The 21st Century has seen a sharp rise in privatization of the military, especially of logistics and security functions during the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The outbreak of Somali piracy that started in 2008 has prompted a similar revolution in maritime security with private security companies beginning to operate armed escort vessels to protect merchant shipping against pirates off the Horn of Africa. Centuries ago, the British East India Company used a private navy against piracy in the same waters with much success. Yet since then, international law has evolved to more tightly regulate the use of force by civilians, and to afford greater protections to suspected pirates.
Thus, the development of what are in effect private warships has presented numerous legal and regulatory problems. How can the companies that operate these vessels be effectively licensed? Under what circumstances should they be allowed to use lethal force? What economic factors drive this struggle between pirates and anti-piracy forces? What are the operational considerations, defensive tactics, logistics, and rules of engagement? How are security companies balancing the rights concerns against the need to defend ships effectively? Join us as John-Clark Levin examines the historical origins, current state, future prospects of this fast-changing sector as well as the implications for wider naval privatization in the long run.
John-Clark Levin is a writer, currently pursuing a degree in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. He received the 2010 Arthur R. Adams Fellowship at the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies, researching private maritime security. He also served as a Harrison Fellow at the Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom in the Modern World in 2011-2012. He was the winner of the 2010 Eric Breindel Collegiate Journalism Award, and has written for publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Caller, City Journal Online, and the Southern Economics Journal.
Author of Private Anti-Piracy Navies
Research Associate for Economic Freedom in Africa and the Middle East
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