A power analysis of a transforming marine community around oil transshipment at St. Eustatius
The strategic location of small islands in the Caribbean, close to the United States of America (USA), and their historical trade roots as former colonies of Europe make them an interesting business environment. Small islands' eagerness for economic development and their limited governance capacity often result in an unequal relationship between multinational private parties and small islands' policy actors, especially in regard to environmental management. This is also observed at St. Eustatius, a small Caribbean island that hosts a crucial oil storage and transshipment terminal that compromises the environmental state of the small island. However, in 2010, St. Eustatius (Statia) became part of the Netherlands, which significantly changed the responsibilities related to environmental management. Bringing the environmental state back in reversed existing power relations. To analyze these changing power dynamics, we apply the new social scientific concept of marine community, which encompasses a user community and a policy community and shows the different interests and power dynamics within and between them. While governance of the oil terminal used to be determined by structural power in the user community on behalf of NuStar, it currently relies on the structural power of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment (I&E) in the policy community. In theory, structural power to bring the environmental state back in would be beneficial for governance. In practice, however, this is challenging because a small island environmental state is different from the environmental state in countries in Western societies. Although the Dutch Ministry has structural power, the way it relates to others (dispositional power) and uses resources (relational power) should be better adapted to the needs and characteristics of small island environmental states such as Statia.
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