Though we generally try to distill naval operations down to their simplest binary terms - fleet versus fleet - maritime operations in both peacetime and in war are more complex endeavors. Today and throughout history, contractors, mercenaries, and other non-governmental entities have played more of a role in maritime security on the high seas than most navalists would like to admit. Some of these arrangements are contractual and sanctioned by legitimate government entities, some of them are ad hoc, and some operate on legally murky waters. Some are based mutual economic benefits, but many are designed to enhance security.
Public-private partnerships, as they are sometimes called, are making a difference at sea across the globe. Especially in Africa, there are numerous recent examples encompassing both for profit and non-profit organizations. In South Africa, Operation Phakisa brings together teams from government, business, academia and other sectors to accelerate the economic benefit stemming from marine transport and manufacturing, offshore oil and gas exploration, and aquaculture, while protecting marine resources.
Syren's Song is an entertaining read for those who enjoy geopolitical thrillers. The novel reinforces an important point: our adversaries exploit their own collaborative networks of commercial interests - both legal and illegal - to meet their objectives. Conversely, modern navies should recognize that public-private partnerships in their many forms are a tool that can augment and enhance their fleets while filling maritime security gaps in countries that have neither the will, nor capacity to police their own waters.
*Letters of Marque were generally outlawed in 1856 by the Declaration of Paris, but continued for some time, especially during the US. Civil War.