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Maritime Security Partnerships
collectively, what might be called “existing gaps in global maritime governance.”2 The existence of such maritime governance gaps has been made painfully evident by patterns of activities or events at sea that raise serious and legitimate concerns on the part of directly affected states and the international community at large: armed attacks on shipping; acts of piracy and terrorism; maritime trafficking of weapons, people, and drugs; marine environmental pollution; and illegal, unreported fishing. These phenomena are readily attributable to the sheer vastness of ocean spaces, the huge number of vessels involved, the lack of transparency that characterizes the maritime industry as a whole, and the comparatively limited resources that individual states can bring to bear on these problems. In the final analysis, they all point to inadequate information and inadequate resources, with the former pointing to MDA as an indispensable enabler of maritime security.
Efforts to bolster the acquisition, processing (analysis and fusion), and sharing/distribution of maritime information—in short MDA-related core activities—have significant implications for the international legal system. Given the broad range of conceivably relevant MDA-supportive measures, from off-shoring of security measures at one end to the nonconsensual boarding of a foreign flag vessel at the other, the drive to improve MDA is likely to affect the existing balance of power between flag states on the one hand and coastal and port states on the other. This balance has found expression in an elaborate set of rules that today are reflected principally in the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and customary international law and in some other maritime treaties.
Success in garnering wide international support for the idea of MSP—a critical precondition if it is to be effective—will depend on the proponents’ ability to demonstrate convincingly that the common interest of all states is being served by MSP. Success will similarly require an approach for lobbying other states, international organizations, and civil society in general—in short, a judicious choice of implementation strategies and tools. What is less appreciated, however, is that the willingness of states and other actors to endorse and actively participate in MSP will also depend on whether they perceive the arrangement to be internationally legitimate. Indeed, concerns about legitimacy may turn out to be the stumbling block to the realization of the global maritime security network. For MSP to succeed, states must either come to see the project as compatible with existing international legal frameworks and rules or, conversely, understand that MSP proponents are willing to seek the adjustment of applicable legal rules, if necessary, to accommodate MSP within the international legal structure. The cautious attitude of several key states to signing up for the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)3 and similar attitudes expressed by representatives of the Indian