Marine pollution is a serious threat to environmental health. It also leads to transnational organized crime, with offenders disposing of pollutants in the sea to save cost on waste treatment. In order to address the complex nature of this crime, law enforcement agencies have to come up with a comprehensive response that is internationally coordinated. To foster such a response, INTERPOL’s Pollution Crime Working Group (PCWG) launched “Operation 30 Days at Sea” in cooperation with Europol in 2018. Geospatial technologies such as satellite imagery, aerial surveillance systems, vessel tracking systems and mobile applications were at the forefront of the operation.
The operation aimed at bringing together relevant national enforcement and environmental protection agencies to act in concert against marine pollution, by targeting the following activities:
The overall objective of the Operation was to enhance the global law enforcement response to marine pollution in violation of international conventions and national legislations, to improve sea quality. The Operation involved supporting investigations to identify, arrest and prosecute individuals and/or companies responsible for marine pollution through:
As many as 58 countries joined the “Operation 30 Days at Sea”, mobilizing 276 national agencies (Figure 1). Each participating country defined its own targets and operational activities based on its national priorities and technological capabilities.
In majority of participating countries, target identification resulted from intelligence gathering through screening vessels and companies of interest based on records of non-compliance. Variety of sources were used, including national compliance targeting matrix for marine traffic and related lists of ships of interest; and databases of the regional MoUs on Port State Control. Some countries coupled historical data with intelligence collected during the Operation through vessel traffic management information systems, National Aerial Surveillance Program over flights, and satellite monitoring.
The Operation saw an extensive use of both traditional surveillance vehicles and equipment, such as aerial surveillance and sea patrols, and innovative technologies and techniques applied to marine pollution detection. Innovative techniques and technologies deployed by countries during the Operation included:
The impact of this Operation and the application of geospatial technologies was particularly important in a number of African, Asian and Pacific countries, where marine pollution is still a very new and neglected area of law enforcement. In these countries, the development of technical capacities to address challenges, and advocacy at the policy level to increase prioritization of marine pollution enforcement was encouraged. The Operation generated actionable intelligence from the analysis of the operational results, to drive future targeted intelligence-led marine pollution operations.
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