Guest post: Introducing a new podcast on “Operational Maritime Law”

Today  Lawfire® is pleased to present an essay by Navy lieutenant James Cook introducing a new podcast on Operational Maritime LawThis is an area which really needs a podcast, especially one that, as LT Cook puts it, is aimed at those with “little-to-no familiarity with maritime law.”  I plan to become regular listener, and you may want to do so as well.  Here’ LT Cook’s description of this important new effort:

New Podcast: Operational Maritime Law

by LT James Cook, USN

On January 5th 2023 the NATO Centre of Excellence for Operation in Confined and Shallow Waters (COE CSW) released the first few episodes of a new Operational Maritime Law Podcast.

As the host and co-creator of this podcast, it might be reasonable for one to assume that I’m a maritime law expert looking to spread my arcane wisdom to the masses. Not so (sorry to disappoint). Rather, I’m just a Surface Warfare Officer trying to better understand the relationship between my profession and the law.

Since joining the COE CSW in 2021, I have had the unique opportunity to reflect on that dynamic with some of the world’s foremost scholars and practitioners of operational maritime law, and this podcast invites you to listen-in on those conversations.

The COE CSW has, for more than a decade, been at the forefront of educating NATO forces on the relevance of maritime law for the conduct of their operations. Our most well-known of these efforts is the annual Conference on Operational Maritime Law – where we bring together experts and operators from around the globe to discuss the most pressing legal issues related to the alliance´s maritime interests – but we have also been persistently engaged in hosting a number of legal workshops, seminars, and, most recently, developing the NATO School Oberammergau (NSO) course on Operational Maritime Law (course no. XX-162).

This podcast is an attempt to bring the knowledge and experiences of those experts, who continue to make our training events so valuable, available to a much wider audience of legal and military professionals. 

Long-time readers of Lawfire® will most likely be familiar with the concept of operational maritime law – even if not by that particular moniker – whether through frequent exposure to the writings of Professor Raul “Pete” Pedrozo (see: here and here), by way of guest contributions from experts like Andrés Munoz Mosquera, or even as the result of personal experience. Nonetheless, Professor Sean Henseler defines it, perhaps most succinctly, in Episode 1, as “any law that’s related to the planning and execution of military operations” at or from the sea.

Much of this law is to be found under the general headings of the ‘Law of the Sea’ and the ‘Law of Naval Warfare’, but behind these generic titles are voluminous sources of treaty law, case law, customary international law, and domestic legislation for the JAG and naval practitioner to be familiar with.

While a podcast is obviously no substitute for reading the Operational Law Handbook, The Commander’s Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations, or any of the primary source documents (the Stockton e-Portal offers an expansive repository), what it does provide is a practical means of familiarizing oneself with many of the topics contained therein.

In that sense, while this podcast may serve primarily as a learning tool for those with little-to-no familiarity with maritime law, it is also be valuable resource for even expert, maritime lawyers to be able to communicate more effectively with operators regarding the legal context, risks, and opportunities of their missions, through an alternative teaching medium.

About the author

LT James Cook is a Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy. He currently serves as a Staff Officer at the NATO Centre of Excellence for Operations in Confined and Shallow Waters (COE CSW) in Kiel, Germany. Prior to commissioning in the Navy, James served as Civil Affairs NCO in the U.S. Army. He holds a B.S. in Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis from Norwich University and M.A. in Government from Johns Hopkins University.

The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect my views or those of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security, or Duke University.  See also here.

Remember what we like to say on Lawfire®: gather the facts, examine the law, evaluate the arguments – and then decide for yourself!


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