Oktay Çetin1*, Mesut Can Köseoğlu2

1Maritime Transportation and Engineering Department, Maritime Faculty, Pîrî Reis University, İstanbul, Turkey

2Maritime Transportation and Engineering Department, Maritime Faculty, Pîrî Reis University, İstanbul, Turkey

Note: This article is a summary (by the author himself) of the article published in International Journal of Environment and Geoinformatics 7(3): 365-371 (2020).

1. Introduction

Many of the actors in international arena identify maritime security by defining some of the perils involved in the notion. If the exact expression is different between institutions, the UN Secretary-General’s Oceans and Maritime Law Report 2008 provides a summary of the frequently included threats (United Nations, 2008). The report clarifies “armed robbery at sea, piracy, terrorism, illegal human trafficking, smuggling weapons and narcotics, illegal fishing and deliberately and illegally harming the marine environment.” The EU and United Kingdom’s strategy documents provide imitation rules. The UK’s 2014 maritime security strategy points out “maritime security risks” instead of perils and brings together various problems. One of these risks is described for example as the “disruption to vital maritime trade routes as a result of war, criminality, piracy or changes in international norms”. “Cyber-attacks against shipping or maritime infrastructure” is one of these risks included in this strategy document (UK Government, 2014).

Today integrated logistics system is a harmonized body of a series of actions including production and distribution of goods and services. From the economic perspective it implies that commodities have to be shipped with a reasonable pricing to the markets in a timely manner, without any disruption. This requires a well-integrated and well working logistic system to facilitate supply chain processes globally. As of today the global transportation network is extensively broad that covers thousands of ports and facilities for different types of ships and services with reasonable prices (Stopford, 2009). As a holistic approach modern transport logistics system’s aim is to integrate all of the transport systems so that cargo flows smoothly from one part of the system to another. Hence, maritime security is a must for this technologically advanced, time-sensitive, effective, cooperative and competitive and well organized maritime sector.

2. Literature Review

Security concept in maritime transporation, although is established as a defining concept, has been less commonly emphasized on. The main issue under the subject of maritime security was the state’s borders and delimitation of sea areas. In 1982, the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was opened to nations for signing, providing a legal framework for countries action regarding sea areas and acting as an ocean constitution (UNCLOS 1982; Bernaert 1988; Murphy 2006). The role of UNCLOS as a defining reference for maritime security source from being a legislation that supports countries security in an international equilibrium by requiring countries to establish supportive legislations, in contrast because of countries failing to enact legislations considering security issues and perils of the seas, maritime security concept has been devaluing in efficacy (UNCLOS 1982; Cook, 2020).

Maritime security concept is the prevention and absence  of threats sourcing from maritime interstate disputes, maritime terrorism, cyber attacks, biological and chemical threats, piracy, human trafficking, smuggling of narcotics and illicit goods, and deliberate environmental harms (United Nations, 2008; Vreÿ, 2010; Kraska & Pedrozo, 2013; Bueger, 2014b, Otto, 2020).

The high level threat piracy presents for international trade has caused maritime industry and international bodies to focus more on security aspect of maritime transportation and improved its presence in policy agendas. On the other hand, interstate disputes such as Arctic area and Eastern Mediterrenean have been increasing attention for establishing more secure sea areas (Bueger, 2014b; Keil, 2014; Cook, 2020; Otto, 2020; Bueger, et al. 2020; Silveira, 2020).

3. Results and Discussion

“Security”, as a new conceptual word compared to safety, emphasizes protection of persons or facilities against threats, unlike “safety”. Although satisfactory steps have been taken in terms of international law on “maritime safety” and necessary measures have been taken, it is not yet possible to say the same things for the concept of “maritime security”. Despite the fact that IMO, various maritime organizations and academicians are working in the international community, it has not been fully agreed on the scope of the term “maritime security” yet. The aim of this study is to create a discussion platform for decision makers in order to reach a consensus on it. Maritime security related concepts can be considered in different groups according to the size of the effect they will create. In this framework, it is evaluated that a classification can be made as in Table 1.

Table 1: Classification of the maritime security threat definitions1 depending on importance levels (Çetin and Köseoğlu, 2020).

Depending on this gradation we can submit maritime security classification as in Figure 1 (Çetin and Köseoğlu, 2020).

Figure 1: Maritime security classification (Created by authors from various sources).

In Figure 1, it is seen that the title “Maritime interstate disputes” stands out significantly. Dispute of Eastern Mediterranean Sea maritime jurisdiction areas, in August 2020 between Turkey and Greece, created armed conflict risk and perhaps risk of a war. As in this example, considering the possibility of experiencing problems that are difficult to solve diplomatically between countries, “maritime interstate disputes” is considered to be the most important topic.

On the other hand, considering that almost half of the commodity transported by sea throughout the world are energy-related products, it is considered that “energy, food and resource security” is one of the most important topics (especially energy security).

Cyber attacks are one of the important risk and threat areas in today’s world, where digitalization has gained momentum in technology and significant developments have been experienced in the use of autonomous ships in maritime trade. Therefore “cyber security and secure information systems” carries an important weight in our agenda. The reason why this title is in the first group is the magnitude of the danger that a cyber attack can create if it is carried out in an organized and coordinated manner.

In this classification, the importance levels of the titles may differ according to the perspectives of the institutions and individuals. In future academic studies, it will be possible to change the importance levels of the titles by giving numerical values based on concrete data.

4. Conclusion

Although it is a term that has come up more frequently as a “buzzword” recently, it has not been possible to define the term maritime security in international relations and to make classifications accordingly. The subject may become more complex with new developments that were not on the agenda before, and sometimes unpredictable and unexpected. For this reason, it is evaluated that the term “maritime security” should be expressed as an internationally recognized definition as it is previously about maritime safety and then necessary steps should be taken regarding the measures to be taken by the authorized institutions and organizations.

1Definitions used in this gradation system are taken from UN General Assembly Document A/63/63, 2008, Bueger, 2014b and Otto, 2020)


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United Nations (2008). Oceans and the law of the sea. Report of the Secretary- General, UN General Assembly Document A/63/63, New York. Vreÿ, F. (2010). African maritime security: a time for good order at sea. Australian Journal of Maritime & Ocean Affairs, 2(4), 121-132.


Oktay ÇETİN is assistant professor of Maritime Transportation and Engineering Department, Maritime Faculty at Pîrî Reis University, Turkey.

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