Tracking (Im)mobilities at Sea: Ships, Boats and Surveillance Strategies

Kimberley Peters

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This paper explores how national governments exercise regulatory power over spaces beyond their jurisdiction, when activities in those extra-territorial spaces have direct impacts within the boundaries of state concerned. Focusing explicitly on the control of shipping mobilities in the high seas and territorial sea zones, it is contended that apparatus of control, in particular, surveillance, are not only complex across spaces of alternate legal composition and between spaces of national and international law, but also across of the differing conditions and materialities of land, air and sea. Indeed, this paper argues that the immobilisation of the undesirable mobilities of ships and boats is inherently difficult at sea because of its very nature – its mobile legal boundaries, its liquidity compared to ‘landed’ fixity, and its scale and depth. Drawing on the case study of offshore radio pirates and the tender vessels which travelled ship to shore to supply them with necessary goods, it is reasoned that greater attention must be paid to mobilities at sea in view of forms of governance in this space. The sea is not like the land, or air, legally or materially, and mobilities cannot be governed, controlled and contained in the same ways therefore, as these connected spaces. Thinking seriously about the issues that arise when surveillance of mobilities is taken to sea, can help work towards better understandings for why security at sea proves so problematic and how those issues can be resolved, when the sea is the stage for contemporary geopolitical concerns in the twenty-first century. Document embargo until 04/03/2016
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)414-431
Number of pages18
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 04 Sept 2014


  • mobilities
  • ships
  • sea
  • surveillance
  • piracy
  • radio


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