Academic journal article Global Governance

Navigating the Maritime Piracy Regime Complex

Academic journal article Global Governance

Navigating the Maritime Piracy Regime Complex

Article excerpt

Maritime piracy is one of the oldest subjects of international law and recently it has reemerged as a serious threat to commerce and security. While states have become more engaged in punishing and preventing piracy, efforts as a whole have been poorly organized, ad hoc, mostly unilateral, slow to develop, and only minimally effective. This is true despite the existence of a regime complex that supposedly promotes effective cooperation on the issue. What explains the insufficient response to this rising economic and security threat? This article argues that the regime complex itself is a major part of the problem. It examines specifically four core elemental regimes that are identifiable by their key texts or organizations: the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, the International Maritime Organization, and the International Maritime Bureau. This analysis adopts a perspective that emphasizes how these different legal and organizational institutions shape actors' understandings of piracy, and thus their interests in it, in conflicting ways. Different elemental regimes push different actors toward different behaviors. KEYWORDS: maritime piracy, regime complex, constructivism, Convention on the Law of the Sea, International Maritime Organization, International Maritime Bureau.

MARITIME PIRACY IS ONE OF THE OLDEST TOPICS IN INTERNATIONAL LAW AND, recently, piracy has reemerged as a serious threat to commerce and security. From 2006 to 2010, attacks almost doubled, occurring at a rate of more than one per day.' While states have become more engaged in punishing and preventing piracy, their efforts as a whole have been poorly organized, ad hoc, unidimensional, too slow to develop, and, most importantly, ineffective. This is true despite the existence of a regime complex that supposedly promotes effective cooperation on the issue. What explains the insufficient response to this rising economic and security threat?

We argue that the institutional structure of the regime complex itself is a major obstacle to effective cooperation. We examine specifically four core elemental regimes that are identifiable by their key texts or organizations: the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA Convention), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). (2) In this analysis, we adopt a perspective that emphasizes how these different legal and organizational institutions shape actors' understandings of piracy, and thus their interests in it, in conflicting ways. Different elemental regimes push different actors toward different behaviors. For example, UNCLOS and the SUA Convention not only prescribe and proscribe different actions, but they provide conflicting definitions of the targets, which impedes cooperation. Also, some aspects of the various regimes are obligatory while others are permissive. Though many of the regimes see states as the primary responsible parties, the IMB, which is a private organization, actively promotes a private governance model in which it plays the key role in disseminating information and organizing responses to piracy. Given those various conflicts it is not surprising that, among the key actors (commercial shipping interests, naval powers, coastal states, flag states, state criminal justice agencies, mariners, cargo owners, insurers, and pirates), minimal and ineffective cooperation is the prevalent status quo.

We concur with the existing wisdom that regime complexes may either facilitate or hinder cooperation. (3) As our discussion of maritime piracy demonstrates, however, conflicting normative signals that hinder cooperation are a logical possibility of global governance through regime complexes and this possibility has been underemphasized in the literature. …

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