Villimale, Maldives 23 February - Around 99.7 per cent of the territory of the island nation of the Maldives is water. Over the past decade, the country has seen an increase in illegal narcotics being trafficked by sea, while it also experiences illegal fishing. A US$ 3.7 million grant by the Japanese Government will be supporting the efforts to address these challenges.
UNODC’s Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP) started supporting maritime law enforcement agencies in the Maldives in 2017, by assessing maritime threats and criminality to enhance island security. Last week, UNODC has signed an Exchange of Notes with the Government of Japan for the construction of a new Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC).
The programme will be implemented by UNODC-GMCP and is supporting the infrastructural expansion of the current MRCC premises, and the capacity-building of officers involved in search and rescue and maritime law enforcement operations.
The Notes were signed and exchanged by H.E. Ms. Keiko Yanai, Ambassador of Japan to Maldives, and Mr. Masatomo Yamaguchi, UNODC’s Criminal Justice and Crime Prevention Officer, designated by UNODC Executive Director, Ms. Ghada Waly. The event was attended by high-level representatives from the Government of Maldives, including the Minister of Defence, the Chief of Defence Force, the State Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, officials from the Embassy of Japan in Maldives and UNODC representatives in Maldives.
Currently, the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre premises lack the physical and resource capacity to operate optimally, however, having the adequate equipment, tools and technical knowledge to attend search and resque requests and coordinate maritime law enforcement operations is fundamental for the Coast Guard.
“I visited MRCC a year ago and saw the brave officers managing with very limited resources in a very small space. I felt a strong need to extend our support and assistance because it plays an essential role as the command centre in saving lives and ensuring maritime safety and security,” said Ambassador Yanai.
The project comprises two phases and is implemented in partnership with the Maldives Coast Guard. The first phase comprises the construction of a building which will host the new Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre offices, training spaces, accommodation rooms and a library. In the second phase of the project UNODC will design and deliver tailored training programmes on search and rescue and maritime law enforcement.
As Mr. Masatomo Yamaguchi said: “UNODC is thrilled to have the opportunity to continue contributing to enhancing the capabilities of law enforcement officers in the Maldives with the generous contribution of the Government of Japan.”
Mr. Yamaguchi further highlighted that “Through this project, Maldivian maritime law enforcement agencies will improve their skills consistently and sustainably, enabling interactions at the national level and with counterparts in the region in one dedicated space. Ultimately, this will translate into more successful maritime operations to counter criminality at sea.”
UNODC has a long history of supporting Member States in enhancing their maritime law enforcement capabilities through intensive and dedicated training programmes on maritime interdictions, evidence collection and vessel search, in line with international maritime law and human rights instruments.