Maritime Security

Research Themes

Strategic Competition in the Maritime Domain 
This research examines contested claims and how states seek to consolidate them and the dynamics of maritime conflict between rival powers, especially in the South China Sea. 

An ongoing project, Law, Strategy and the South China Sea, focuses on the strategic use of international law and legal argument in the South China Sea disputes. Douglas Guilfoyle chaired an expert roundtable on the use of law to achieve strategic ends in the South China Sea, drawing together lawyers, historians, strategists and international relations experts to consider the issue in the round. An executive summary of the workshop conclusions is available here.  

A series of articles based on the workshop have been published with Australian Outlook covering Chinese military strategyUS perspectives, the impact on Indonesia and trade implications for Australia, among other topics. 

Sea Power in the Modern Age  
This research theme considers the role of sea power in relation to technological change, diplomacy and international law. 

Our researchers are interested in the what it means to exercise sea power in the 21st century, the continuing role of old technologies alongside the emergence of new threats and the lessons of history. Questions of the role of mine warfare and submarines as a critical capability also remain important.  

The research group has also commenced a project on the protection of submarine telecommunications cables as both critical infrastructure and a significant national security vulnerability. 

Transnational Maritime Crime and Non-traditional Security Threats  
This research theme studies the implications of asymmetrical actors in the maritime domain, from smugglers to pirates and maritime militias. 

The use of maritime autonomous vessels (MAVs) is creating regulatory and enforcement opportunities and challenges under international law. The aim of an ongoing project, Improving International Law Regulation of Maritime Autonomous Vessels, is to fill a critical gap in current responses in international law by focusing on the challenges posed by MAVs to international maritime security law. MAVs are increasingly useful for states in peacetime military operations, in response to transnational crime, maritime cybersecurity and in promoting broader national security goals. But non-state actors may also use them for terrorist and transnational criminal activity.  

Maritime Crime is another key research project within this theme. Rob McLaughlin is a lead author (with Sofia Galani and Ian Ralby) of Maritime Crime: A Manual for Criminal Justice Practitioners. Produced by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, this manual is a key resource for government lawyers and law-enforcement officials globally. It is both a defining work and a guide to best practice on how national authorities can conduct law-enforcement operations at sea within the framework of international law. 

The Rules-based Maritime Order  
This research theme examines the role of international law and international legal argument in oceans governance and conflict. 

It considers the role of international law in public diplomacy and diplomatic argument, how legal argument can be used to bolster (or attack) the legitimacy of policies and the strategies which may be deployed to try to change ‘the rules of game’.