Strategic Insights begins 2012 with its forecast issue for the year ahead, bringing together a series of articles covering the main areas of maritime security interest.
Forecasting is an imprecise science, as the first article in this issue discusses. But we still have a range of tools available for managing risks, even if there are some surprises in store. One surprise in 2011 was the decline in piracy success rates off Somalia.
Risk Intelligence’s Chief Analyst Nis Leerskov Mathiesen provides as detailed assessment of this decline and analyses a number of factors contributing to this development. While there is room for some cautious optimism, there is also the risk of complacency.
The remainder of the issue draws on the work of Risk Intelligence’s analysis team. The areas covered are Nigeria/West Africa, North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf, and North Asia.
The year 2011 saw a change in the nature of piracy off Nigeria with the targeting of tanker vessels. This trend may already be coming to an end, although many security challenges – such as the Boko Haram insurgency – remain in the region.
The Arab spring uprisings were a major development in 2011 with implications for countries stretching from Libya in North Africa to Syria in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In North Africa, with power vacuums emerging as governments are in flux, there is room for non-state actors such as terrorist groups to operate more freely. In Egypt and Syria, despite governments and militaries coming more to the fore, uncertainty around transition processes creates its own risks.
In the Persian Gulf, another power vacuum with the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq is also creating concerns. Also of pressing interest are the bellicose statements emerging from Iran, in the context of its relations with the West and also with the Gulf States in the area.
As always, the Strait of Hormuz is a focal point for maritime security considerations. North Asia typically has a stable maritime security environment.
But with a leadership change in North Korea, and unresolved regional disputes over maritime boundaries, there are scenarios worth considering that could see tensions escalate and move quickly to a higher threat level.
As in all the regions covered in this issue, staying up-to-date with the latest developments remains a useful component of any risk mitigation strategy.