I thank you for convening this important debate on Transnational Organised Crime at Sea as a Threat to International Peace and Security.
I wish to also thank the Executive Director of UNODC, Mr Yuri Fedotov, and the Executive Secretary of the Gulf of Guinea Commission, Mrs Florentina Adenike-Ukonga, for their comprehensive and informative briefings.
South Africa is a maritime country with a coastline of over 2800 kilometres, and an exclusive economic zone of 1,54 million square kilometres straddling both the Indian and Atlantic oceans, which is larger than our land size of 1,2 million square kilometres. It is assessed that 580 ships are in South African waters every day and annually over 11 000 ships dock in our ports.
South Africa therefore remains concerned about the prevalence of transnational organised crime at sea. The African Continent undoubtedly understands the impact of these insidious activities on the stability, security and the development of both coastal and inland countries.
In many instances, it is the effects of transnational organised crime that fuels conflicts on the Continent. The proceeds from these crimes contribute to a proliferation of small arms and light weapons, protracted conflicts, drugs and human trafficking, terrorism, money-laundering and increased mercenary activity.
In recent times, South African security and coastal patrols confiscated numerous vessels and arrested countless people involved in illegal fishing and abalone poaching in our waters. This denies South Africa millions of dollars of revenue and negatively affects the livelihoods of our coastal communities.
Indeed, the link between transnational organised crime at sea and the threat it poses to the stability, security and economies of both coastal and landlocked states is visible and a matter of grave concern.
In order to arrest the challenges posed by this broad phenomenon, it is crucial that a robust, regulatory framework and a coordinated and comprehensive approach be developed at national, regional and international levels to address this scourge.
South Africa welcomes the adoption of Security Council Resolutions 2383 (2017) and 2442 (2018), whose measures we believe will contribute greatly to resolving the challenge of transnational organised crime at sea, specifically off the coast of Somalia and affected coastal areas in the Gulf of Guinea.
These resolutions embody some of the progressive mechanisms the international community should implement in order to prevent and counteract maritime crimes and maintain international peace and security.
The African Union in 2014 adopted the “2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy”. This 2050 AIM strategy identifies threats and vulnerabilities that could fuel violence and insecurity on the African Continent. Some of these threats are, amongst others, transnational organised crime in the maritime domain which include illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, money laundering, illegal arms and drug trafficking, piracy and armed robbery at sea, illegal oil bunkering and human trafficking.
Through the 2050 AIM Strategy, the AU seeks to rally Member States in a coordinated and collaborative partnership that will foster wealth creation in a safe and secure African maritime domain, thus contributing to socio-economic development.
Furthermore, in 2016 the AU adopted the African Charter on Maritime Security, Safety and Development in Africa, known as the Lome Charter.
The Charter was developed to operationalize the security and developmental aspects as articulated in the 2050 AIM Strategy and Agenda 2063. It provides general rules and principles that would regulate navigational security, combat piracy and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities as well as preserve marine life and biodiversity. It further more enhances areas of economic development through ocean economy activities and cooperation in the exploitation of oceanic riches at the level of Exclusive Economic Zones and International Waters.
It should also be noted that the AU declared 2015 to 2025 as the Decade of the African Seas and Oceans, with the strategic aim of improving maritime conditions to ensure the protection and sustainable exploitation of the seas and oceans of Africa.
South Africa has worked in unison with African countries in developing these key Continental instruments which seek to create an oceanic environment which is safe, secure and environmentally sustainable for the benefit of the peoples of Africa.
In cooperation with UNODC, the Governments of Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa have entered into a Trilateral Agreement to counter drug trafficking on maritime routes in the Indian Ocean. This agreement seeks to intensify maritime surveillance capability, detection of illicit trafficking in the Indian Ocean as well as enhance the security at ports and other points of entry in the region.
In addition to these initiatives on the African continent, South Africa is currently the Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association. IORA was formed in 1995 and consists of 21 Indian ocean-rim countries from Africa, Asia as well as Australia. IORA recognises that the ocean economy is emerging globally as a common and critical source of growth, innovation and employment creation due to the enormous economic potential that it possess. Accordingly IORA has, amongst others, identified Maritime Security and Safety as a priority.
At a domestic level, South Africa has identified Marine Protection and Governance as one of the priorities of our Ocean Economy Strategy, which we refer to as Operation Phakisa.
South Africa believes that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), outlines a comprehensive legal framework applicable to piracy and armed robbery at sea. Present-day efforts to combat transnational organised crime at sea must be fully consistent with this international legal framework.
South Africa fully supports the call for strengthening the capacity of Member States’ maritime security in order to enforce international maritime law. In this regard, the importance of exchanging evidence and information for anti-piracy law enforcement purposes, as well as lessons learnt and best practices sharing between States, international and regional organisations is imperative. This ensures that the necessary structures remain dynamic and that the relevant structures, strategies and programmes are adapted to align to the shifts in global trends.
In conclusion, we wish to reiterate that transnational organised crime at sea is a symptom of insecurity on land and it is only through concerted holistic action on both land and sea that we will be able to fight this scourge.
I thank you