Project WATA

INTERPOL-supported regional maritime policing

Timeframe: 2022 - 2026
Budget: EUR 4.4 million
Donor: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

The situation

The Gulf of Guinea is a vital hub for international trade. However, in recent years, this region has been labelled one of the world’s major ‘hotspots’ for piracy. For example, pirate groups kidnapped over 350 seafarers for ransom in the Gulf of Guinea between 2019 and 2021. Additionally, pirate attacks in the region involve the stealing of petroleum, which is later processed and sold on the black market.

Other maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea include illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), trafficking in counterfeit goods, drugs and arms, as well as human trafficking and people smuggling. Terrorist attacks against port infrastructure represent another key risk in the region. All of these security threats have a serious impact on the socio-economic development of both coastal and landlocked regional countries.

Regional collaboration between law enforcement agencies is essential to address these threats and ensure the security of the maritime environment. This need is recognized in United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2634, which urges all UN Member States “to share information with INTERPOL for use in the global piracy database through regional information sharing arrangements.”

Project aims

Project WATA  is linked to another ongoing project, AGWE, and targets the same five countries: Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo. Both projects assist law enforcement agencies in tackling maritime crime.

The aims are to:

  • Promote intelligence efforts and international cooperation to combat maritime crimes and terrorist attacks;
  • Improve interagency cooperation between investigators and justice sector officials in complex, maritime crime cases.

Project activities

As part of Project WATA, INTERPOL will provide sustainable support to all relevant maritime security stakeholders in the region in order to make a long-term difference to maritime and port security.

Activities under this project include:

  • Improving the crime scene management capabilities of first responders (navies): Navies play a crucial role during investigations and prosecutions as they identify different types of criminal activity and preserve the crime scene;
  • Strengthening security of port infrastructure. Capacity building will help target criminals who exploit maritime routes and poorly protected infrastructure and border crossings;
  • Advanced interviewing of victims and witnesses: Professional interviewing techniques are key to most successful investigations;
  • Producing a dedicated training curriculum to examine the investigation of different types of maritime crime and terrorism. We will also produce analytical reports at the request of member countries;
  • Investigative and analytical support to counter any type of maritime crime, including transnational organized crime and terrorist acrtivities. It includes case coordination meetings, deplyoment of operational support teams and preparation of analytical reports at the request of member countries;
  • Updating the existing Guide for Investigating Acts of Maritime Piracy and tailoring it to the West African context. We will expand its scope to encompass all types of maritime crime and terrorism. We will then integrate it into the national Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

Project updates

Fact-finding missions

Five fact-finding missions were conducted in all beneficiary countries in 2022. During the missions, we carried out assessments on security gaps and needs at key port facilities. This assessment will help us develop a training curriculum to enhance law enforcement agency capabilities to deter, detect, delay and investigate threats to port security.

Fact-finding mission, Cotonou, Benin, December 2022.

November – December 2022
Crime Scene Investigation training and Instructor Development Course

We delivered these training courses to law enforcement officials from the five beneficiary countries.

Participants who completed the Crime Scene Investigation training are now better able to carry out a crime scene investigation and coordinate first response efforts.

The Instructor Development Course provides local experts with the skills required to become regional instructors. They in turn can train a new group of law enforcement officers.

Crime Scene Investigation Training, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, November 2022.
Crime Scene Investigation Training, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, November 2022.
Crime Scene Investigation Training, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, November 2022.
Instructor Development Course, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, November 2022.