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Saturday, 18 October 2014

Strangers hiding in the Stockholm Archipelago and the perception of security?

Next week I’ll give a talk on a National Transport Conference on the possible effects of a deteriorating security situation in the Baltic Sea on the vital shipping to and from Sweden (Maritime security for Swedish needs?).

Last week in Victoria, BC (Canada) experts such as Professor G. Till and Commodore (Ret) L. Cordner at the Maritime Security Challenges conference made it clear that maritime security is about creating reassurance. If that reassurance can’t be produced the security situation deteriorates which will affect the shipping system. This is the basis for the research project I’m working on and the research questions are:

what do we (or the people responsible for Swedish maritime security risk governance) actually know about the influences and dependencies that create security and perception of security, and

how does different security incidents affects transports to Sweden?
The project was first presented on this blog in January 2014.

I think this is an important project, however the Ukraine crisis and increased Russian activity in the Baltic area has given the perception of maritime security I talk about a public voice. A week ago Swedish media reported about how the Russian Navy on international water gave orders to a Finnish ship with Swedish researchers to move away (which actually isn’t that strange, most navies wouldn’t like a foreign research team with subsea sensors in the middle of an exercise).
The Royal Swedish Navy performing sub sea work in archipelago waters. (C) Hans Liwång 2011. 
However also, since yesterday the Swedish Navy is investigating subsea activity in archipelago waters just off Stockholm and also being relatively open about the nature of the operation (fifteen years ago I’m not sure that the navy would have felt that they had anything to gain from calling a press conference on such an incident, now the situation obviously has changed). Subsequently, even if the maritime security in the Baltic Sea may be the same as ten months ago when I started my research project, the perception of security has definitely changed. An important awakening maybe, but one that is potentially dangerous to the modern day life in Sweden by affecting our vital transports.
So even though it could be the case that the conditions for performing safe and secure sea transport to and from Sweden hasn’t changed in reality, the effect of a change in perception may have increased uncertainties enough for starting a downwards spiral of security perception effecting the effectiveness which in turn put new challenges and uncertainty on the ship operators and so on…

How should we break this possible downward spiral? Well we’re back to reassurance, and reassurance at sea is produced with presence (on the surface, not in the air or under the surface). A positive reassuring presence that is reliable!

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