INTERPOL Pollution Crime Working Group launches ocean pollution operation

25 May 2018


INTERPOL’s 23rd Pollution Crime Working Group (PCWG) and Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Committee (ECEC) Advisory Board (AB) has called on all countries to increase efforts to eradicate pollution.

This was the first time the PCWG had its meeting in South Africa since its establishment in 1992. 

The PCWG network meets annually to discuss new and growing global concerns relating to pollution crime, share best practice in dealing with existing and emerging pollution threats, plan joint operations and also to develop strategies going forward.  

The ECEC works to identify the various problems that arise in connection with environmental crime investigations and find possible solutions.  It is comprised of executive level officials and decision makers from INTERPOL member countries who assist INTERPOL in identifying emerging patterns and trends in the field of environmental crime and in building law enforcement responses to address the identified threats.

The three-day meeting, held at Skukuza, in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, from 22 to 24 May 2018, concluded with the launch of “Operation 30 Days at Sea”, which is directed at enforcing environmental legislation on particularly industries impacting our oceans. The global operation will be country-led and involve environmental and enforcement agencies worldwide.

During an operation named “30 Days of Action” in 2017, police, customs, border and environmental officials from 43 countries participated in a globally-coordinated, country-led enforcement operation tackling illegal disposal and the illicit trade in hazardous waste. This operation has widened the scope of previous INTERPOL interventions to address all types of illegal waste, such as industrial, construction, household and medical waste. 

Among the outcomes recorded during the 2017 operation were:

Criminal Cases uncovered 1.03 million tons of waste which resulted in the following:

  • 228 violations
  • 142 illegal shipments
  • 86 illegal waste sites
  • 126 reported individuals
  • 78 reported companies
  • 413 administrative violations which dealt with 0.52 million tons of waste

The marine pollution enforcement project targeting illegal disposal and trade in waste and illegal discharges from vessels is being supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).

The objective of “30 Days at Sea” is to enhance the cooperation between law enforcement agencies through increased capacity by targeting criminals and criminal networks that are committing violations likely to cause pollution. Criminal groups involved in pollution offences often base various aspects of their criminal activities in a number of different countries, prioritizing those with weak legal regimes or lacking enforcement capacities. They act both domestically and transnationally, on the local, regional and international scales, which requires an international coordinated enforcement response.

The project targets coastal countries and will bring together relevant law enforcement authorities including the police, port authorities, coast guards, customs, and marine and environmental agencies.

In South Africa, the operation will be undertaken under the auspices of Initiative 5 of Operation Phakisa which focuses specifically on coordinated and integrated compliance and enforcement in the oceans and coastal environment. The integrated enforcement teams of Phakisa will therefore partner with INTERPOL for the period of this operation and focus on combatting marine pollution and targeting priority threats.

Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, said during her budget vote in Parliament this month, that marine pollution is one of the biggest challenges faced today and threatens fragile ecosystems. South Africa has a number of measures in place to tackle this problem. The National Pollution Laboratory (NPL) operated by the Walter Sisulu University (WSU) has been established and laboratory work will soon be commencing. This will allow for in depth analysis of the samples that could not be done in the field (mobile laboratory).

In addition, South Africa is amongst the countries to have endorsed the UN Environmental Programme’s Clean Seas Campaign. The campaign is aimed at stepping up international, regional and national efforts to combat marine litter.

The Minister also announced the piloting of the Department’s Source to Sea Initiative.

“It is an ambitious new strategy to investigate, combat pollution in particular plastic pollution which threatens both freshwater and marine ecosystems,” said the Minister.

Matters discussed at the Skukuza INTERPOL meeting included an African perspective on addressing pollution crime, planning for an operation to tackle marine pollution, fraud in the biofuel, tyre and carbon emission trade, illicit waste trade and the prosecution of pollution-related crimes.

The new Board of the PCWG, was elected on Thursday.

For media inquiries contact:

Albi Modise
Cell: 083 490 2871

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Editors’ Note:

The PCWG is INTERPOL’s global network of law enforcement experts dealing with pollution crime. It includes investigators, intelligence officers, border control officers, forensics and other environmental crime experts. The work conducted under the PCWG’s umbrella is currently based on voluntary contributions from member countries.

In addition to the operational and tactical aspects of the PCWG, work to combat pollution-related crime includes identifying global and regional trends on pollution crime; carrying out effective projects to build capacity in the enforcement of pollution crime; and help to build a vibrant international community across organisations who play a role in pollution crime enforcement in working group member countries.