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Qualifying Boarding Officers to Combat Maritime Crime in Kenya

Mombasa (Kenya) 29 May 2023 – To help protect Kenya’s territorial waters, UNODC has qualified boarding officers from the Kenya Coast Guard Service and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations by delivering a four-week course comprised of physical, written, and practical evaluations on a specific set of skills at a standard previously discussed with national authorities. As a regional standard practice in East Africa, UNODC delivers multi-agency training events for maritime law enforcement and drug enforcement agencies because drug interdictions at sea require collaboration with land-based investigations.

Organized by the UNODC Global Maritime Crime Programme, the qualification course is part of a series of activities designed to strengthen the capacity of states to enhance maritime security across nine countries. With the Indian Ocean constituting a third of the world’s ocean space and facilitating a high volume of international trade, it remains critical to support states in equipping their personnel with skills to detect, investigate, and prosecute maritime crimes that otherwise generate conflict and undermine economic development.

That is partly why UNODC attaches high importance to the professional development of maritime law enforcement officers, including by qualifying boarding officers in Kenya. A UNODC maritime expert and course instructor, Mr. John McNally, explained “Boarding officers perform important functions in investigating vessels suspected of carrying illicit cargo. The skills learned during the course will increase the officers’ ability to handle operations in the future.

During the course, participants engaged in theoretical and practical exercises to reinforce key skills, including simulated boarding procedures, crime scene preservation, fisheries enforcement, and the preparation of a case package. In the words of one participant, the course “Changed my mindset towards thinking about my next steps, rather than just reacting to the situation without exercising foresight.” In fact, all the participants reported that the course helped them to be better law enforcement professionals, most of whom requested future advanced-level training to build on the skills gained at the qualification course.

This training was made possible thanks to funds from the United States Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (US INL). With continued support from US INL, the UNODC Global Maritime Crime Programme plans to deliver three more qualification courses in Kenya this year, ensuring maritime law enforcement officers are qualified to perform engineering, crew member, and coxswain functions.

For more information, please contact:

Mr. David O’Connell (

Western Indian Ocean Programme Coordinator

Global Maritime Crime Programme

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Click here to visit the UNODC Global Maritime Crime Programme website.