Safety at Sea: Preventing Maritime Crimes on the Somali Coastline

Following a consistent reduction of pirate assaults along the coastline of Somalia, the nation is now battling to eradicate its waters of illegal foreign trawlers and other maritime crimes.

Maritime crime affects real lives and causes real harm by undermining food supplies, ecosystems, economic security and, ultimately, national security. Countering such a broad threat landscape requires specialist skillsets – which is where UNODC’s expertise comes to the fore. Through delivering Visit, Search, Board and Seizure (VBSS) and Information Management Sharing (IMS) training we help our Somali partners to advance their theoretical knowledge on search procedures and tactics. Officers now have the skills to apprehend the perpetrators of maritime crime.

On the 9th of June 2022, Bossaso Port Maritime Police Unit (BPMPU) officers detained seven third-country fishermen and seized their boats for unlawfully fishing.
UNODC, US-INL and the Danish government aid the BPMPU through the provision of boats for patrol and search operations.

As mentioned by Salad a Senior VBSS officer, “Without the vital support and guidance of UNODC and donors, we would not have been able to undertake our maritime law enforcement operations to fight crimes at sea, notably in the Gulf of Aden, which is an essential conduit for international commerce”. UNODC GMCP remains fully committed to supporting officers and growing their operational capacity.

The officers have received international and in-country training with mentors rotating around three locations in Somalia. Backed by the Kingdom of Denmark and supported by US-INL,UNODC has also delivered operational equipment, thus turning theory into practice. The donor funding has significantly benefited MLE units in the country to deter, investigate and prosecute crimes at sea.

Beyond the immediate tactical benefits of our support, one of the officers involved in the capture of a vessel participated in information Management Sharing training, during which she learned how to effectively share information between agencies involved in an operation. As a direct result, the suspects in her case have been apprehended which shows just how crucial robust evidence handling and inter-agency cooperation is.

Furthermore, UNODC-mentored officers from the BPMPU advised and guided several Benderbayla district officers on search and seizure, collecting and processing evidence, and completing case preparation. This training led to successful operational outcomes throughout June 2022in the Bari region of Benderbayla. Weapons and ammunition were seized along with the arrest of seven foreign nationals and three Somalis.

These successful operations emphasise the significance of providing law enforcement officers alongside prosecutors and inspectors with targeted specific VBSS training. Through our joint efforts, UNODC makes a real difference in securing Somalia’s coastline.