Drs. Ilja Van Hespen is Lieutenant Commander in the Belgian Navy, Head of the Section Governance of the Naval Policy Staff of the Operational Command and Doctoral Researcher at the Royal Military Academy (KMS), Ghent University (U Gent) and the Free University of Brussels (VUB). He is also a Researcher at the Rolin-Jaequemyns International Law Institute Ghent.
He is a PhD candidate in Law at Ghent University and the Free University of Brussels.
He is also a PhD candidate in Social and Military Sciences at the Royal Military Academy.
Ilja Van Hespen has completed a Master in Military and Nautical Sciences and a Master of Science in Business Engineering.
He has started his military career in 1990.
His professional experience includes a period as deck officer on board mine hunters and on board the Belgian frigate F912 Wandelaar.
As such, in 2003, he has participated in the counterdrugs operation ‘West Shark’ in the Caribbean. From 2004 to 2009 he was a Procurement Officer within the Procurement Division of the General Directorate Material Resources.
In 2010 he contributed to the fight against maritime piracy in the Horn of Africa as Information Operations Officer for the European Union in the Operational Headquarters of the European Union Naval Forces (EUNAVFOR) in Northwood (UK).
From 2010 to 2012 he was a Faculty Member of the Department of Economics, Management and Leadership within the Faculty of Social and Military Sciences of the Royal Military Academy. Since 2012 he is a Faculty Member of the Chair of Law.
From 2012 to 2019 he was a Faculty Member of the Chair of Law of the Department of Behavioral Sciences of the Faculty of Social and Military Sciences of the Royal Military Academy, teaching classes in the fields of criminal law, public international law, international humanitarian law and maritime law.
His research focuses on legal issues related to all violent acts in the maritime domain, such as maritime piracy, drugs trafficking or maritime terrorism.
His doctoral research addresses the issue :
‘How to build and implement an effective and efficient legal system to combat violence (maritime terrorism, piracy, drugs) at sea?’
The question whether all violent acts in the maritime domain, such as acts related to maritime piracy, drugs trafficking, maritime terrorism or “eco-piracy”, can be combined into one legal concept of maritime violence has been answered in the form of an article recently published by the International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law :
‘Developing the Concept of Maritime Piracy : A Comparative Legal Analysis of International Law and Domestic Criminal Legislation.’
The question whether it is legally possible, politically desirable and operationally feasible for the international community of sovereign states or members thereof to use Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP) to protect merchant ships from maritime piracy, has been answered in an article published by the Journal of Maritime and Coastal Law :
‘Protecting merchant ships from maritime piracy by Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP). A comparative legal analysis of Flag State legislation and Port and Coastal State requirements.’
The specific question whether as a result of the Dutch Law to Protect Merchant Shipping 2019 (published in the Dutch official Gazette on June 7th, 2019) containing rules for the use of armed private security guards on board Dutch maritime merchant ships a level playing field will emerge with the Merchant Navies from the neighboring Flag States of Belgium, the United Kingdom, Spain and Denmark, is addressed in an article published by the journal ‘Tijdschrift voor Veiligheid’, presenting a comparative analysis of the domestic legislation of these countries:
‘De inzet van privaat gewapend maritiem beveiligingspersoneel of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP) aan boord van Belgische en Nederlandse koopvaardijschepen: Een rechtsvergelijkende analyse van de wetgeving van Europese vlaggenstaten‘
He has participated as a contributor to several conferences (London, Antwerp, Compiègne) in the field of maritime security.