During the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP) has been continuing capacity building through virtual means, such as hosting an online Prosecutor’s Network forum, a Maritime Terrorism roundtable event and has recently launched a monthly online session on legal matters pertaining to the Law of the Sea. As circumstances permit, UNODC GMCP is resuming in-person capacity building activities in the Western Indian Ocean region.
In February 2020, the UNODC GMCP had the honour to invite the Kenya Coast Guard Service (KCGS) to nominate 24 Maritime Law Enforcement (MLE) personnel to participate in Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) courses to be held in Seychelles. However, prior to execution, it became necessary to postpone the training events due to restrictions put in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Kenya Coast Guard Service is a newly established agency, still in its initial stages of formation, and responsible for law enforcement in the territorial waters of Kenya. It is an agency that incorporates personnel from different agencies, being the Navy, Customs, Kenya Fisheries and Kenya Wildlife Service, and will protect Kenyan waters from illegal and unregulated fishing, border disputes, piracy, human and drug trafficking, illicit trade, smuggling contraband goods, and degradation of the marine ecosystems.
Adapting to available possibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, to continue capacity building in Kenya, UNODC GMCP deployed MLE expert Mr. Juan Pablo Ochoa to Mombasa on 28 August 2020, where he will conduct VBSS courses until 9 October 2020.
On 31 August 2020, UNODC GMCP launched its first-ever VBSS course held in Mombasa. The course included a week of classroom training, which involved practical exercises and sessions on applications of the UN Convention on Law of the Sea for MLE personnel. The second week consisted of practical training and boarding exercises.
In addition to the VBSScourses, Mr. Ochoa will also review current maintenance management practices, offer support to leadership in organising and planning to maximize effectiveness in training and operations, and provide specialised mentoring on navigation, safety and seamanship skills.
Supporting KCGS will strengthen Kenyan borders and mitigate risks of transnational organized crime, which will contribute significantly to managing migration, improving internal security and preserving the health of the ocean ecosystems of Kenyan waters.
UNODC GMCP is excited about the continuing collaboration with KCGS and looks forward to developing further initiatives in Mombasa, such as the new VBSS Simulator facility to execute Pierside Vessel training currently under construction at Bandari Maritime Academy.