Farewell to Stable Seas | A Tribute: Five Years of Sustained Impact To Date

Stable Seas program leaving One Earth Future

OEF’s Stable Seas program will close at the end of April as a program of One Earth Future. In line with our approach to incubation, it will spin off to become an independent foundation, maintaining its focus on maritime security and continuing to work with stakeholders in the maritime sector around the world. Over its five years at One Earth Future, Stable Seas has been an energetic and impactful program, constantly iterating and growing its impact on issues relating to maritime security, collective approaches to sustainable peace, and evidence-based practice in peacebuilding.  For those who haven’t focused on this program before, below are some highlights of its work.

Stable Seas began to take form in 2016 as a collaboration between OEF Research, Secure Fisheries, and Oceans Beyond Piracy, focused on developing a more comprehensive, and holistic understanding of the interconnected nature of maritime security challenges.  It's primary initial project was the Maritime Security Index, which was one of the first attempts to measure disparate issues relating to maritime security as all parts of an overall concept, rather than siloed issue areas. The index demonstrated OEF’s thinking about security as a multidimensional system, and was quickly taken up by navies, coast guards, and government agencies around the world as a tool for measuring and thinking about maritime security.

Building on that index, Stable Seas took over the ongoing production of OEF’s State of Piracy reports when Oceans Beyond Piracy closed, and then developed an innovative outreach strategy where they looked for opportunities to work with governments to provide research which helped inform their approach to maritime security.  Stable Seas responded to requests from UNODC and national governments in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean to  develop targeted reports and analysis focused on specific issues of concern but promoting Stable Seas’ holistic approach to thinking about maritime security. It also worked with a variety of international and multilateral organizations, navies, maritime law enforcement agencies and civil society actors to provide more fine-grained analysis on emerging maritime security issues. Throughout its work it emphasised how violent non-state actors exploit the maritime domain and the connection between insecurity at sea and onshore.

In its time at OEF, Stable Seas illustrated the value of complex and systemic thinking about security challenges and the way that impartial, evidence-based analysis can help to spur new approaches to sustainable peace.  As an independent foundation, we expect that they’ll continue to drive impact in maritime security for a long while to come.

For more information about the Stable Seas Foundation, you can visit their website at stableseas.org

Stable Seas Incubation Timeline

Stable Seas emerged as a collaboration between three existing OEF programs: Oceans Beyond Piracy, Secure Fisheries and OEF Research. The project arose from the desire to apply a more comprehensive and holistic lens to complex maritime security and governance issues which are often approached in isolation. The project was designed to highlight the relationship between these issues, measure them with empirical data collection, and produce research that informs maritime security policy making. From a small cross program project team the Stable Seas grew into a dedicated program of OEF as its work quickly gained attention in the global maritime security community. As Stable Seas developed it became a trusted resource for rigorous and impartial research on maritime security issues and began to attract significant funding from major international and multilateral actors in the maritime security community. After several years Stable Seas founding Director departed OEF for other opportunities in the maritime security field. At this point OEF made the decision to end its financial support to the program. However, Stable Seas now lives on as an independent research organization focused on holistic maritime security, and continues the work and the impact on international peace and governance made possible by OEF’s initial investment.

July 2016: A small team at One Earth Future proposes a new “Stable Seas” data initiative to support holistic solutions to complex maritime security and governance problems.
May 2017: The new ad hoc Stable Seas team, composed of members of Oceans Beyond Piracy, Secure Fisheries, and OEF Research, publish an examination of maritime security threats off the coast of Somalia titled Stable Seas: Somali Waters.
October 2017: Stable Seas launches the first Maritime Security Index at the annual Our Ocean conference in Malta. The inaugural edition of the index provides novel data on nine maritime security issues for 30 countries along the coastline of sub-Saharan Africa. The nine issue areas, which would go on to provide an organizational heuristic for years of research, are: International Cooperation, Maritime Enforcement, Rule of Law, Coastal Welfare, Blue Economy, Fisheries, Maritime Mixed Migration, Illicit Trades, and Piracy and Armed Robbery.
January 2018: Due to the initial success of the Index, Stable Seas is asked by the U.S. Naval War College and the U.S. Navy to begin supporting the annual Obangame Express (Atlantic Africa) and Cutlass Express (Western Indian Ocean) multilateral naval exercises. The index is presented as a scene-setting overview of each region’s complex maritime security environment.
October 2018: One Earth Future classifies Stable Seas as an independent program and provides funding to hire an international full-time team of staff and contractors.
February 2019: With the support of the UNODC, Stable Seas: Sulu and Celebes Seas is launched in Manila as the first in-depth regional qualitative study based on the nine issue areas of the Maritime Security Index. UNODC would later request and fund similar reports on regions including the Bay of Bengal, Gulf of Guinea, Caribbean, and Western Indian Ocean. These reports led to a variety of engagements and requests for more detailed technical assistance with national and regional stakeholders in these respective regions.
May 2019: Stable Seas releases its first major study on maritime terrorism, establishing the “5T Framework” in Soft Targets and Black Markets: Terrorist Activities in the Maritime Domain.
June 2019: With the support of the UNODC, Stable Seas launches the first of its annual State of Maritime Piracy reports to continue the annual series initiated by Oceans Beyond Piracy in 2010.
December 2019: Stable Seas launches a new Maritime Security Index that expands coverage into South and Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East for the first time. The Index expansion greatly increased the visibility of Stable Seas and level of engagement with partners in these regions.
February 2020: Stable Seas begins working with the International Maritime Organization to provide maritime security and maritime terrorism trainings to international naval officers in the Western Indian Ocean region.
August 2020: Stable Seas launches Violence at Sea, a major study of how more than 40 global violent extremist organizations use the world’s seas to finance and facilitate their campaigns of violence.
January 2021: Stable Seas raised nearly $300,000 during the pandemic. One Earth Future decides to discontinue the Stable Seas program upon the departure of its Director for the US Naval War College.
February 2021: Stable Seas provides training to Southeast Asian law enforcement on development of subnational maritime security indices.
March 2021: UNODC offers former Stable Seas employees funding to support a new, independent Stable Seas Foundation, which will continue to support multilateral maritime security agreements around the world.


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