© UNODC Global Maritime Crime Programme
Larnaca (Cyprus), 14 July 2022 — Today, the Mediterranean Sea hosts some of the world’s busiest shipping routes. It is estimated that approximately 220,000 merchant vessels of more than 100 tons cross the Mediterranean Sea each year — about one third of the world's total merchant ships. Therefore, tackling maritime crime remains a key priority for Mediterranean states and requires the involvement and cooperation of authorities across the region.
Since last year, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), through its Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP), has been strengthening the law enforcement capacities of Member States in the Eastern Mediterranean so that they can counter organized crime within the maritime domain. This has involved providing technical, material and infrastructural support to law enforcement and prosecution. Counterpart engagements are ongoing in the Central and Western Mediterranean, to identify priority areas for cooperation with projects envisioned to strengthen maritime law enforcement and border management.
In May 2022, GMCP conducted its first maritime law enforcement training for the Cyprus Police at the newly opened facilities of the Cyprus Centre for Land, Open-seas, and Port Security (CYCLOPS). As a country with a strong maritime culture and strategic geographical position between two sea gates, the Republic of Cyprus needs to effectively monitor marine traffic.
CYCLOPS offers specialized trainings to law enforcement agencies with the purpose of increasing border, port, and maritime security; enabling regional partners to learn best practices for securing critical infrastructure and engaging in cross-border cybersecurity investigations. Opened in February 2022, the facility provides several specialized training platforms, including a ‘ship-in-a-box', a mock land border crossing, a passenger screening area, and a mobile cybersecurity training lab.
The training activities that UNODC conducted at the centre ranged from pier-side search techniques to specialized Visit, Board, Search and Seize trainings. They focused on possible crimes in the fisheries sector and the trafficking of chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons. All practical training has simulated realistic settings to ensure maritime law enforcement officers are ready to use their skills in real-life scenarios.
Reflecting on the May 2022 training, Inspector Loucas Petrou from the Cyprus Marine Police said, “given the increasing volume of incidents at sea occurring in the region, the inter-agency nature of the courses has added special value by strengthening cooperation between different maritime law enforcement agencies, through information exchange and coordinated operations.”
UNODC aims to continue its partnership with CYCLOPS in order to train other countries in the region to detect and prevent maritime crime. CYCLOPS provides much-needed institutional support to countries wishing to promote international best practices and knowledge exchange.
The UNODC GMCP program in Cyprus is sponsored by the State Department's Export Control and Border Security program. The construction and equipping of CYCLOPS were also funded through this program, but the facility is owned and operated by the Cypriot MFA.
Through the technical assistance provided at the centre, UNODC contributes to Sustainable Development Goals 5, 14, 16 and 17 by supporting Member States in strengthening criminal justice systems to combat maritime crimes.