Port security monitoring as a border crossing point in the Republic of Albania

The description of state borders nowadays in our region seems to be different from state to state, despite the proximity they may have to each other. This is an obvious factor especially in the case of countries which can be considered as a bridge between outside and inside the European Union. The situation is more complicated when such a state has intersecting boundaries as land, sea and air. In this case the country encounters various problems in border protection. First it will have to protect the illegal entry of refugees coming from war-torn countries or Third World countries and secondly, it will have to ensure the clandestine non-crossing of persons from their country to another country.

Problems encountered at land borders remain difficult geographical terrain in which even border areas, which refugees continue to use as crossing points, endangering their lives. The forecasting and implementation of new technologies has begun to reduce unsafe border areas. Today technology is allowing states to control difficult areas by means of tracking devices. But is it possible for a state to have every inch of its land border under its control? Practice has shown that even the most technologically advanced countries have the passage of clandestines by land. The same problem can be encountered from maritime borders. Today maritime state borders are also traceable through radars and other marine technological tracking devices. But even in the maritime space, the possibilities of clandestine passage of vessels have not been extinguished, since the techniques for losing the tracing of naval vessels from these devices have also been discovered. In the case of the protection of maritime borders, the tracking of vessels which move clandestinely, is added to another task: Protection and saving of life at sea. In this case, persons trying to cross the border illegally will have to be protected and their lives at sea will be saved. Then there are the problems related to the area of territorial waters in which they were traced and then to the state to which they belong where the repatriation should take place.

The Covid-19 pandemic added new problems to border control modalities. Today there must be ways of control while maintaining a safe distance with the individual. This controls should be performed only with technological equipment and physical contact should be eliminated. Can we have 100% reliability in the technological apparatus for these controls? Various issues are related not only to the reliability in the well-functioning of technology, but to the fact of the massive existence of cybercrime which is also evolving in parallel with this technology. Also an unresolved issue between border countries is the definition of border areas. And when we are dealing with countries that do not yet have a defined maritime border area, the problem of using natural land and sea resources arises. Crossing with or without consciousness the means that collect these natural resources such as fisheries is also a way of crossing the border illegally and violating the sovereignty of a state. But are they criminals? Does it constitute a criminal precedent especially in cases where maritime boundaries may not yet be defined and how are these cases handled? These are questions that are answered only in internationally recognized practices and relevant conventions. And yet, common international practices can lead to the best use of natural resources by agreeing on security in these maritime border areas. Given the diversity of border issues, inter-institutional cooperation of relevant border control bodies is an essential element which is already defined in national and international legislation.

A model of inter-institutional cooperation in the protection of state maritime borders is the Security Committee which is a mandatory organization for every international port by the Solas Convention – Chapter XI – International Ship and Port Security Code. Essentially, improving the protection of each state’s borders remains co-operation with neighboring states and co-operation with international administrations and organisations.

In accordance with the ISPS code and the law no. 168/2013 “On Security in Ships and Ports”, the State Maritime Security Authority, a department of the General Maritime Directorate, has been operating in the Republic of Albania for 13 years. The State Maritime Security Authority is the authority that coordinates the work, monitors the implementation of the law, international codes and conventions for security in the ports of the Republic of Albania and ships with the Albanian flag.The duties of this authority are:
1- The State Maritime Security Authority is the authority that takes the necessary measures to strengthen the security on ships and in the open ports of the Republic of Albania, as well as guarantees that the measures taken are in accordance with the national law “On security on ships and in ports” and with the ISPS Code.

  1. The State Maritime Securiy Authority periodically checks the security exercises at the port terminals according to the security plan to test their response in cases of danger and compiles a detailed report on the state of the security force after the exercise, also, proposes the measures to be taken for the improvement of the identified problems.
  2. The State Maritime Securiy Authority, in implementation of this law, may realize bilateral or multilateral agreements, of a technical nature, with the competent authorities of contracting states, for alternative security measures covering short international voyages, for fixed lines between port terminals of the signatory parties, provided that:
    a) these agreements do not affect the level of security;
    b) the agreements are subject to periodic review.
  3. The State Maritime Securiy Authority carries out periodic effectiveness inspections in the open ports of the Republic of Albania to assess the implementation of the Port Security Plan.

In assistance for monitoring the open ports of the Republic of Albania is the cooperation with the United States Coast Guard. At the end of each visit, the American Coast Guard gives its suggestions for improving Security in the open ports of the Republic of Albania. Today, every open port of the Republic of Albania has at its disposal a complete infrastructure for monitoring the surrounding perimeter, land and sea border control through human resources and land and sea means. Considering the level of risk that sensitive places like ports and airports carry, the inspection by our authority aims to control port security on the ability to prevent border risks. When we talk about border risks, what is in mind are:

  • Attempts to cross the border illegally
    Since the middle of 2019, this has been the main risk that most sea borders have faced. The Security Force of the Durrës Port Authority was the department that for about 2 years faced every day an average of 15-20 people, generally from the Middle East, who tried to cross the border illegally. Through the various measures taken by the largest Port in our country, today this number has decreased significantly and is moving towards minimization.
  • Contraband or attempted smuggling of narcotics and prohibited substances
    This is a problem that is in the center of attention in the meetings of law enforcement agencies on the maritime borders of the Republic of Albania.
  • Various activities that constitute a breach of security. As mentioned above, our Authority operates under the International Ship and Port Security Code. For the implementation of this code and the prevention of security violations, our authority coordinates the work with the ports and monitors them for compliance with the Security Plan.

As for the above, they constitute incident reports. Reports of incidents that occur in each port are referred to our authority by the Port Security Officer who must also declare the measures taken by the port security sector, and more specifically by the Security Force or in other words by the Port Police .
All incident reports that refer to the State Maritime Security Authority are collected and placed in a separate database for each port and at the end of the month they are combined for all ports.

At the end of each month we have the exact data on the incidents that happened in each port as well as the measures taken for the problems that each port had. Every six months, our Authority issues specific analyzes on past risks in each port and at this moment new tasks are distributed for each port to prevent the increase of each risk.

The same pattern also exists for compliance inpections. Our authority carries out at least one inspection for each port every month. Data on port problems are extracted from these controls, and tasks are given by our Authority for the elimination of these deficiencies along with a certain deadline. At the end of 6 months, based on the specific deficiencies found for each port, risk analyzes are built for each port to work harder on eliminating the most numerous deficiencies. Findings of deficiencies are mostly encountered in the perimeter fences of the ports, in the fulfillment of tasks by the Port Security Force as well as in the identification of the most sensitive areas. Special attention is paid to camera surveillance as well as training and exercises organized by the Security Force.

The state maritime security authority is responsible for the security assessment of the port/port facility. Through this evaluation, it becomes possible to follow the procedures for the creation and subsequent approval of the Security Plan, which is approved by the Minister of Infrastructure and Energy. This whole process is carried out not only through monthly and annual inspections, but also through the risk analyzes mentioned above and the information collected by the port directorate itself.

The Security Committee is another important activity which is the focus of the State Maritime Security Authority. This Committee is organized by the Director of the Port for which it is mandatory once every three months, but its organization can also be requested by our Authority. Representatives of the Border Police, Port Harbour Master, Customs, Security Force, State Maritime Security Authority participate in this committee and, as the case may be, representatives from the Local Government or other law enforcement agency in the port may be requested. In this committee, collaborations are discussed and created for the smooth progress of work for port and border security.

The selection of Security Force employees is another procedure that is presided over by the State Maritime Security Authority. In the selection of port police officers, there is a procedure which includes a theoretical and practical competition. This competition is organized by a commission consisting of the Port Security sector and the State Maritime Security Authority.

In conclusion, the GISIS system. The Global Integrated Shipping Information System is a system through which data on ports, capacity and their level of security are disclosed. In the event that a port loses the right to an international security certificate, this is declared in the Gisis system to inform ships that seek to dock or process at that port.

by Msc. Ergis Kryekurti
Maritime Security Specialist,
State Maritime Security Authority,
General Maritime Directorate,
Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy
Republic of Albania