Bangkok (Thailand) - On Thursday, 16 April 2020 the UNODC’s Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP), with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for South-East Asia, conducted a Forum for Maritime Law Enforcement Personnel on Managing COVID-19 Cases at Sea via a virtual platform.
The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is cognizant of the challenges faced by all Maritime Law Enforcement (MLE) agencies in managing incidents at sea or in port areas that are linked to COVID-19 cases. Ensuring the continuing flow of goods and merchandise transported via maritime routes is vital to ensure a sustainable economic development and delivery of vital aid for countries that have already been impacted by this crisis.
Although this event had initially focused on supporting MLE agencies in the Southeast Asian region, the event had a wide appeal, bringing together 75 multiagency representatives from 12 countries. The event aimed at ensuring that MLE practitioners are familiar with the guidelines provided by WHO experts on the management of COVID-19 cases in a maritime environment. Additionally, MLE representatives from Australia, South Korea and Sri Lanka provided presentations on evolving best practices for maritime law enforcement to deal with COVID19.
Ervin Irish Escat, representative from the Philippine National Coast Watch Centre, said: "It is undeniably a challenge to the maritime authorities to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 considering the complicated and vulnerable environment of the maritime domain. The virtual briefing hosted by the UNODC-GMCP, with support of the WHO and other experts worldwide, has provided relevant, timely and useful information that will enable participating countries in enhancing their respective guidelines and protocols in handling COVID-related maritime security operations”.
These briefings were designed to provide increased awareness on the range of responses that can be applied by MLE agencies when faced with the need to operate on vessels that could potentially carry COVID-19. As such activities aboard ships often include work in confined spaces, the use of proper protective measures and equipment, as well as the establishment and exercise of adequate procedures for handling crewmembers showing COVID-19 symptoms is essential to safeguarding the health and wellbeing of MLE officers.
The Forum also included a Q&A session, allowing participants to seek greater clarity on the subjects presented and to share opinions and concerns regarding the handling of COVID-19 cases in the participants’ respective countries.
The presentations and reference material provided during the briefings have been shared with all event participants, and UNODC-GMCP will continue to facilitate communication between MLE agencies requesting additional information on the matter.