Maritime crime

More than 80% of the world’s goods are transported by sea. A secure maritime environment is essential for the free flow of global trade.

The issues

The most cost-effective way to move goods and raw materials in bulk around the world is across oceans and littoral waters.

However, merchant vessels and seafarers are vulnerable to criminal acts of piracy, kidnapping and armed robbery. 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.  

INTERPOL's response

At INTERPOL, we work to mitigate global maritime crime and improve maritime governance in three ways: by facilitating the exchange of information, strengthening first responder and law enforcement capabilities, and building international and cross-sector coalitions.

Maritime crime

Facilitating data exchange

A single crime at sea, such as piracy, typically affects several different nations. Vessels may be flagged, owned and operated by different countries and manned by multinational crews.

The suspects, the navies that intercept them, and the nation willing to investigate and prosecute are also likely to be diverse. This makes it crucial to share information between military, law enforcement and judicial bodies in multiple countries.

Our Global Maritime Security Database is integral to maintaining information on incidents of maritime piracy and other crimes in the maritime domain.  

This database serves to:

  • collect and store piracy and other maritime crime information
  • analyse information related to maritime crime
  • produce intelligence products
  • develop relationships  

Over time, database records contributed by our National Central Bureaus and other relevant law enforcement and partner agencies, will enable our analysts to assess regional maritime crime and piracy threats. This information will be invaluable to regional agencies in their ongoing efforts to disrupt criminal maritime activity.

Our system of Notices is also key to sharing data and arresting suspected criminals.

Strengthening first responder and law enforcement capabilities

Investigating incidents and collecting evidence is complicated in the maritime environment given the multiple jurisdictions often involved in an individual incident.

We provide training, equipment and mentoring to member countries worldwide in order to improve their investigative capabilities, the quality and quantity of data collected, and to help ensure potential evidence is properly preserved and analysed.

Close cooperation between law enforcement and judicial services is essential in order to increase the likelihood of successful prosecutions. We can help forge links between police and prosecutors – within the same country and across jurisdictions − supporting them in all stages of an investigation, from evidence collection through to trial.

We run projects to support these objectives in the key geographical areas of Western, Eastern and Southern Africa, and Southeast Asia. These include:

  • The Maritime Security Programme (MASE), sponsored by the European Union;
  • Project Agwe, sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL);
  • Project Mast, sponsored by the Counter Terrorism Capacity Building Program (CTCBP) of Global Affairs Canada (GAC).

Building coalitions

Due to the extent and nature of maritime-related crime, international and cross-sector partnerships are vital in order to prevent, investigate and prosecute these crimes. We work with strategically identified international organizations and other partners on a national, regional and international level to build coalitions and enhance cooperation to combat criminal maritime activities.