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The changing role of the shipping industry

In document Navigating a Humanitarian Crisis (Sider 56-59)

6. Discussion

6.1 The changing role of the shipping industry

to the fact, that they have previously experienced this in relation to piracy, where voluntary measures and initiatives to handle the problem ended up becoming requirements by insurance companies, as well as clients.

He further said that it was very important from the beginning for them to say

“we cannot take over a role for the international community. We cannot. We are seafarers, we are a trading company, and it is up to the international community to ensure that they can solve these problems”, but that of course they will continue to assist when needed, but according to him it is not their responsibility to equip their vessels to handle this problem.

This finding emphasizes the difficult situation that the shipping industry has gotten caught up in; helping in a humanitarian crisis out of moral and legal obligations while trying to minimize their role at the same time.

the dynamics and complexities of the shipping industry’s involvement in the Mediterranean migration crisis.

The responsibilities of the shipping industry, and other actors involved, are perceived as being static. This is due to the fact that the institutional context that dictates these responsibilities remains the same. The responsibilities of the shipping industry have consequently not changed, as the law at sea and its obligations to help people in distress at sea remain the same. The same is true for e.g. coastal states, whose responsibilities are also outlined in the law at sea; the legal institutional framework remains the same, and hence so does the responsibilities.

The role of the shipping industry, on the other hand, is dynamic and greatly characterized by ambiguity as it changes based on how other actors perform their role.

That is, the role of the shipping industry can somehow be seen as the default option, when other actors for various reasons fail to perform their role adequately. This is evident from the data, where the actors interviewed in particular identified one event as illustrating exactly this dynamic; the period in which the Italian Mare Nostrum operation was terminated, and replaced by the Frontex Triton operation. The problem with this shift was, that the Triton operation only had one third of the Mare Nostrum budget and therefore a much smaller SAR capacity. The Triton operation was moreover much more focused on external border controls than SAR, whereas the Mare Nostrum operation was highly focused on SAR outside the Libyan coast. This is perceived as being a critical point in time for the shipping industry, as the burden consequently to an even larger extend landed on them, thus rendering the industry the actor of last resort, and hence the default option. These findings suggest that the shipping industry is performing this central role, which changes based on other actors inaction, thus rendering the role de facto dynamic. The responsibilities, on the other hand, are de jure static, as they are dictated by the legal institutional environment..

Another important point to keep in mind is the role ambiguity present in the situation.

Because the situation spans across national borders, the establishment of exact roles has been difficult throughout the crisis. The instabilities present in Libya has rendered the country unable to perform their role in their territorial waters, while Italy and the rest of EU has had to negotiate and agree upon whether the Mediterranean borders are Italian, or in fact European. This high level of role ambiguity has thus influenced the role of the shipping industry, and its level of involvement. The findings therefore

implies that the collective responsibility combined with role ambiguity results in the role effectively landing on the actor of last resort, in this case the shipping industry.

The findings above therefore present several theoretical implications. Firstly they confirm that there is indeed a theoretical gap in the CC literature, as it does not consider involuntary engagement in CC activities.

Secondly the data illustrates that the institutional environment shapes the responsibilities of the shipping industry in the migration crisis, whereas the industry’s role is contingent to role ambiguity and inaction. This finding therefore calls for more attention paid towards the distinction between roles and responsibilities. The importance of the legal institutional framework in shaping the responsibilities of the shipping industry, by imposing strong legally binding and unambiguous obligations upon the industry, moreover suggests that an elaborate framework for analyzing CC in its context is needed, as also noted by Pies et al. (2014).

Lastly an elaboration to Matten and Crane’s conceptualization of CC is needed. Their framework proposes three scenarios, in which the changing roles of governments and corporations in safeguarding citizenship occur. A fourth scenario in which corporations end up safeguarding citizenships due to role ambiguity could be added, in order to capture the situation we are currently observing in the Mediterranean Sea.

This finding further implies that there are some grey areas in international political economy as also suggested by various bodies of literature, but that these gaps are believed to be state responsibilities nonetheless. A more comprehensive and concrete division of roles on a national and supranational level is therefore absent, which is compromising both private industries, but also individual actors – in this case boat migrants.

Going beyond the private sector, and looking at the broader societal level, several questions arise as to where exactly these roles lie. The interview data revealed that most of the actors see this as a task for the international community, rather than just the European Union. Again conceptual issues are evident, as coastal states also carry clear obligation according to the law at sea, but it is unclear where the responsibilities lies, when states such as Libya is unable to carry out their responsibilities. Like Italy and Greece, Libya has a responsibility within its territorial waters to perform SAR,

but is unable to perform this role due to domestic instabilities. Who then, is accountable for this responsibility? Certain international regulations prohibit other states to enter territorial waters of other states, which in this case implicate the shipping industry further, as they become the actor of last resort in these situations.

Mechanisms to deal with these situations, in terms of placing responsibilities with other official and capable authorities is perhaps needed to avoid rendering these cases even more fatal.

In document Navigating a Humanitarian Crisis (Sider 56-59)