The privatisation of international security: The regulatory framework for Private Maritime Security Companies, using operations off Somalia, 2005-13, as a case study

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis examines the expansion of private maritime security provision, its regulation and implications for national and global security. The main research question addressed is: How are private maritime security companies (PMSCs) regulated in the context of the contemporary trend towards international security privatisation? However, further questions stem from this: Is the complex framework of the PMSCs’ business model adequately regulated? To what extent could the existing practices and regulatory framework affect international security in governance and policy, strategic, social and commercial terms?

    Qualitative research methods were used, strongly supported by empirical data collection – available due to extensive professional experience and personal engagement of the author with the private maritime security industry. Using a case study of PMSCs’ operations off Somalia from 2005-2013, and a plethora of selected data from primary sources and semi-structured interviews, the paper argues that there is need for more effective regulation of PMSCs and the establishment of international standards.

    Following an analysis of the current conceptual framework of private security, focussing particularly on maritime security, in the context of contemporary academic literature and professional practice, the paper provides a detailed theoretical justification for the selection of the methodology used. After broadening and deepening the analysis of the privatisation of security ashore, the concerns raised are then transferred to the maritime domain. The situation becomes even more complicated in the high seas due to inconsistencies between flag states’ regulations, the unregulated vastness of the oceans and the reluctance of any international body (such as the IMO) to undertake the essential task of regulating PMSCs. Building on this, an analytical framework that enables
    the integration of maritime security and contemporary piracy into the contemporary paradigm of global security is developed. An historical overview of piracy then demonstrates that modern piracy is an ancient phenomenon with contemporary local characteristics. The maritime crime’s causal factors remain more or less the same throughout human history and, the paper argues, PMSCs serve as a short term response to address the symptoms rather than the root causes. Given that PMSCs have so far been used primarily as measures against Somali piracy, activities in this specific region provide an appropriate case study. The development of a typology of piracy offers a deeper understanding of the regional distinctiveness of the phenomenon, which is essential to acquiring
    a holistic picture of the operational environment in which PMSCs are deployed.

    The above considerations are used as a basis for analysing the
    complexities of the PMSCs’ business model, in legal, operational and ethical terms. The questionable practices involved in these are not fully regulated by national states. Hence, their contract and deployment raise ethical, legal and operational concerns. In the penultimate chapter, these are further assessed in terms of the extent to which the existing regulatory framework and PMSCs’ practices affect international security in governance and policy, strategic, social and commercial terms. The research indicates that states are increasingly outsourcing the monopoly they have exercised in security provision - a trend that has also expanded
    the private sector’s activities and business at sea. However, the lack of international laws and the consequent unstandardized plethora of flag states’ regulations has meant that the burgeoning private security services are dependent on the global market to regulate themselves. States’ reluctance and/or inability to regulate these companies has allowed controversial practices to persist and the lack of an international body responsible for their regulation and vetting on a worldwide basis has inevitable consequences in terms of global security.

    The overall outcome of this thesis is an elucidation of the potential
    implications of the privatisation of maritime security - both positive and negative. Most significantly, it suggests this could present a significant threat to international security in the near future.
    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorAlan Hunter (Supervisor)

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