Yury Fedotov

Director General/Executive Director


Remarks at the Security Council debate on Transnational Organized Crime at Sea as a Threat to International Peace and Security

5 February 2019

Mr President, Your Excellency, Minister Angue,

Members of the Council,

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Council on the growing threat of transnational organized crime at sea.

Two-thirds of the world's surface is ocean. Nearly all of that is beyond any state's territorial waters and largely not subject to a single state criminal jurisdiction. The high seas are open for vessels of all countries, both coastal and landlocked, to support international trade and economic cooperation, contact among peoples and the responsible use of natural resources.

However, in recent years the freedom of navigation is being exploited by criminal groups. Transnational maritime crime is increasingly sophisticated, and it is expanding, both in terms of size and types of criminal activities.

Even as I speak, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has staff in the field working with member states to counter:

These crimes pose an immediate danger to people's lives and safety, they undermine human rights, hinder sustainable development and, as this Council has recognized, they threaten international peace and security.

I am therefore grateful to the Presidency of Equatorial Guinea for bringing this global issue to the Council, to strengthen international responses and protect our seas from criminals.

We have a solid international legal framework in place to tackle transnational maritime crime.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, settled nearly forty years ago, addresses only piracy in detail.

But global action is reinforced by the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols, as well as by the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, the global counter-terrorism instruments, and more.

This is the basis for the technical assistance and capacity building UNODC provides through our country, regional and global programmes.

Maritime crime by its nature involves vessels, cargoes, crews, victims and illicit money flows from many regions. UNODC's Global Maritime Crime Programme operates out of Colombo. This puts our experts close to some of the world's busiest shipping routes. 

Our methods, based around long-term mentoring and hands-on training, are innovative, efficient and effective, working at sea as well as in coast guard offices, courtrooms and prisons.

Our work on maritime crime grew out of our successful counter-piracy programme off the coast of Somalia. UNODC continues to support trials in Kenya and Seychelles, as well as the humane and secure imprisonment of convicted pirates.

In this regard, I am pleased to report that we have completed the first phase of the Mogadishu Prison and Court Complex, which will be handed over shortly to the Somali government and which will provide a secure environment for the trial of those suspected of maritime crime and terrorism.

We implement these activities with the EU Naval Forces as well as other international naval forces, INTERPOL, the International Maritime Organization and partners in the commercial maritime sector.  

This is a model of public/private cooperation we have further advanced through the Indian Ocean Forum on Maritime Crime, which coordinates the response to heroin and charcoal smuggling that is funding terrorist groups, and the Contact Group on Maritime Crime in the Sulu and Celebes Sea.

UNODC also supports inter-regional cooperation against criminal activities at sea through the so-called Yaoundé maritime security architecture.

Moreover, we are working to secure the container trade supply chain through another global programme, the joint UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme, as well as through our programmes to counter terrorism, human trafficking and migrant smuggling, wildlife and fisheries crime, firearms trafficking and emerging crimes.

All our work at sea, where jurisdiction is complex, crime is often committed unseen and enforcement is difficult, builds on UNODC's long experience and research expertise in addressing all forms of organized crime, terrorism and corruption.

Going forward, we would welcome the Council's support for the following:

Firstly, to urge all Member States to facilitate mutual legal assistance and other forms of cooperation to address the expansion of transnational organized crime at sea, through ratification and effective use of the international legal framework;

Secondly, to encourage Member States to enhance technical assistance so we can continue operationalizing cooperation through platforms like the Indian Ocean Forum on Maritime Crime and through the exchange of liaison magistrates and regional networks of prosecutors and central authorities. Such action can help to ensure that those responsible, the criminal kingpins, are brought to justice.

Finally, we would welcome the Council's continued engagement with this topic, including by encouraging discussion to identify options for enhancing coordination, as well as recommendations to better prevent and counter transnational maritime crime.

I thank you once again for your attention. UNODC is here to support you.