Today’s interdependent global economy, international trade, and travel are reliant upon the security of international waters and the vast network of ports and terminals. As the growing maritime industry expands, so does the threat of maritime criminals exploiting vulnerable vessels operating in these waters.
Piracy and acts of maritime crime are a substantial threat to the maritime industry and seafarers around the world. Due to the nature of the open sea, individual vessels can be at great risk if targeted by criminal groups or organizations, especially in high-risk areas and regions
Over 80% of the world’s goods are transported by sea and a secure maritime environment is essential for the free flow of global trade. The most cost-effective way to move goods and raw materials in bulk around the world is across oceans and connecting waters. However, maritime crime and piracy pose a serious threat to merchant vessels and seafarers.
Due to the nature of the high-seas falling outside of the jurisdiction of any single state responsibility, the vulnerability of a small crew or an exposed vessel to dangers of criminal acts, acts of piracy, kidnapping, and armed robbery, is substantial. With the threat of piracy and crime in, or near a port, also being a risk that cannot be eliminated, the dangers of an attack can occur at any time with great loss, outside as well as within high-risk areas.
These all have a negative impact on the freedom of navigation and world trade. Other illicit maritime activities such as the trafficking in weapons, drugs, and humans are also a threat to international security and individual safety. Marine crime is not only a threat to the entire maritime security of goods and people in the industry but also gives major setbacks to the entire marine industry economically.
At present, there are several prominent maritime crimes that exist and are being committed in various seas and waterways around the globe. Each crime differs in its execution but each crime still remains to have a substantial impact on the maritime industry, the end result often being, the loss of life and property. The categorization of these prominent maritime crimes are divided as follows;
Maritime Piracy – piracy remains one of the most serious crimes of the maritime industry. From causing immense financial loss to causing physical harm to crew members, piracy at sea is a major issue and major threat to maritime security.
Drug trafficking – is one of the most common types of maritime crime. Criminal organizations and gangs operate on the open water, widely use shipping vessels of all types to transport illicit drugs through waterways to further distribute drug consignments.
Smuggling – of all goods is a common maritime crime that has links with serious and organized transnational criminal organizations, that operate around the world.
Illegal carrying of weapons – due to the sensitive nature of these goods, only certain ships are authorized to carry arms and weapons, including for transportation purposes. Criminal organizations are known to disregard the law and carry weapons of all types, which poses a threat to all law-abiding vessels. Additionally, if a vessel that is not equipped to handle such materials may be highly prone to maritime accidents, along with endangering the lives of others.
Human Trafficking – cases of stowaways are common in the maritime industry. Traveling to a different country without permission from the respective country is a marine crime and is an issue that needs to be addressed by shipmasters, shipping companies, and operators around the globe.
Unauthorized entry – for entry of any ship into a nation’s marine boundary, the ship must seek permission from the government of that nation. Sailing on that nation’s waters without permission is a maritime crime and punishable in all countries. Criminal gangs will often use this to their advantage and target any vulnerable vessel while navigating their way to a destination, or while anchored at sea.
These prominent maritime crimes pose a substantial threat to maritime security on a daily basis. Despite the efforts of nation states’ navies and coastguard marine security, waters and seas around the world are continuously affected and seafarers are at risk.
Sources: AG ( Global Strategies )