Who governs Norwegian maritime security? Public facilitation of private security in a fragmented security environment

This article analyses the Norwegian governance of maritime security that surrounds the accommodation of armed private security provision on board Norwegian-registered ships, and questions the role of Norwegian public authorities. In 2011, the Norwegian government introduced a new legal framework that explicitly permitted the use of armed private security for ships transiting piracy-prone waters. Through an in-depth examination of the agenda setting, implementation and evaluation phases of the new policy, the article analyses the roles and responsibilities performed by the involved actors. Comparing the empirical case study of Norway with the governance literature, it is argued that public actors neither ‘steer’ nor ‘row’, rather they function as facilitators in and for a governance arrangement that is essentially industry-driven in character. This facilitating role encompasses elements of both acceptance and contribution, where a low degree of public control was accepted in return for a flexible and low-cost/risk scheme against piracy. As such, the facilitating role does not support the view that contemporary security governance is a zero-sum game between public and private actors. Instead, the facilitating capacities of public authorities are seen as their competitive advantage in an increasingly fragmented security environment. This article contends that although maritime governance inhabits peculiarities related to both the shipping industry’s global competitive character and the maritime domain’s geographical distance from public authorities, the Norwegian governance of maritime security is nevertheless deeply embedded in global governance structures. This underscores the need to address the maritime domain as constitutive of global politics and, in turn, treat the ‘facilitating argument’ developed here as potentially relevant for the broader governance literature.

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