Vienna, 24 May 2023 – Japan and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have signed a new funding agreement worth JPY 817 million ($US 6 million) to effectively counter maritime crime in nine Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs).
Scattered across the Pacific Ocean between Australia and South America, the strategic location of these Pacific Island states have left them vulnerable to unregulated activities in marine protected areas (MPAs) and drug trafficking.
Though small, these states are located in a vast region equivalent to 15 per cent of the Earth’s surface. Limited maritime surveillance equipment, monitoring assets and operational capabilities make managing such a sizable maritime surface area challenging for many PICTs. Nor has there been enough focus on what follows after interdiction and arrests made at sea, i.e. prosecution and trials.
The new fund will help upgrade maritime law enforcement infrastructure and strengthen capacity of maritime law enforcement and criminal justice institutions in Fiji, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu and Vanuatu to address maritime crime, including crimes in the fisheries sector and drug trafficking as well as human trafficking and migrant smuggling by sea.
The project, jointly implemented by UNODC Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP) and UNODC Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific (ROSEAP), is foreseen to directly benefit more than two million people in the nine PICTs.
Under the project, four Inshore Patrol Crafts will be delivered to the Maritime Police of Kiribati, Nauru, Tuvalu and Vanuatu to strengthen their inshore patrolling capability. X-band radar stations will also be installed on land to improve maritime surveillance capability.
Mr. John Mote, Commander of Kiribati Maritime Police emphasized that “the possibility of getting an Inshore Patrol Craft and coastal radar for Kiribati Maritime Police can significantly expand the maritime law enforcement reach and counter illicit activity at sea.”
At the signing ceremony, UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly expressed gratitude for Japan’s generous contribution towards UNODC’s activities in the nine PICT and underscored the importance of rules-based maritime security and the rule of law for peace and security in the Indo Pacific Region.
His Excellency Mr. Takeshi Hikihara, Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations in Vienna, emphasized that the maritime security in Asia and Pacific is one of the core policy pillars for the Government of Japan, and he hoped that this contribution would produce meaningful results.