A Template for IMO 2020 Global Sulphur Cap Investigations?

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  • A month-long marine pollution crime investigation detected more than 500 serious offenses.
  • The investigation initiated by INTERPOL had the joint participation of 276 law enforcement and environmental agencies spanning 58 countries.
  • 5200 inspections were done which involved marine law agencies, police forces, customs, and port authorities.
  • 185 cases are up for prosecution after they were detected by satellite images, aerial surveillance,  drones and night vision cameras.
  • In future, the Interpol is preparing for more such international investigations which may well become the norm in a decade.  

IMO has always been at the receiving end of allegations regarding enforcing the follow-ups of its regulations. In fact, one of the “charges” frequently leveled at IMO is that it creates rules but has no immediate means of enforcing them, says a report published in MPropulsion.

How to monitor the regulations?

Now, the situation warrants that IMO must rely on flag states and port state control, which act with varying degrees of enthusiasm. That might be about to change. Interpol, the world’s largest international police organization with 194-member countries, has just carried out its first investigation into marine pollution crime.

The investigation was followed by an awareness campaign in partnership with the UN Environment to illustrate the impact marine pollution has on economic development and human and environmental security.

Why is it needed?

Code named 30 Days at Sea, the month-long (1-31 October) operation saw 276 law enforcement and environmental agencies across 58 countries detect more than 500 offenses, including illegal discharges of oil and garbage from vessels, shipbreaking, breaches of ship emissions regulations, and pollution on rivers and land-based runoff to the sea.

Steered by a global network of 122 national co-ordinators, 30 Days at Sea involved environmental, maritime and border agencies, national police forces, customs, and port authorities.

The operation produced more than 5,200 inspections which resulted in at least 185 investigations, with arrests and prosecutions anticipated.

Importance of the event

“Criminals believe marine pollution is a low-risk crime with no real victims. This is a mistake and one which Interpol and our partners are addressing as demonstrated by this operation,” said Interpol secretary general Jürgen Stock.

“Marine pollution creates health hazards worldwide which undermine sustainable development and requires a multi-agency, multi-sector co-operative response within a solid global security architecture,” added the Interpol chief.

Important Cases of Violations

  1. Cases of serious contamination included dumped animal farm waste in Philippine coastal waters where local communities collect shellfish and children play.
  2. In Germany, a vessel discharged 600 liters of palm oil into the sea. Ghana uncovered gallons of waste oil in large bottles thought to be illegally dumped at sea.
  3. Authorities prevented an environmental disaster in Albania by securing waters around a sinking vessel containing some 500 liters of oil.
  4. Similarly, the pollution threat resulting from the collision of two ships in French waters was contained thanks to preventive action during the operation.

How were they detected?

Innovative technologies permitted authorities to detect offenses, including using satellite images (in Argentina and Sweden), aerial surveillance (Canada and Italy), drones (Nigeria, Indonesia, and Pakistan) and night vision cameras.

In a shift towards prevention, visible surveillance technologies used in Qatar and Norway resulted in stricter compliance with regulations.

Hope for a better future

Former UN Environment executive director Erik Solheim said the issue of illegal marine pollution is one that global communities may well be able to tackle successfully in the next decade.

“But we need the help of our law enforcement partners to make sure that there is no impunity for the perpetrators of marine pollution crime,” added Mr. Solheim.

“This is why law enforcement must team up on a global scale to build strong international links with specialized experts, so we can tackle this devastating crime while ensuring a healthier, safer planet for all,” responded Europol Operations Directorate deputy executive director Wil van Gemert.

Interpol’s Pollution Crime Working Group launched Operation 30 Days at Sea in response to a call to boost international law enforcement action against emerging environmental crime through action in the field.

How did the co-ordination happen?

Co-ordinated by Interpol’s Environmental Security Programme in close partnership with Europol, 30 Days at Sea was driven by a range of co-operative enforcement actions, including:

  • Joint tactical planning between countries (eg Canada-US, Indonesia-East Timor).
  • The global deployment of multi-agency task forces, including a year-long co-operative effort between South African national agencies targeting pollution crime at sea.
  • Bilateral joint investigations (eg Netherlands-South Africa, Germany-Belgium).

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Source: M Propulsion

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