Summary Remarks from Governance of Flow workshop, ESI@BNE 30 Apr – 01 May 2019

Let me turn first yesterday.  And in doing so let me start with a reflection on our seminar by Warwick that nicely, and succinctly, sums up much of what we have learnt over the course of yesterday:

‘In Ports’ he said, ‘there are a sh*t load of actors’. 

And what this ‘sh*t load of actors’ do, has to be ordered and coordinated if port security is to be established and maintained.

This was a central message of yesterday.  The message throughout was a message of partnerships, networks, polycentric nodal assemblages – how important they are, what they are, what they should be, when the work and when they don’t work, how to ensure that they do work and so on.

This was the message of discussions re the nature of port security in both Antwerp and of Brisbane. 

Notwithstanding the fact that these ports are so very different. 

The nature of the partnerships we learnt varied, but not the fact that partnerships were what mattered for effective port security. 

Partnership, partnerships, partnerships.  Networks, networks, networks.

Public to public agency partnerships.  Public to private partnerships.  And private to private partnerships. 

Julie raised this polycentric theme at the outset, and it was a theme that remained front and centre throughout our discussions yesterday.

A second theme, a theme that Kathy raised in her presentation that was present throughout the day yesterday, was that what this ‘sh*t load of actors’ do is tightly regulated, and ordered.

This regulation is done by codes/standards/regulations that cascade down from global codes, to national codes, to more specific local codes. 

It is these standards and codes that enable ports to operate as nodes in a global marine network. 

Like the theme of partnerships this too was a theme that reoccurred across the presentations. 

Associated this theme of codes, was the presence within ports of a complex set of system intended to ensure that codes were complied with. 

Monitoring systems and audit systems. 

As Kathy’s presentation made clear these audit systems constitute a core architecture of port security — whatever port one is talking about. 

These accountability systems may, and indeed do, vary between ports.   

But what does not vary, is the presence of these compliance systems.

These themes together painted a picture for us yesterday of port security as resting on a triangular foundation.  A triangle of security.

* at the top of the triangle are partnerships

* and at the bottom of the triangle are codes and audit systems to ensure compliance with these codes. 

This triangle leads me to the point that Jim raised very powerfully several times.  To quote Jim — ‘Complacency is our biggest problem’. 

The Achilles heel of port security, Jim argued, is complacency.  Port security breaks down when the triangle is not strong, and this happens when people become smug and self-satisfied.  When they become complacent. 

When this happens the triangle of port security breaks down. 

In short.  Port security become vulnerable when essential partnerships are not nurtured.  And when Codes are not followed. 

At the heart of this dual failure, is a failure of auditing systems, compliance systems.

Stanny added to this analysis when he made clear that ports were had two faces.  They were at the centre of two contesting economies.  Legal economies and illegal economies. 

The conclusion he drew from this was that a crucial job of port security organisations was to make the use of the infrastructures that ports provided by players operating within illegal economies as difficult for these players as possible.  Frustrate illegal economies, enable legal ones.

Put differently, to use Castell’s term, a term that Marleen introduced us to, the aim of port securities is was to make the ‘spaces of flows’ that ports enable as unhelpful as possible for those seeking to use them to facilitate illegal flows and as helpful as possible to those seeking to use them to facilitate legal economies. 

What Stanny analysis did for us yesterday, was to situate ports as the centre of contesting economies. 

Competing economies with ports as central sites of this competition. 

Stanny expressed this nicely when he said that a central question of port security was: ‘who is leading the dance’.

Given this context the purpose of the triangle of port security is to frustrate illegal flows and enable legal flows.  This is the purpose of partnerships.  The purpose of codes. And the purpose of the compliance systems designed to frustrate complacency. 

Later on, in the day yesterday these ideas that Stanny had canvased earlier were summarized nicely by Robert Burns when he noted that ports, and port security was, in the final analysis, all about ‘facilitating trade’ – legal trade that is. 

And it was this vision of ports as facilitators of legal trade that is the glue, so to speak, of good partnerships.  Be the partners from the public or the private sector.  The goal that united them was enabling trade. 

Trade, that Warwick pointed out was the foundation of our quality of life as Australians.  In fleshing this out Warwick talked of the in-flows of liquid fuels to Australia as a prime example.  Without a constant flow of these fuels into Australia our lives would grind to a halt.

Chris took the exploration of partnerships further when he argued that at the heart of effective partnerships was intelligence.   Given this, he argued, that a crucial question for effective partnerships was how this intelligence could be safely made available to the partners that make up security networks. 

This issue of sharing information was raised again and again when people spoke of the important of trust, of building relationships and so on. 

A typical way in which this was expressed yesterday was the possibility of being able to pick up phone and talk to the right person.  A term that was used to summarize this state of affairs was an effective ‘security culture’. 

Information and the trust that enables effective partnerships is what enables the action trio of, Prevention, Preparation and Response, that Chris identified as crucial to port security.

Chris summarised this nicely when he said, and I might not have the wording quite right,

‘Building resilience must be through public and private sector partnerships and this is in the national interest’.

So, a return, via the lens of resilience, to our port security triangle.

Now to today – Day 2. 

Today the themes I have already canvassed reappeared and new ones were added.  For example, re the themes from Day 1, Peter remind us in his opening remarks of how;

* NB ‘perfomance focused partnerships’ were to the Port of Brisbane and that

* The Port was a ‘supply chain enabler’.

Philip shifted out attention from what happens in ports as portals that enabled flows of goods and services to the global architecture of ports as geopolitical entities – global systems of gates controlling ingress and egress across the globe and the conduits that linked them together.

Martin brought us back to partnerships and polycentricity and the structures of these networks, with findings a Norwegian Port not that dissimilar to Eva’s for Brisbane – namely clusters of nodal engagements.

Port security he said is: ‘produced and delivered through networks.’

He showed us how these networks brokered exchanges of information and how like tended to cluster with like in networks – he termed this homophily — to both include and exclude. 

We then went on to series of debates where the themes above were further explored.

Remarks by Clifford Shearing

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