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Article published in MSF Study: Romania’s maritime resilience in the era of hybrid threats and the importance of a Maritime Security Strategy

In the more than two decades of this century, maritime security as a specific notion has become a fashionable and frequently used concept in international relations. An expert involved in most of the major events, conferences and works related to the study, elaboration and definition of this concept, Christian BUEGER, tried to find the possible answer to the question “What is Maritime Security?”[2] in a comprehensive article which was the starting point of our efforts to create 0 first version of the Romanian concept of maritime security.

The major international actors in the maritime field have put the concept on their agendas, set the main directions and developed the concepts according to the concrete interests and realities in which they operate, and reformulated and adapted it according to the meaning of this concept, which draws attention to new challenges in the maritime field and combines the efforts of all actors (state and non-state) involved to find appropriate responses to them.

However, an international consensus on the definition of maritime security has not yet been reached, but all these versions already developed can provide a common framework for identifying the common and divergent aspects of the actors that have adopted them.

The adoption of a maritime security concept is not only the prerogative of the big players, therefore the identification of an appropriate Romanian concept can provide the Maritime Security Forum with a solid basis to start working towards the achievement of its goals and objectives.

Tracing the history of the emergence of the concept and its evolution, the first concretisation is the Maritime Homeland Security Policy adopted by the US in 2004 as a result of the increased importance of the threat associated with the threat of terrorism in the maritime domain after 11 September 2001[3] . With the rise of piracy off the coast of Somalia between 2008 and 2011, the threat to international trade highlighting the maritime dimension of global security posed by terrorism to maritime security, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) included maritime strategy as an important objective in its 2011 Maritime Security Strategy.[4]

In 2014 the United Kingdom (UK)[5] , the European Union (EU)[6] as well as the African Union (AU)[7]   launched ambitious maritime strategies, recognising the need to adopt such documents.

The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) included maritime security in its list of tasks in 2014.

In recent years, regional inter-state tensions in the Arctic Ocean, the South China Sea or the East China Sea (now at high levels) as well as major investments in maritime forces by emerging powers such as India and China operating in the high seas and oceans have increased attention to the need to address the oceans as spaces in need of security.

Russia’s recent aggression against Ukraine has ‘revitalised’ the concept, emphasising the importance of achieving maritime security in the event of an invasion and the blockade of ports and waterways.

Following the evolution of the global geopolitical situation and paying particular attention to the concept of maritime security, the UK realised the need to issue a second maritime security strategy, which it published in August 2023.  

                 There are many approaches to this concept by maritime specialists in the literature and publications, but internationally three perspectives on the concept can be distinguished:

                 1. matrix perspective – the concept of maritime security can be understood within a matrix, in which it relates to other concepts such as maritime safety, maritime power, ‘blue economy’ and resilience;

2. the prospect of securing the maritime domain. This allows the study of how threats in the maritime domain arise and what political demands, which are sometimes divergent, they imply in order to uncover the political interests and ideologies behind them;

3. the practical perspective of the application of security theory – this provides a study of what stakeholders/involved actors actually do when requesting national or international maritime actors to enhance maritime security.

                 In Fig.1[8] we have a matrix in which the possible concepts that can be correlated with the concept of maritime security are inscribed and their importance can be easily seen.  Working with such a matrix allows first of all to study the types of relationships established by the various actors, but also the connections between maritime security and the other concepts within it.

                 This approach provides a basis for identifying which actors are included or excluded in each maritime security concept developed by state or non-state actors, even though the interpretation of threats may differ greatly depending on which actors are involved. One problem may be the linkage of the concept to the economic dimension, while other linkages may be to national security or maritime safety.

The matrix is an analytical tool for understanding the differences and commonalities of the different actors and offers the possibility of adoption and adaptation of the concept by any actor interested in achieving maritime security in the maritime space in which it can assert, promote and defend its interests.



We believe that this is the most appropriate approach for the development of the Romanian concept of maritime security, as it ensures maximum coverage of the concepts and its connections with them, especially since, at a given time, depending on the political-military situation in which Romanian society finds itself, the most relevant elements for the development of the concept and the adoption of practical measures to be taken could be easily identified and prioritized.

  1. Approaching the concept of maritime security from a maritime domain security perspective

Securing the maritime domain means that threats to the maritime domain are built on a series of claims by actors that generate a certain rhetoric, so that an issue such as piracy can pose an existential threat either to a nation state or to the entire globe, for example to international trade.

From this perspective, the construction or identification of threats is usually accompanied by a proposal for measures to be taken to protect a target or targets against the threat, measures that are usually extraordinary and often extreme, and may involve military instruments ranging from the simplest actions to the scale of military conflict or the drastic suppression of civil liberties.

The approach assumes a contemporary perception of the seas and oceans as an area of insecurity, starting from how threats emerged (their history), how they have evolved over time and how they have been countered.

Most international actors define maritime security by identifying a number of threats that they include in this concept (see the UN Secretary General’s 2008 Report on Oceans and the Law of the Sea: piracy and armed robbery; terrorist attacks; illicit trafficking in arms and weapons of mass destruction; illicit trafficking in narcotics/drugs; smuggling and trafficking of persons at sea; illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; intentional and illegal degradation/destruction of the marine environment)[9] .

                  The recent EU and UK strategy papers are similar to the UN one, referring to “maritime security risks” rather than threats, and concentrating several issues into one, such as for the UK “disruption of vital shipping routes for trade due to war, crime/maritime crime, piracy or changes in international regulations”. Cyber-attacks on shipping/trade at sea and maritime infrastructure” have also been added to the list, which could have disastrous economic effects[10] .

The EU has expanded the list of the original seven threats by adding “maritime territorial disputes, acts of aggression and armed conflicts between states” as well as “potential impacts/emergencies of natural disasters, extreme events and climate change on the maritime transport system and in particular on maritime infrastructure” and “conditions at sea and in the coastal zone weakening the potential for economic growth and jobs in the maritime sectors”[11] .

From our point of view, this approach can also be useful, drawing inspiration from the practical activities that will have to be carried out to support the concrete application of the concept.  

  1. Approaching the concept of maritime security from the perspective of security practices

This perspective looks at what the actors involved actually do in the name of maritime security, i.e. what kind of activities are carried out when they claim to achieve maritime security.

Such a perspective also highlights which tools and technologies are used in maritime security practice as the most appropriate and impactful, such as fighter ships and satellites.

In most of these approaches, there is a common palette of practices, representing the conventional side of maritime security, that agencies employ regardless of the situation, such as: Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) which involves surveillance via radar, satellites or data tracking as well as sharing and fusing this information via databases and maritime service centres; activities at sea such as patrols, interdictions, controls and inspections, and practical exercises designed to refine these activities; law enforcement activities, such as the arrest or transfer of suspects and the apprehension, trial and detention in prisons of offenders involved in illegal activities; coordination of activities at different levels, which may involve meetings and conferences, harmonisation of legal standards, procedures and mandates or the development of strategies and implementation of joint plans; other potential practices, which may be seen in activities such as naval diplomacy, capacity building and naval warfare.

The studies of routine, day-to-day practices/enumerations above highlight how maritime security can be established and institutionalised through a distinct set of practices adopted by a large proportion of landlocked and ocean-going states.

Should disputes or contradictions arise between state and non-state actors, it will have to be investigated whether a certain set of activities is necessary to be carried out or not in the name of maritime security. Studying the controversies around these practices allows to identify how certain actors understand and define the notion/concept of maritime security and whether it is carried out in the name of maritime security or for other purposes.

As with the approach to the concept from the perspective of securing the maritime domain, this approach can also help us by drawing inspiration from practical activities that will need to be taken to support the concrete application of the concept.  

Following what has been presented so far, a possible definition of this concept could be:

  1. In general: Maritime security is a coordinated set of organisational and practical measures that a state or non-state actor adopts at the domestic, national or international level to enable it to assert, promote and, if necessary, defend its maritime interests in relations with other state and non-state actors involved and/or active in the maritime domain, and to protect them against any risks and threats.

                 2. For Romania: “Maritime security, as part of national security, is a coordinated set of organisational and practical measures that ensure a favourable internal and international political situation/situation that allows the assertion, promotion and, if necessary, defence of Romania’s maritime interests in relations with other state and non-state actors involved and/or active in the maritime domain and the protection of these interests against any risks and threats”.

Defining maritime security from a Romanian perspective is a major challenge for the agencies involved in this process, and requires involvement even at the national level.

The process of defining maritime security should start with the definition of Romania’s national interests in the maritime field and the analysis of the risks and threats to these interests, as have other countries and organisations that have developed and adopted this concept.

[1] Author: Rear Admiral (rtr) PhD. Ion CUSTURA, Deputy Director, Maritime Security Forum,

[2]“What is maritime security?”/”Ce estesecuritateamaritimă?”- Prof. ChristianBUEGER, Chair of International Relations at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark and of the Department of Politics and International Relations at Cardiff University, UK-Article published in “ELSEVIER”/”Marine Policy” Magazine, 03 Dec 2014.

[3]National Security Strategy of the United States, Sept. 2005,

[4]NATO. Alliance maritime strategy. Brussels: NATO;2011.

[5] UK Government. National strategy for maritime security. London: UK Government; 2014.

[6] European Union. European Union maritime security strategy Council of the European Union Doc. 11205/14. Brussels: European Union; 2014.

[7] African Union. African integrated maritime strategy.Addis Ababa: African Union; 2014.

[8]“What is maritime security?”/”Ce estesecuritateamaritimă?”- Prof. ChristianBUEGER, Chair of International Relations at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark and of the Department of Politics and International Relations at Cardiff University, UK-Article published in “ELSEVIER”/”Marine Policy” Magazine, 03 Dec 2014.

[9] Oceans and the law of the sea. Report of the Secretary-General, UN General Assembly Document A/63/63, 10 March 2008. NewYork: United Nations; 2008.

[10]UK National Strategy for Maritime Security, https://assets.publishing. government/ uploads/system/ uploads/ attachment_data/file/ 1100525/ national-strategy-for-maritime-security-web-version.pdf, Aug. 2022.

[11] European Union. European Union maritime security strategy Council of the European Union Doc. 11205/14. Brussels:European Union; 2014.

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