High Seas Crime Becoming More Sophisticated, Endangering Lives, International Security, Speakers Tell Security Council
Crime on the high seas is becoming increasingly sophisticated, endangering human life on land, the economic growth of entire regions and global safety, the head of the United Nations anti-crime agency warned the Security Council today, underscoring the vital role of international legal treaties in combating the scourge.
Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), briefing via video-teleconference from Vienna, told the 15-member Council that maritime crime involved vessels, cargoes, crews and illicit money flows from many regions. With its reach spanning from sea to coast guard offices, courtrooms and prisons, the Office works to curb cocaine trafficking in the Atlantic, heroin trafficking in the Indian Ocean, migrant smuggling in the Mediterranean, and piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea.
“These crimes pose an immediate danger to people’s lives and safety, they undermine human rights, hinder sustainable development, and as this Council has recognized, they threaten international peace and security,” Mr. Fedotov stressed.
He urged Member States to ratify and effectively implement the relevant international legal framework to curb maritime crime, stressing the critical role of various United Nations instruments, including the Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols, the Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation.
He also noted UNODC’s work in supporting trials in Kenya and Seychelles, its involvement in the humane imprisonment of convicted pirates and its recently completed first phase of the Mogadishu Prison and Court Complex, which will soon be handed over to the Federal Government of Somalia to provide a secure environment for the trial of those suspected of maritime crime. Underlining the important collaboration between his agency and other international agencies, he commended support from the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and he urged countries to enhance technical assistance so that “criminal kingpins” are brought to justice.
Florentina Adenike-Ukonga, Executive Secretary of the Gulf of Guinea Commission, also briefing the Council, recalled that the Commission was established in 2001 to reduce and eventually eliminate transnational crimes at sea. Crime is on the rise in the Gulf, destabilizing the entire region while threatening international peace and security. Along some 9,650 miles of coastline, the area covers a wide expanse of water which no one country can successfully patrol. The Commission has become critical in identifying problems, pooling resources and encouraging member countries to secure their maritime borders.
Transnational organized crime in the Gulf of Guinea can be reduced through coordinated national, regional and international intervention, she continued. At the national level, she recommended Governments resolve disagreements with criminal perpetrators, provide opportunities to curb restlessness of young people and create adequate jobs at home. While cooperation among neighbouring countries on illicit crime is essential, global partners could also offer assistance for poverty-reduction projects and investment in vital infrastructure.
“What is happening in the Gulf of Guinea is important for everyone here,” said Simeon Oyono Esono Angue, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Equatorial Guinea, in the ensuing discussion.
He commended international and regional efforts, including the African Union’s initiative to foster the development of a prosperous and sustainable “blue economy”. Countries in Central and West Africa, including Equatorial Guinea, share the Gulf of Guinea, which is one of the largest and most populated geopolitical spaces on the continent. “The zone is essential for the survival of my country,” he stressed.
Sounding a similar alarm, South Africa’s representative said that, every day, an average of 580 ships traverse the country’s more than 2,800‑kilometre coastline. Transnational crimes at sea fuel conflicts in Africa, deny his country millions of dollars of revenue and contribute to the spread of small arms and light weapons, and drug and human trafficking. While welcoming progress made in regional initiatives, including through the African Union’s Decade of the African Seas and Oceans, he called for robust, coordinated approaches at the national, regional and international levels.
The representative of Sri Lanka said that, as an island nation strategically located in the Indian Ocean, his country recognized the unique nature of high seas which fall outside the jurisdiction of a single State. He expressed concern that the seabed is fast becoming a tangle of ungoverned seabed cables, presenting a new threat to international peace and security. “These crimes must not be allowed to fall into a zone where a legal vacuum exists,” he warned.
Many speakers emphasized the need to address the root causes that drive young people to engage in illegal activities in the first place. Japan’s representative said poverty provides a fertile environment for organized crime. “What pushes a young person to take extraordinary risks every day to produce illegal kerosene to sell on the black market, or to hijack a tanker and take hostages for ransom? Poverty and a lack of opportunity,” he said.
The representative of the Dominican Republic expressed deep concern over the data on drug trafficking, which has greatly affected his region. The trafficking of cocaine, heroin and opioids is particularly alarming, he stressed, adding that opioids alone claimed the lives of almost 48,000 people in 2017 in the United States. He also echoed calls to deal with the root causes that lead young people towards transnational organized crime. More must be done to provide youth with opportunity for development, he stressed.
Also speaking today were representatives of France, Belgium, Russian Federation, United States, Côte d’Ivoire, Germany, China, Indonesia, Peru, Kuwait, Poland, United Kingdom, Senegal, Norway, Trinidad and Tobago, Italy and the Philippines.
The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 1:05 p.m.
YURY FEDOTOV, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), via video-teleconference from Vienna, said that transnational marine crime has become increasingly sophisticated. The Office is working with Member States to counter the smuggling of migrants and terrorist material, and attacks on shipping in the Gulf of Aden. Its work also focuses on curbing cocaine trafficking in the Atlantic, heroin trafficking in the Indian Ocean, piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea, illegal fishing worldwide and migrant smuggling in the Mediterranean.
“These crimes pose an immediate danger to people’s lives and safety, they undermine human rights, hinder sustainable development, and as this Council has recognized, they threaten international peace and security,” Mr. Fedotov said. Underscoring the critical role of various United Nations instruments in curbing this scourge, he stressed the importance of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols, the Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, and the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation. Since maritime crime involves vessels, cargoes, crews and illicit money flows from many regions, UNODC’s working methods must be innovative, efficient and effective. Hence, the work of the Office spans from the seas to coast guard offices, courtrooms and prisons.
The UNODC continues to support trials in Kenya and Seychelles, as well as the humane and secure imprisonment of convicted pirates, Mr. Fedotov continued. The Office recently completed the first phase of the Mogadishu Prison and Court Complex, which will be handed over shortly to the Federal Government of Somalia and which will provide a secure environment for the trial of those suspected of maritime crime. Such activities are implemented with the support of the European the Union Naval Forces, International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other partners in the commercial maritime sector. UNODC is also working to secure the container trade supply chain, as it also more broadly focuses on countering terrorism, and the trafficking of migrants and firearms. He urged Member States to facilitate mutual legal assistance to address the expansion of transnational organized crime at sea, through ratification and effective use of the international legal framework. Member States must also enhance technical assistance to one another to ensure that criminal kingpins are brought to justice.
FLORENTINA ADENIKE-UKONGA, Executive Secretary of the Gulf of Guinea Commission, said the Commission — a cooperation mechanism — was established in 2001 to ensure that the threats posed by transnational crimes at sea to economic well‑being and regional peace and security are reduced if not eliminated. Noting that the region boasts natural hydrocarbon and living marine resources and is an important route connecting Africa with Europe and the Americas, she said its location makes it a viable area for criminals to pedal their illicit activities. The Gulf faces increasing criminality, which has a destabilizing effect on the entire region and constitutes a threat to international peace and security. Along some 6,000 miles of coastline, the area covers a wide expanse of water which no one country can successfully patrol; none has the capability to attempt such an assignment. Hence, the Commission works to identify problems, compare notes, relate best practices, encourage member countries to secure their maritime borders and assist each other in such efforts through the pooling of resources.
In addition, through the creation of multinational coordination centres — notably in Duala — and regional maritime coordination centres, she said the Commission has pursued its goals and organized committees to collectively address common issues. In 2018, it held two seminars that brought together experts and Governments to brainstorm ideas with a view to adopting best practices. The respective themes covered “Governance of the Atlantic Ocean in the interests of peace, security and sustainable development of the Gulf of Guinea region” and “The Blue Economy in the interest of food security in the Gulf of Guinea region”. A seminar covering maritime strategy will be held in Accra, Ghana, in March.
Noting that regional countries are taking measures to patrol their waters, she said transnational organized crime in the Gulf of Guinea can be reduced through more coordinated national, regional and international intervention. Nationally, she recommended the resolution of disagreements with criminal perpetrators; the restoration of environment damaged by hydrocarbon exploitation; opportunities to curb youth restlessness; the political inclusion of marginalized people in multiracial and multitribal societies; Government commitment to campaign for hard work at home rather than illegal migration abroad; and the domestication and implementation of agreements signed on the suppression of criminal activities at sea, notably the Yaoundé Code of Conduct concerning the suppression of piracy, armed robbery against ships and illicit maritime activity in West and Central Africa.
At the regional level, she underscored the need for cooperation with neighbouring countries on suspicious movements; joint patrol of the maritime domain; mutualization of maritime assets for better policy implementation; the effective functioning of multinational coordination centres in Duala and elsewhere, as well as of the international coordination centre in Yaoundé. At the international level, it was important for international parties to assist regional countries in carrying out poverty-reduction projects, she said, also advocating direct investment in facilities and infrastructure for the benefit of the population; actions to discourage illegal and unregulated fishing; actions to compel transnational companies to use best practices in the exploitation of resources; actions to establish mechanisms that punish the stealing of crude oil, as well as to ensure that the proceeds of such crimes are forfeited; and international mechanisms to address the dumping of toxic residues. With that three-pronged approach, the threat of transnational organized crime at sea can be reduced or eradicated in the Gulf of Guinea, she asserted.
SIMEON OYONO ESONO ANGUE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Equatorial Guinea, said illegal activities in African maritime space leads to loss of human life and gravely hinders industrial and economic development. He commended international and regional efforts, including the African Union’s initiative to foster the development of a prosperous and sustainable “blue economy”. The first phase of that project focuses on boosting cooperation, capacity-building and coordination within the continent. Countries in Central and West Africa, including Equatorial Guinea, share the Gulf of Guinea, which is one of the largest and most populated geopolitical spaces on the continent. Noting the important role of the Gulf of Guinea Commission, he said that Equatorial Guinea actively participates in a wide range of initiatives to normalize the security situation in the Gulf.
“The zone is essential for the survival of my country,” he said, noting various security agreements with neighboring countries, including Nigeria, in order to better protect mutual interests. These efforts have achieved good results in terms of repressing piracy, the robbing of ships and illicit activities. In September 2014, the Gulf of Guinea Commission set up an interregional coordination center, which is responsible for ensuring the application of the code of conduct. Since then, Equatorial Guinea has contributed to the establishment, financing and operation of a vocational naval school, where officers from 20 African States have been trained.
“What is happening in the Gulf of Guinea is important for everyone here,” he continued, noting the region’s importance as a trade hub. It is important for the global supply of energy. It is also important for the African continent, as the diet of 40 per cent of its population depends on fisheries. The only way of ensuring security at sea is by working together. “If we do so, we will be able to make the most of the benefit the sea gives us,” he said.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), underscoring the economic and social impact of maritime insecurity, emphasized his country’s commitment to addressing the problem in numerous regions, including the Gulf of Guinea, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, often in conjunction with regional and subregional organizations. He recommended that UNODC play a central role in capacity-building in vulnerable States, focused on developing judicial and penal institutions within the framework of the rule of law. He stressed the need for better coordination and information‑sharing among State actors, regional and international organizations, and economic and non-governmental partners, including the maritime industry. Ambitious development polices can meanwhile provide alternatives to coastal populations, he said.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium), noting that the port of Antwerp is the biggest maritime hub for trade between Europe and Africa, said growing piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is a concern for his country. Such a multidimensional challenge calls for a global and integrated strategy. He reviewed Belgium’s efforts to combat piracy, including the deployment of naval vessels off the Horn of Africa and in the Gulf of Guinea. To combat maritime drug trafficking through the port of Antwerp, local and federal police officers, customs agents and prosecutors work under the same roof to better exchange information and strengthen their effectiveness. National efforts will be in vain, however, without genuine regional and international cooperation, he said, emphasizing also the need to address root causes such as deteriorating economic conditions.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) shared concerns about international criminal groups and their work on the high seas, citing illegal migration, as well as the illegal trade in drugs and weapons, and human trafficking. He expressed particular concern over robberies where Russian citizens have been taken hostage on ships. As establishing systemic work to stop criminal activity is not easy, he welcomed efforts by the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal justice in Vienna, among other bodies, citing the Contact Group on Piracy of the Coast of Somalia as an example of a successful regional format and welcoming UNODC’s provision of specialized technical assistance to interested States upon request. While welcoming the strengthening of the United Nations coordination role, he nonetheless advocated the creation of a universal inter-State coordination body, under the United Nations aegis and with a broad geographic remit, which would make it easier to resolve new threats on the high seas. In the Council’s discussions, aspects of piracy and robbery at sea worldwide have been highlighted. Close attention has also been paid to conflict, terrorism and transnational organized crime, including the illegal trade in weapons. The Council has developed a serious legal basis in all such areas. At same time, there are areas where its potential is not so clear, he said, cautioning that questions could be raised if the Council addresses illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing or maritime environmental degradation and assuring delegates of his country’s commitment to cooperate with collective efforts to overcome such threats.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said “we all have a stake in stopping crime at sea” and all countries should be employing all social, diplomatic, law enforcement, judicial and other tools to combat it. All countries that have ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime should redouble their efforts to implement it. He urged all those that have yet to ratify it to do so and thus ensure that transnational criminals can be easily prosecuted. He cited several resolutions to promote maritime security, notably resolutions 1816 (2008), which led to the deployment of international naval forces off the Somalia coast; 2036 (2012) banning the export of Somali charcoal; 2216 (2015) establishing a targeted arms embargo against those threatening security in Yemen; 2375 (2017) banning ship-to-ship transfers of goods to or from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; and 2397 (2017) on seizing and impounding ships found to be violating sanctions. In addition, capacity-building is vital to addressing maritime security. In support of the 2013 Yaoundé process, the United States works with UNODC and INTERPOL to assist countries in the Gulf of Guinea, he said, citing its involvement in joint maritime exercises to combat offshore illicit activities.
GBOLIÉ DESIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) said his country had been confronted by persistent maritime security threats, underscoring the importance of the maritime sector. Maritime piracy compromises economic and social development in the region. A decrease in vessel attacks between 2013 and 2015 had brought hope that the region was exiting the crisis, however, such attacks, mainly against merchant vessels, increased in 2018. The number of piracy acts between Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo has more than doubled. Other violent acts have also increased, he said, citing hostage taking at sea and kidnappings. Piracy also affects the safety of port infrastructure — an economic driver. States in the region recognize the need for a long-term response, with resolution 2039 (2012) encouraging them to devise a regional strategy. Towards that end, at the 2013 Summit of Gulf of Guinea, Heads of State and Government on Maritime Security, Governments of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission adopted a code of good conduct and signed a memorandum of understanding.
Noting that the centre in Cameroon was designed to coordinate with other such centres, especially in Abidjan, he said these efforts are in harmony with the 2050 Africa's Integrated Maritime Strategy and complemented by the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy, adopted in 2014. State capacity in logistic and operational terms must be reinforced, particularly through greater cooperation, as such strategies will not succeed without strong national capacities. “We’re guided by this conviction,” he said, noting that Côte d’Ivoire has devised a national action plan to ensure that the seas serve its economic development. In addition, Côte d’Ivoire, in opening a regional maritime centre for West Africa, demonstrated its commitment to fighting such crimes. He welcomed efforts by regional States to build national capacity in harmony with the African Union and its international partners, stressing that such actions must be based on cooperation, collaboration and coordination.
JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany) said, if unchecked, illegal activities in the Gulf of Guinea could destabilize the entire region. “We can and should do more,” he stressed, calling on the international community to build on solid regional efforts. For its part, Germany has been active in the region, including through contributing financing to four regional coordination centres. The European Union has also supported maritime security programmes in the Gulf of Guinea and remains engaged in security efforts in the Horn of Africa. “Regional ownership in this context is key,” he continued, adding that curbing maritime crime requires looking at the root causes. Without any legal sources of income, young people can easily become attracted to illicit markets.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) urged the international community to coordinate appropriate action to piracy, armed robbery, and migrant and drug trafficking. “Here the availability of adequate resources and cooperation are essential,” he continued. The drug trafficking figures, particularly concerning cocaine, heroin and opioids, are alarming. In the United States alone, opioids claimed the lives of almost 48,000 people in 2017. Beyond the risks to public health, the transnational trafficking of drugs poses a major threat to the economy. It is essential to deal with the root causes that lead the participation of young people in transnational organized crime. That includes limited opportunity for development, he added.
MA ZHAOXU (China) said that oceans are a treasure house of resources. Pirate attacks and trafficking in arms, drugs and persons remain rampant. Illegal activities in the Gulf of Guinea remain grim and continue to hinder the economic and social development of the region. China will continue to support concerned countries in their efforts to crack down on transnational organized crime at sea. Moreover, the international community should actively engage in the construction, operation and maintenance of ports and other infrastructure of coastal States. It is also important to support coastal States and countries in capacity-building of security sectors. He called on the international community to support the African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other regional organizations. To mobilize resources and strengthen international cooperation, relevant agencies should be open to exchanging information and assisting in criminal trials.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said that, as the world’s largest archipelagic country, his nation understands that transnational organized crime must be collectively addressed, as its detrimental impacts are neither isolated nor local, but increasingly regional and global in nature. Criminal groups do not solely operate in countries with weak law enforcement or governance, but rather exploit the finer features of the global economy: banking, trade and communication networks among them. He advocated for a better understanding of the nature and threat of transnational organized crimes, and encouraged the Council to ask the Secretary-General for a report identifying options for enhancing cooperation. National prosecutorial and enforcement capability should be strengthened, he said, stressing the critical role of regional mechanisms as first responders to such crimes at sea, and citing the Malacca Strait Patrols by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in that regard. Crimes related to fisheries entail criminal, as well as human rights aspects, he added, as many vessels committing crimes are also implicated in the forced labour of trafficked persons.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), stressing that fisheries are an important source of food in his country, said the Government prioritized the monitoring of maritime space. He expressed concern that piracy and armed robbery at sea has impacted international navigation and growth, notably in the Gulf of Guinea, where such violence has increased. Stressing that regional countries must lead efforts, notably in addressing the causes of such threats, he said 90 per cent of global trade travels by sea. The Gulf of Guinea, rich in oil and other resources, is becoming a hot spot for crimes on the high seas. He condemned killings and hostage‑taking, calling on regional States to cooperate in bringing the perpetrators to justice and in strengthening legal assistance. Governments should work with the private sector to promote synergies, he said, voicing concern that the drugs transited through the Gulf of Guinea to European and other markets demonstrate the presence of organized crime. Reiterating Peru’s concern about the relationship between transnational crime and terrorism, he noted that terrorists in the Sahel may be profiting from income generated from piracy and armed robbery at sea. He called on IMO to explore new areas for cooperation and for regional organizations to participate in the response to such violence based on the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea. States bear the primary responsibility for addressing such threats, he reaffirmed.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said regional measures form the backbone of the international framework to guarantee safe shipping and prevent maritime crimes from hindering State cooperation. Noting that 90 per cent of trade occurs across the sea, he said the impact of transnational organized crime at sea threatens international security. Criminal groups in the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Guinea and off the Somali coast are involved in drugs, migrant and weapons trafficking, as well as piracy, armed robbery and other terrorist acts against vessels, leading to the loss of human life, damaging trade and disrupting energy distribution. He cited illegal migration at sea as among the greatest global challenges, noting that the economic recession, unemployment and poverty can foster transnational organized crime and the proliferation of terrorist groups. He called for redoubled efforts to combat piracy, stressing that the Convention on the Law of the Sea outlined that all States must cooperate in suppressing piracy on the high seas or anywhere outside State jurisdiction. Steps outlined in Council resolution 2442 (2018) must go hand in hand with national measures. Calling international cooperation between States and regional organizations “a necessity”, and citing the Arab Convention against Transnational Organized Crime in that context, he said such violence is closely connected to terrorism and requires better coordination with the countries facing it, as well as the provision of technical assistance.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) stressed the need for a comprehensive response and a concerted effort, both on sea and land, to tackle illegal maritime activities and their root causes. This requires building maritime security, the implementation of relevant legal frameworks, boosting law enforcement capacities and creating conditions for sustainable prosperity. She welcomed the national, regional and international efforts, including those taken by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), IMO, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and INTERPOL. She commended the involvement of the private sector and civil society and encouraged all stakeholders to continue to develop their cooperation. Poland actively contributes to maritime safety and security, not only in the Baltic Sea to its north, but also to European efforts in the Mediterranean Sea. She further welcomed various security initiatives in the Horn of Arica, calling for greater coordination, information exchange and legal cooperation. The development of legal instruments, including in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, as well as the Caribbean, should continue, as well. She also stressed that all efforts to fight maritime crime be consistent with international law, including the Law of the Sea, and international human rights law.
MXOLISI NKOSI (South Africa) said his country has a coastline exceeding 2,800 kilometres and an exclusive economic zone larger than the size of its land. On average, 580 ships are in its waters every day. Transnational crimes at sea fuel conflicts in Africa and deny his country millions of dollars of revenue. The proceeds from these activities contribute to the spread of small arms and light weapons, protracted conflicts, drugs and human trafficking, terrorism, money‑laundering and increased mercenary activity. It is crucial that a robust, regulatory framework and a coordinated and comprehensive approach be developed at the national, regional and international levels. Welcoming the adoption of Security Council resolutions targeting such crimes off Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea, he said the African Union also adopted the 2050 Integrated Maritime Strategy in 2014 and the Charter on Maritime Security, Safety and Development in 2016. The Union also declared 2015 to 2025 as the Decade of the African Seas and Oceans. For its part, South Africa entered into a trilateral agreement with Mozambique and the United Republic of Tanzania to counter drug trafficking in the Indian Ocean while making maritime protection and governance a priority of its national ocean economy strategy. The Organization’s Member States must strengthen their capacity to enforce international maritime law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which outlines framework applicable to piracy and armed robbery at sea.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said that piracy and marine crime retards development and robs people living on land. International trade is critical to many African economies. Over 90 per cent of imports and exports are transported by sea. Hence, marine security is fundamental to the health of African economies. She commended the efforts of Equatorial Guinea to shed light on the challenges facing the region, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea. The United Kingdom wants to support the region by sharing its own expertise; it looks forward to working even more closely to build indigenous capabilities to address organized crime, from the point of arrest to prosecution, to help create a deterrent. Her Government will continue to provide direct assistance through UNODC. In addition to focusing on the threat at sea, the United Kingdom will continue to work with partners to ensure that development programmes are in line with security initiatives.
KORO BESSHO (Japan) said his country has a national holiday in July called “Marine Day”. Japan conducts 99.6 per cent of its international trade volume through maritime transportation and therefore takes its maritime security very seriously. Japan’s anti-maritime crime efforts are part of its “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” initiative to ensure open sea lanes and enhance connectivity between Asia and Africa. The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia has reduced piracy in Asia over the past decade. Such undertakings have helped secure some of the world’s most vital shipping lanes. Despite these successes, the issue of transnational organized crime at sea remains a concern. This is particularly the case in the Gulf of Guinea. Addressing the crimes there require strategic cooperation at all levels. Ultimately, it is essential to tackle the overarching cause of maritime insecurity: poverty. Poverty provides a fertile environment for organized crime. “What pushes a young person to take extraordinary risks every day to produce illegal kerosene to sell on the black market, or to hijack a tanker and take hostages for ransom? Poverty and a lack of opportunity,” he said.
CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal) said that marine crime is a multifaceted scourge, including terrorism, illegal migration, piracy and trafficking in weapons. International efforts to ensure safe maritime space must be based on constant political will. Senegal is fighting crime on the seas, through an inclusive and participatory approach. It has adopted institutional and legal measures including various codes of conduct aimed at combating crime at sea and provided its navy with better vessels and equipment. Despite these efforts, maritime crime remains an immense challenge. At the international level, better communication and harmonization of legal documents would help coordinate action to ensure maritime security and safety. Expressing concern about complex crimes committed in the Gulf of Guinea, he commended various regional initiatives that aim to ensure that the sea is a main driver of socioeconomic development in Africa.
AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka) said that, as an island nation strategically located in the Indian Ocean, his country is well aware of the importance of creating a maritime order that can withstand threats from transnational criminal acts. With its sea lanes serving as major arteries of East-West trade, the Ocean carries around half of the world’s container shipping and two thirds of its oil shipments. Thus, ensuring security and maintaining the area’s freedom of navigation is of vital concern. Littoral States, such as Sri Lanka, are at the forefront of fighting drug trafficking through maritime routes, he said, citing the lack of prosecution as a major challenge. Recognizing the unique nature of high seas which fall outside the jurisdiction of a single State, he called emphatically for collective measures to provide the requisite regulatory framework to counter threats. “These crimes must not be allowed to fall into a zone where a legal vacuum exists,” he said, stressing that the seabed is fast becoming a tangle of ungoverned seabed cables, presenting a new threat to international peace and security, which Sri Lanka sought to address in 2018 by co-sponsoring General Assembly resolution 73/124 on fibre-optic submarine cables. Just last week, UNODC held a global maritime crime programme event in Colombo, which was followed by a ministerial meeting on the legal regime for fibre-optic submarine cables. Sri Lanka endorses UNODC recommendations to classify such cables as critical communications infrastructure and/or critical national infrastructure; develop a national action plan to protect cables and enhance legal treatment of them. He encouraged mutual assistance in creating resilience against the interference with submarine cables and the harmonization of laws to protect them.
MONA JUUL (Norway), pointing at examples of ongoing initiatives to combat piracy and other sea-based crimes, said further progress requires enhanced global and regional cooperation. The Yaoundé Code of Conduct is crucial for maritime safety from Angola to Cabo Verde, while the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia has been able to curb piracy through a series of coordinated measures even as pirates continue to test countries’ readiness. Yet, both situations require a viable legal solution, including prosecuting those in Somalia who organize piracy groups. For its part, Norway supports UNODC efforts to help States to draft anti-piracy legislation and also assists multilateral partners, including the deployment of police officers to the Seychelles. As a country heavily reliant on a sustainable blue economy, Norway has long advocated for increased international cooperation and an effective legal framework to fight fisheries crimes, given that 20 per cent of fish on the market is caught illegally. In addition, Norway allocated $5 million to UNODC for related efforts, she said, calling on States to become parties to relevant international instruments and to take measures to ensure their implementation.
PENNELOPE ALTHEA BECKLES (Trinidad and Tobago) said vast marine space and porous borders make her country an easy target for trafficking, which wreaks havoc on economic, social and development efforts in the region. Ensuring accountability for perpetrators means funds are diverted from such vital development activities as education and health care, placing an undue burden on small island States. As Trinidad and Tobago is committed to tackling such threats to peace and security, she said combating transnational organized crime at sea requires a robust system of bilateral and multilateral instruments and a coordinated response on multiple fronts, including identifying gaps in legal frameworks. Underlining a need for deeper analyses and understanding of the problem and its impact on small island developing States, she said efforts should focus on capacity-building, developing partnerships and enhancing information sharing. A gender perspective must also be mainstreamed into broader efforts because women and girls remain among the most vulnerable to traffickers.
STEFANO STEFANILE (Italy) said international and regional cooperation are indispensable in tackling the trafficking of persons, weapons, drugs, cultural artefacts and other transnational organized crime at sea. Capacity-building assistance should be provided to African countries to support maritime governance, coast guard authorities, disaster relief, maritime search and rescue and information sharing. The development of a sustainable maritime economy — involving maritime connectivity, logistic integration of ports, sustainable fishing and protection of the environment and coastal communities — is vital for effectively countering crimes at sea. He advocated joint efforts to disrupt criminal networks, promote development in departure and transit nations, address the causes of maritime crimes and create mechanisms to ensure shared responsibility among countries receiving migrants. Through its Africa Fund, Italy helps African countries address migration flows. At the multilateral level, Italy leads the EUNAVFOR MED “Sophia” operation, and in the Horn of Africa, participates in the EUNAVFOR “Atlanta” operation, he said, noting that an Italian navy ship’s recent campaign in the Gulf of Guinea relaunched his country’s presence in that region.
KIRA CHRISTIANNE D. AZUCENA (Philippines) said maritime security is crucial, given her country’s vast coastlines and strategic location in South-East Asia. As the Philippines is also the world’s top supplier of seafarers on international merchant ships, threats to maritime security must be addressed. For its part, the Philippines works with multilateral and regional partners to combat threats through efforts including the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Maritime Forum and efforts by Member States and UNODC in exploring recommendations to combat transnational crime. Such initiatives have already helped in preventing crime. While the Philippines does not negotiate with pirates, it cooperates with Governments and UNODC in exploring safe options for abducted crews, as was the case in 2008 when 293 Filipino seafarers were taken hostage along the Horn of Africa. However, 2017 saw a rise in piracy attacks in the Philippines involving militants, she said, adding that organized crime at sea is a global problem requiring a collective response. As such, the Council and all States have a shared responsibility to counter the threat of maritime crime through enhancing a range of actions, from international cooperation to strengthening law enforcement, she said, calling on all States to adhere to and implement the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols.