University of Gothenburg

Patrick Vrancken

Visiting Professor of Ocean Governance Law from Nelson Mandela University, South Africa

Equitable and transformative ocean governance is essential for humankind’s survival.

Professional biography

I hold a licence en droit from Brussels Free University as well as an LLM and LLD from the University of Cape Town. I joined Nelson Mandela University (then the University of Port Elizabeth) in 1996 as the Head of the Department of Public Law, a position I retained until 2013 when I took up the position of incumbent of the South African Research Chairs Initiative’s Chair in the Law of the Sea and Development in Africa.

What are your main research interests?

My main research interest is the international law of the sea as it applies in the African maritime domain together with the domestic law of Africa’s 39 coastal States. This necessitates focusing on a range of issues such as maritime security and integrity, the contribution of marine spatial planning in redressing the injustices of the past at the national and international levels and the role of disadvantaged individuals and communities in ocean governance.

How does your research have influence beyond the academic world? Does this include any roles you have beyond the academy?

My research has an impact on ocean governance in the African maritime domain in that it expounds or assists in expounding among African ocean stakeholders a field of the law until now comparatively little researched in many African States. In addition, I lead the expert body assisting the South African government in capacity-building efforts in marine protection services and ocean governance.

Is teaching still a significant part of your working life? What particular method or approach would you say characterises your teaching?

My position as the incumbent of a research chair limits the extent of my teaching. When I have the opportunity to do so, I strive to demystify what is a very complex area of the law by adapting to the individuals I am interacting with and making the engagement process as enjoyable as possible.

What specific passions or concerns particularly inspire you in your work?

I am passionate about the opportunities that sound ocean governance of the African maritime domain will create for the section of humankind who lives on the African continent. At the same time, I am concerned by the negative effects on the whole of humankind of substantive inequalities with regard to the political, social, economic and cultural opportunities that the oceans offer.

Which of your publications would you regard as the most significant and why?

One of my publications that I regard as the most significant is my book on South Africa and the Law of the Sea, published in 2011. This is because it brought South Africa into the small circle of States with regard to which such a work exists and laid a firm foundation for the further development of the field in South Africa. I am presently leading a six-volume book project on The Law of the Sea: Contemporary Norms and Practice in Africa, that builds on The Law of the Sea – The African Union and its Member States, published in 2017.

What are you particularly hoping to achieve during your time as a Visiting Professor in Gothenburg?

I am hoping to further the exchange of ideas, strengthen important strategic research areas and create possibilities for improved and deepened cooperation in the field of ocean governance between the Institute of Coastal and Marine Research at Nelson Mandela University, together with its partners, and the School of Business Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg, together with its own partners.


Would you like to meet Patrick and/or have an idea for future cooperation?
Send an email to his contact person at the School: Lena Gipperth
Or visit his home university website!


Patrick Vrancken
Patrick Vrancken

Focus areas

  • African maritime domain
  • law of the sea
  • ocean governance
  • substantive equality


The Richard C. Malmsten Memorial Foundation