Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

Document Type



In my dissertation I seek to answer the questions regarding why some coastal populations turn to maritime crime in domestic and international waters, and others do not. In this work I advocate that generalizable geographic, political, and economic conditions can explain a significant portion of maritime crime. Broadly speaking these conditions are classified into geographic opportunity and a political and economic willingness to act. Through a qualitative analysis of historical outbreaks of maritime crime and international law, as well as a quantitative analysis of acts of maritime crime spanning from 1991 through 2007, I find that a global level of analysis can provide significant insight into outbreaks of maritime crime. Poor economic conditions, low levels of bureaucratic state capacity, and low levels of coercive state capacity encourage outbreaks of maritime crime in domestic and international waters. Furthermore, this project finds that acts of maritime crime in domestic and international waters are impacted by these conditions in different ways. Declining economic conditions have a stronger impact on acts of maritime crime in domestic waters than on acts of maritime crime in international waters. In terms of coercive force, very few states possess a naval capability which can deter acts of maritime crime in international waters. This work also finds that contrary to existing expectations maritime chokepoints are not consistent positive drivers of maritime crime. Rather chokepoints bordered by one to two states are negative drivers of maritime crime in domestic waters, and an insignificant driver of maritime crime in international waters. The only chokepoints which behave in a manner hypothesized by the existing literature are maritime chokepoints bordered in close proximity by the maritime claims of three or more states. These chokepoints with complex international borders create a legal environment which allows potential, and active, maritime criminals to obscure their port of origin, and evade pursuers as naval patrols are explicitly prohibited under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to pursue maritime criminals into the territorial waters of a second state.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Sobek, David