Oceans account for more than 70 percent of the world’s surface area. Given this geographical dominance, it is unsurprising that oceans play a fundamental role in cross-cutting issues. Conflicts and opportunities continuously emerge in the economic, political, and security realms. Therefore, our challenge as editors was to narrow our focus, given the wealth of scholarship centered upon these vast bodies of water. Our latest issue of The SAIS Review of International Affairs, “Uncharted Waters: New Trends in Piracy, Sovereignty, and Ocean Resources,” contains what we identify as the most significant and controversial issues related to the role of oceans in international relations. We explore the evolution of piracy and maritime terrorism; the pursuit of natural resources; advantages and shortcomings of international maritime law; and the prospects for conflict and cooperation in territorial disputes.
We begin this issue with an article by Elizabeth Nyman, which identifies five fundamental drivers of maritime conflict and predicts future “hot spots” where maritime conflict is most likely to occur. Nyman argues that maritime conflicts generally result from the pursuit of living and nonliving resources, as well as international sovereignty disputes. She predicts that pollution and climate change will become increasingly significant drivers of maritime conflict in the future.
With factors such as climate change contributing to a dynamic and uncertain future, we turn to the challenge of the Arctic. Jon Carlson et al. examine these rapidly changing conditions in the context of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and how the framework established by UNCLOS can be used to avoid fierce competition between Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and the United States in a “scramble for the Arctic.” Klaus Dodds continues the discussion with his appraisal of the 2008 Ilulissat Declaration, which he argues successfully applied the principles of international law set forth in UNCLOS to reject a conception of the Arctic as a terra nullius (or “no man’s land”), thereby pre-empting a potential “scramble.”
While the opportunity for acquiring new territory and resources has drawn greater state attention to the Arctic, the region is also noteworthy as an alternative transportation route. The melting of Arctic ice will extend the shipping season, therefore introducing the Northern Sea Route as an economically viable option for shipping companies. Inmaculada Martinez-Zarzoso empirically evaluates the potential of the Northern Sea Route, as well as the economic consequences associated with using the Cape of Good Hope or the Northern Sea Route instead of the Suez Canal. She considers the impact of piracy in this evaluation, as well as maritime distance and shared history between trading partners. [End Page 1]
In order to safely and securely transport goods from Europe to Asia, it is essential to elicit the cooperation of regional countries and actors. However, increased tensions in the South China Sea indicate that cooperation is not a simple matter, particularly in the disputed regions through which much of the world’s goods pass. Carlyle Thayer argues that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has successfully asserted its centrality in regional security affairs, but will be unlikely to reach an agreement with China in establishing a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, at least not in the near future.
Conflicts in the South China Sea result from disputes over sovereignty and territorial control, as well as competition for nonliving and living ocean resources. In an interview with the SAIS Review, Tabitha Mallory discusses China’s fisheries management policies. She examines the sustainability of China’s policies, and illustrates how these policies are applied in other regions, given China’s fisheries access agreement in Africa.
With increased incidents of conflict in Southeast Asia, there are plentiful opportunities for first-hand research. Carolin Liss shares her experiences researching piracy in Southeast Asia, and outlines the challenges of conducting research on maritime security. She concludes that while this type of research is difficult, it is critical for increasing knowledge about maritime issues.
In the following article, Donna J. Nincic discusses the cyclical nature of piracy. She argues that our increased knowledge and understanding of piracy allows us to predict the next geographical “hot spots.” Despite our...