as extending 12 nautical miles from shore and the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) as extending 200 nautical miles beyond the baseline. Despite the appearance of clarity, there are a number of maritime boundary disputes in sub-Saharan Africa, many of which are not currently being adjudicated in the legal bodies established to resolve such disputes.
The legal definition of 'exclusive economic zone' was established under UNCLOS.
1 Gulf of Aden Disputes
Somalia claimed an Exclusive Economic Zone in 2014, an act which almost immediately sparked a protest from Yemen over the islands of Socotra, Sambad, and Ad Al Kuri. In 2017, Djibouti also issued a formal protest regarding Somalia’s EEZ claim. Djibouti challenges the coordinates used as baselines from which the Somali EEZ is defined. Both claims are now pending with the United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea.
2 DRC and Angola
Some disputes are amplified by the discovery of offshore oil and gas resources. Angola and DRC are engaged in a maritime boundary dispute involving oil blocks. Oil was first struck offshore Angola in 1962 and major discoveries of new blocks have continued. The blocks are controversial because the angle at which they are aligned restricts DRC’s access to the sea. Kinshasa argues that the generally accepted boundary is not the result of any international agreement, but rather an arbitrary colonial legacy. Both sides have submitted requests for international arbitration to the UN.
3 Comoros and Mayotte
There are multiple disputes in the crowded Mozambique Channel. Comoros and France are locked in a nearly four-decade-old dispute over the island of Mayotte. Despite UN resolutions supporting the legitimacy of Comoros’ claim to Mayotte, France continues to govern the island. The island became the 101st department of France on 31 March 2011, following a contentious referendum in which 95% of Mahorais chose to break from Comoros, but the Comorian constitution continues to affirm Mayotte as part of Comoros.
The tiny Glorioso Islands, totalling five square kilometers, have long been contested by different states. In 1895, they became part of the same French colony as Mayotte and France continues to claim the islands as part of French overseas territory. Like Mayotte, this claim is contested by Comoros. Madagascar has also claimed sovereignty over the Glorioso since 1972. Even Seychelles claimed the Glorioso before the France-Seychelles Maritime Boundary Agreement of 2001. At stake is an Exclusive Economic Zone of 48,350 square kilometers.
4 Eritrea and Djibouti
The disputed zone between Eritrea and Djibouti consists of a hill, called Ras Doumeira, and the island of Doumeira. The land is essentially deserted, but it lies strategically adjacent to the mouth of the Red Sea and some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. The last guidance regarding demarcation of the border dates from the colonial period between France and Italy. In recent decades, Eritrea has clashed repeatedly with its neighbors over border disputes, including a conflict with Yemen over the Hanish Islands. The conflict was resolved by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague with most of the islands determined to be Yemeni.
5 Equatorial Guinea and Gabon
The dispute between Equatorial Guinea and Gabon has existed since 1972. It concerns the islands of Mbanie, Cocotiers, and Congas in Corisco Bay. They are only sparsely inhabited but provide access to extensive oil fields with estimated reserves of several hundred thousand barrels per well. In 2004, both states agreed that a UN mediator should settle their dispute. Until a resolution is reached, full exploration of the bay’s oil potential is on hold.
6 Kenya and Somalia
In 2012, Kenya leased seven offshore oil blocks that were located in an area of their Exclusive Economic Zone contested by Somalia. Kenya wants a maritime boundary based on a straight line emanating from the land boundary between the states. Somalia wants a boundary based on the median, as stated in UNCLOS Article 15. The two parties submitted their dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2014.
Data and Methods
How we created the International Cooperation score
International cooperation is measured with three equally weighted components: participation in relevant international agreements, regional security strategies, and maritime boundary violations or disputes.
The first component reflects the signing and ratification of seven global maritime legal agreements: the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), UNCLOS Part XI, the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (CTOT), and the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. States that have signed and ratified all of these agreements receive the maximum value for this part of the international cooperation score. States that have signed but are not party to an agreement receive one third of the score for that agreement.
Regional security strategies are measured as the mean of two inputs: membership and material commitment. States receive the maximum membership score if they are party to all relevant maritime security agreements in their subregion (i.e. the Yaoundé Code of Conduct, Djibouti Code of Conduct, and SADC maritime security strategy). The material commitment component gauges the tangible outcomes of the security strategies, with states involved in better-developed strategies earning higher scores than those participating in strategies that have yet to result in significant material commitments.
Boundary Violations and Disputes
The final component equally weights excessive territorial claims and maritime boundary disputes. Violations are defined as territorial claims that extend beyond the twelve nautical miles granted by UNCLOS. Disputes are competing claims over exclusive economic zones (EEZs) that have yet to be resolved by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea or by formal bilateral or multilateral agreements. Countries receive the maximum score when they neither make excessive territorial claims nor have unresolved disputes with maritime neighbors.
More information on the Maritime Security Index scoring is available in the Index Code Book.