13 Nov 2018 Press release Oceans & seas

First global multi-agency operation highlights widespread marine pollution crime

Lyon, France, 13 November 2018 – An international law enforcement operation against maritime pollution has revealed hundreds of violations and exposed serious cases of contamination worldwide.

Codenamed 30 Days at Sea, the month-long (1-31 October) operation saw some 276 law enforcement and environmental agencies across 58 countries detect over 500 offences, including illegal discharges of oil and garbage from vessels, shipbreaking, breaches of ship emissions regulations, and pollution on rivers and land-based runoff to the sea.

Steered by a global network of 122 national coordinators, 30 Days at Sea involved environmental, maritime and border agencies, national police forces, customs, and port authorities. 

Head of UN Environment Erik Solheim said that the issue of illegal marine pollution is one that global communities may well be able to tackle successfully in the next decade. “But we need the help of our law enforcement partners to make sure that there is no impunity for the perpetrators of marine pollution crime,” he added.

A global concern

More than 5200 inspections have resulted in at least 185 investigations, with arrests and prosecutions anticipated.

“Criminals believe marine pollution is a low-risk crime with no real victims.  This is a mistake and one which INTERPOL and our partners are addressing as demonstrated by this operation,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock. “Marine pollution creates health hazards worldwide which undermine sustainable development and requires a multi-agency, multi-sector cooperative response within a solid global security architecture.”

Cases of serious contamination included the dumping of animal farm waste in Philippine coastal waters where local communities collect shellfish and children play.

In Germany, a vessel discharged 600 litres of palm oil into the sea. Ghana uncovered gallons of waste oil in large bottles thought to be illegally dumped.

Authorities prevented an environmental disaster in Albania by securing waters around a sinking vessel containing some 500 litres of oil.  Similarly, the pollution threat resulting from the collision of two ships in French waters was contained thanks to preventive action during the operation.

Innovative technologies permitted authorities to detect offences, including the use of satellite images (in Argentina and Sweden), aerial surveillance (Canada, Italy), drones (Nigeria, Indonesia and Pakistan) and night vision cameras.

In a shift towards prevention, visible surveillance technologies used in Qatar and Norway resulted in stricter compliance with regulations.

Understanding pollution crime

30 Days at Sea is followed by an awareness campaign in partnership with UN Environment to illustrate the impact marine pollution has on economic development and human and environmental security. 

From 13 November - 13 December, look for the hashtag #PollutionCrime, along with #CleanSeas on Twitter, and retweet to show support in combatting marine pollution crime.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

About UN Environment

UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, the civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.

About INTERPOL

The International Criminal Police Organization, better known as INTERPOL,  is the world’s largest international police organization, with 192 member countries. Their role is to enable police around the world to work together to make the world a safer place, while their high-tech infrastructure of technical and operational support helps meet the growing challenges of fighting crime in the 21st century.

About EUROPOL

The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, better known as Europol, is the European Union’s law enforcement agency. Their main goal is to achieve a safer Europe for the benefit of all the EU citizens. Headquartered in The Hague, the Netherlands, Europol supports the 28 EU Member States in their fight against terrorism, cybercrime and other serious and organised forms of crime.

For more information, contact:

Niamh Brannigan, UN Environment, [email protected]