International Max Planck Research School for Maritime Affairs

International Max Planck Research School for Maritime Affairs

Universität Hamburg

Research Focus

The Research School's researchers cover a broad range of aspects of the use, protection and organization of the oceans. The School bolsters interdisciplinary research. Its researchers work in the fields of economics, natural sciences and law.

The Research School is divided into six research clusters: “Maritime Trade and Transport”, “Coastal Zone Management”, “Management of the Marine Environment”, “Ocean and Climate”, “Implications of Climatic Changes in the Arctic” and "Maritime Safety and Security", a new Research Cluster added in 2011. Within these clusters, the research of the natural scientists is directed towards the causal link between certain uses of marine resources and their effects, while the assessment of these effects and the discussion of normative consequences are essentially carried out by legal scholars. In 2011, the Scholars were working particularly in the following clusters:

Maritime Trade and Transport

Lief Bleyen(Belgium), Scholar since 2011, concerns herself with the “Foreign recognition of judicial sale of ships”. The Ph.D. thesis aims at a comparative legal analysis of four European jurisdictions concerning the judicial sale of ships. The main differences together with the similarities will be highlighted. After this, existing international and European regulations concerning the judicial sale of ships will be discussed, together with the draft Convention of the CMI on the topic of foreign recognition of judicial ship sales. The latter topic poses many problems to the international shipping industry and will therefore be an important focal point of the dissertation.

Lina Lumetzberger(Sweden), Scholar since 2011, analyses legal regimes concerning “Deck Cargo”. The purpose of the dissertation is to examine how the German and Swedish maritime law regimes deal with the carrier’s liability for deck cargo. Traditionally, deck stowage was considered negligent per se unless explicitly agreed otherwise. However, this view has changed with technological developments. Today, it is standard for certain types of cargo, such as goods loaded in containers and bulk cargo, to be carried on deck, where in actuality they no longer face greater risks than goods loaded under deck. The Hague-Visby Rules still bear great impact on carriages of goods by sea but are not, on the matter of deck cargo, consistent with the modern view on this kind of carriage. Awaiting the outcome of the ongoing ratification process of the Rotterdam Rules, it is unclear which impact the Rules will have on global trade. Meanwhile, there is no international system that regulates deck cargo in a modern way. A major aim of the dissertation is to scrutinise how Sweden and Germany have dealt with the lack of modern up-to-date international statutory regimes on deck cargo. Differences and similarities between the two legal systems will be highlighted. Of great interest is the question to what extent parties are allowed to contractually deviate from the national statutory maritime law.


Another project in this cluster is undertaken by Mojgan Momeni Farahani (Iran), Scholar since April 2012. Her dissertation analyses "The impacts of economic sanctions on marine insurance." Recent economic sanctions imposed by the USA, the UN and the EU targeting the financial services industries on a number of states, have created problems for ship owners and their insurers. Among all, P&I Clubs have been affected the most, since payment to third parties which are in the list is also included in the prohibited activities. Therefore, P&I clubs might be easily accused of being in breach of sanctions even if the insurance contract is not concluded with a sanctioned state.  It is important for liability insurers to be cautious in arranging insurance and reinsurance agreements and the policies they provide for their members to compliance with sanction regulations. Otherwise, they risk enforcement action or prosecution and high fines. Although some guidelines have been provided for the insurers, there are still ambiguities in sanction regulations. The main purpose of this thesis is to examine the practice of economic sanctions focusing on the legal impacts which have been imposed on marine insurance, especially those which deal with providing third party liability cover. For this purpose it is important to scrutinize the sanction regulations imposed by the USA, the EU and the UN and to find out if they are entirely in line which each other. It will also be discussed, whether there is any conflict between the international sanction regulations and the national laws. In addition, conflicts between sanction regulations and international treaties will also be examined. Finally, the reaction of the Insurance industry to avoid any breach of sanctions legislation and possible solutions for P&I clubs will be addressed.

Further research projects in this field:


“The Law of Salvage and Marine Pollution” (Mi┼Ło Mudric)
“Upstream Energy Insurance” (Vaneeta Patnaik)
"Seaport Law: Privatisation of Port Administration in European Seaports; Deregulation of Port Services and the Question of Port Competition" (Tilo Wallrabenstein)
“International contracts of carriage: between uniform law and the Rome I Regulation” (Johannes Schilling)
“Towards a future European Maritime Administration?” (Sara Vatankhah)
“Ship Sale and Purchase” (Niklas Trümper)
“The Due Diligence in Maritime Transportation in the Technological Era” (Victor Hugo Chacon)

"Port State Jurisdiction" (Bevan Marten)

Coastal Zone Management

Over the last decade conservation management as it relates to the sustainable use of coastal resources has come to be understood as an important issue in most developing countries. The objective of these conservation measures has been to ensure sustainability in order to optimise productivity and to obtain the maximum economic value on a long-term basis without destroying the resource ecosystem.

Antarctica is the fifth largest continent of the world. A potential resource which is exciting considerable interest today – even if its use has not yet been proved – is the mass of hydrocarbons to be found on the continental shelf. The problem is: Who owns the Antarctic and the mineral resources found there? Runyu Wang’s(China) study (“Interaction between the Antarctic Regime and International Treaty Law”) addresses the international law on Antarctic mineral resource exploitation. Of initial importance is an examination of the legal status of the Antarctic. Seven states have claimed territories in the Antarctic. How should we treat these claims? By analysing modes of territory acquisition and by considering typical cases, the dissertation explores these claims. The conclusion which is drawn from the above analyses will be critical to subsequent studies of regulations on Antarctic mineral resource exploitation.

Another project in this research cluster is being undertaken by Jana Müller(Germany), Scholar since 2011 (“An integrated approach to evaluate impacts of land use change to marine ecosystems”). The surface of the earth is changed by agriculture, forestry, livestock husbandry and urbanisation. Land use changes caused by human activities have strong effects on the fluxes of phosphorus and nitrogen to the landscape. In addition, inputs of phosphorus and nitrogen in the form of fertilisers are necessary to maintain profitable agriculture. These inputs of nutrients often exceed crop needs. In consequence, the surplus may accumulate in soils or move into adjacent surface waters and finally accumulate in the marine ecosystem and cause eutrophication. The research concentrates on estimating nutrient loading of freshwater and coastal marine ecosystems with a main focus on identifying fluxes of phosphorus and nitrogen from non-point sources. Currently, the main source of diffuse nutrients is agriculture influenced by various factors such as the type and intensity of land use, soil conditions and climate. In addition to natural conditions, supplemental social and economic conditions and constraints are considered. The project addresses the question how anthropogenically induced changes in land use or management (e.g. conservation practices, nutrient applications, possible control strategies) influence the pollution of coastal-marine ecosystems.


The final project in this cluster is Ruth Sos del Diego's (Spain), Scholar since August 2012) dissertation on "The impact of sugarcane plantations on coastal waters in Brazil". In recent decades Brazil has become one of the largest producers of sugarcane worldwide. However, many are concerned about the environmental impacts. Previous studies indicate a considerable correlation between the extent of sugarcane plantations and the contamination of affected water bodies. Particularly, the transportation of agricultural pollutants from plantations through the river system is seen as main non-point pollution source for coastal areas. This research focuses on the impacts of sugarcane monocultures on coastal waters in Brazil also considering possible mitigation strategies. The study couples an economic land use model, a hydrological watershed model, and a regional ecological model for coastal areas. The linked modeling system will depict the spatially and temporally resolved influences of land use on water quality and assess how these impacts change with climate change, social development, and environmental policy. The research addresses the question how the pollution of coastal waters may be better integrated into private and public decision-making in the future to provide society with an optimal balance between market and environmental goods.

 Further research projects in this field:

"Modeling fishlarvae dynamics (Fam. Clupeidae) in an upwelling area off the Vietnamese Coast in the South China Sea" (Annika Weseloh)
Police Law on Sea" (Sirid Bredehöft)
Maritime Claims in the Arctic – The Norwegian Perspective (Thilo Neumann)

"Joint development agreements of offshore hydrocarbon deposits"(Vasco Becker-Weinberg)

Management of Marine Environment

The cluster “Management of the Marine Environment” is closely connected with the studies undertaken in the cluster “Coastal Zone Management”, the issue of environmental protection and the use of coastal waters being an important feature here as well.

Solène Guggisberg`s(Switzerland) analyses the current situation of many commercially-exploited fish species. Overfishing, coupled with illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing dangerously depletes stocks, threatening to drive some species to the brink of extinction. Institutional cooperation is central in the highly fragmented field of protection of commercially-exploited fish species. The partnership between CITES, the FAO and regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) is at the core of Guggisberg’s study. Indeed, it would be an attractive option to use the CITES structure to implement the FAO’s main goal of responsible and sustainable fisheries and to take advantage of the FAO’s expertise to provide CITES with the best available scientific data and information. However, disagreements remain about the role and suitability of CITES regarding fisheries management. To assess the best global and regional solutions to the challenges faced by commercially-exploited fish species, the main questions underlying this research are thus, first, whether the FAO-CITES partnership is the path to follow in order to protect commercially-exploited fish species; how this partnership can be made more cost-effective; and, finally, what the respective roles of CITES, FAO and RFMOs – whose crucial responsibility must not be overlooked – are concerning commercially-exploited fish species.

Garyfalia Nikolakaki (Greece), Scholar since 2011, examines international and European legal challenges surrounding the prevention and control of pollution by offshore installations. The international necessity for the improvement of offshore safety in marine waters becomes particularly pressing and evident after large-scale accidents such as the “Deepwater Horizon” oil spill, as well as, due to the foreseeable proliferation of offshore oil, gas and wind installations in the years to come. This research aims to illustrate the development and to analyse the legal gaps of the international and European legal regimes for offshore pollution prevention and control. By presenting and combining the practices of the states to combat pollution from offshore installations, this study will provide for an evaluation of the best available legal approaches to date. Special emphasis will be placed on the problem of the removal and disposal of disused offshore installations. Additionally, the European Union Environmental Liability Directive will be assessed with regard to its appropriateness as a legislative instrument for the improvement of offshore safety in Europe. Following this legal analysis, different approaches to the Directive will be suggested with regard to the extent of its application in the Member States.

The research project of Young-Kyung Yoon (Germany), Scholar since 2011, deals with “Mechanisms for ensuring compliance and enforcement in respect of states’ obligations to protect the marine environment”. In order to protect the marine environment, states have been establishing numerous and various international instruments that deal with the different threats and problems existing for the marine environment. They have thereby committed themselves to give effect to these international rules and standards in their national systems. The implementation and enforcement efforts by the states at the national level, however, have not been as strong as the constant and considerable increase of norms of international marine environmental law. Rather – as has been the case in regard to international environmental law in general – one can observe a failure of the states to effectively implement and enforce the international rules in their national legal systems, the result being marginal compliance with their international obligations. Throughout the last years, it has repeatedly been pointed out that rather than (solely) developing further regulations, better implementation and enforcement of the existing rules by the states was needed in order to prevent further degradation of the marine environment. Against this background, the focus of the Young-Kyung Yoon’s study will be an analysis of what has been and what can further be done through international law to ensure compliance with international marine environmental law. It has been observed that a “differentiated mix of tools to ensure compliance” is constituted by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, regional agreements and the conventions concerning specific environmental problems. It is this “mix of tools” for promoting, monitoring/controlling and, where necessary, enforcing compliance with international marine environmental law that will be considered and evaluated in order to see where further mechanisms or improvement might be appropriate.

Further research projects in this field:
“Entry-Into-Force Implications of the Hong Kong Ship Recycling Convention on European Regulation” (Urs D. Engels)
"Liability in the Context of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes by Sea: The 1999 Protocol to the Basel Convention" (Jan Albers)
"2007 Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks" (Verena Lahmer)

“Exploring the dynamics of marine phytoplankton with a functional group model” (Sonja Ziehm)


Ocean and Climate

Elke Ludewig(Germany), Scholar since 2011, examines the “Influence of wind farms on the atmosphere and oceanic circulation”. Today’s world is shaped by challenges presented by the usage of renewable energy. In this respect, wind energy plays an important role. Europe, especially northern Europe, has considerable offshore wind resources, and due to the growing need for energy, countries around the North Sea have begun to plan, build and use offshore wind farms (OWFs). But apart from the energy advantage, the impact on the atmosphere, ocean and coasts has not been completely ascertained. OWFs extract energy from the atmosphere, which leads to lower wind speeds behind such parks, the so-called wake-effect. The influence of this effect on the ocean has not yet been assessed. Consequences are rudimentarily summarised in the LOICZ (Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zones) project. Reduced wind speed due to OWFs leads to strong changes in temperature caused by intensified vertical and horizontal exchanges, which affect an area much wider than the OWF area itself. The main focus of the dissertation will be the physical assessment of these effects using ocean and atmosphere models. The understanding of the complex hydrodynamical system will, inter alia, help to determine effects on the ecosystem. Additionally, the local climate of OWFs and their impact on the surroundings will be analysed.


The dissertation project of Julia Köhler (Germany), Scholar since July 2012, is devoted to "Inferring Changes in the global Hydrological Cycle using Ocean Surface Salinity Observations". Salinity is an important indicator of the global water cycle variability and provides information about the exchange between the ocean and atmosphere as well as cryosphere and terrestrial components of the Earth's climate system. Changes in salinity do impact the density field of the ocean which can be directly associated with changes in ocean  currents and transports.  The input of freshwater from continents, for example, is of major interest in research concerned with global monitoring of freshwater resources, the flux of matter into coastal areas and the sea, or the influence of freshwater fluxes on circulation patterns. Analyzing salinities at the sea surface will enhance our understanding of ocean circulation changes and transports, exchange processes between ocean and atmosphere, as well as the influence of these changes on the society. The research concentrates on the analysis of novel space-based and in situ observations of sea surface salinities focusing on surface freshwater fluxes as part of a changing global freshwater cycle.  The agreement of existing climate models with observations will be investigated. SMOS and Aquarius surface salinity fields will be assimilate jointly with other ocean data sets to improve our knowledge about run off and surface freshwater fluxes and to study the influence of changes on the hydrological cycle and dynamical processes.

Implications of Climatic Changes in the Arctic

A current research project in this field is “International environmental governance of the marine Arctic” (Lilly Weidemann)

Maritime Safety and Security

Inadequate or insufficient maritime safety may cause maritime casualties. Whereas maritime trade is nowadays regulated by an increasing number of provisions – both in international conventions and under domestic law – which aim at the implementation of standards for maritime safety and the protection of the marine environment, there will always be incidents causing damages or harm and questions of responsibility will consequently arise. A number of conventions and draft conventions deal with civil liability for environmental harm, most often channelling the responsibility to the ship owner, but there are important gaps with regard to cargoes other than oil or damages other than pollution. Additionally, conventions on maritime law create certain obligations for flag states, coastal states and port states, giving rise to liabilities for other States, and, possibly, for private entities. In her study on “Maritime Casualties – Responsibility and Liability”, Sarah Fiona Gahlen(Germany), Scholar since 2011, will scrutinise the different systems under which liability for maritime casualties flows and will highlight existing gaps, possibly suggesting mechanisms which could be used to fill them.


With his dissertation on “Extra-territoriality and the criminal law protection of the High Seas’ marine environment”, Jan Frederik Eller aims to determine the fundamentals of the application of criminal law to acts on ships and originating from ships, focusing on the High Seas. On an administrative level, international cooperation for the protection of the marine environment is developing constantly. Even though many questions are still to be solved, international mechanisms are being developed to determine and execute common rules of environmental protection. Nevertheless, as in most national legal systems, a holistic approach to the protection of the environment should include criminal law as a means of enforcement. Despite the necessity, there is some reluctance in applying criminal law on acts at sea as this might interfere with the national sovereignty of nations and the Freedom of the Seas. Taking into account the difficulty of prosecution with might be faced and fostered by states issuing so-called “flags of convenience”, the admissibility of jurisdiction of states other than the flag state must be scrutinized. In light of the need to protect the oceans, Jan Frederik Eller’s study shall examine whether there can be established, in a state other than the flag state, a jurisdiction to prescribe criminal law statutes and/or a jurisdiction to enforce existing rules and/or a jurisdiction to adjudicate alleged violations.

Further research projects in this field:
“Effective criminal prosecution suspected pirates” (Tim René Salomon)
“The use of private security companies to combat piracy” (Christiane Oehmke)