Thousands of suspects, companies and criminal networks engaged in maritime pollution have been detected and dozens arrested in a global operation led by the international criminal police force, Interpol.
A major criminal network trafficking plastic waste between Europe and Asia was exposed, due to cooperation between authorities from both regions. To date, 22 suspects in the plastic trafficking ring have been arrested and thousands of tons of waste have been prevented from being illegally shipped to Asia, where Interpol says it would likely have been dumped, generating marine litter.
Operation 30 Days at Sea 3.0, which took place during March, involved simultaneous action by 300 agencies across 67 countries. They conducted an unprecedented 34,000 inspections at sea and on inland waterways, in coastal areas and ports to detect marine pollution violations.
“Although this is the third edition of 30 Days at Sea, it is never the same exercise,” Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock said. “The threat of pollution crime is constantly evolving, endangering the air we breathe, our water and soil. Although this is the third edition of 30 Days at Sea, it is never the same exercise.”
“It is thanks to a global yet agile network that we have seen the number of inspections more than double since the first edition,” Stock said, “a clear sign that the international community will not stand for criminal attacks on our environment.”
Direct action followed five months of intelligence collection and analysis that enabled the identification of specific hotspots and suspects behind what Interpol calls, “the criminal, deliberate pollution of the world’s waterways.”
Preliminary results from the operation’s tactical phase included the detection of 1,600 marine pollution offenses, triggering fines and follow-up investigations across all continents.
Law enforcement authorities discovered:
– Nearly 500 illegal acts of pollution committed at sea, including oil discharges, illegal shipbreaking and sulfur emissions from vessels
– 1,000 pollution offenses in coastal areas and in rivers, including illegal discharges of sewage, mercury, plastics, and other contaminants, leading to serious water contamination which flows into the oceans
– 130 cases of waste trafficking through ports
Countries were able to connect pollution crimes with other serious offenses such as fraud, corruption, tax evasion, money laundering, piracy, and illegal fishingby using Interpol’s extensive databases and analytical capabilities.
Interpol has offered to assist member countries in their follow-up operations and intelligence analysis with support from its Pollution Crime Working Group.
With many enforcement resources being reassigned to tackle the pandemic, criminals have been quick to exploit growing vulnerabilities in environmental security and reduced risk of detection, Interpol says.
Many different kinds of crimes were discovered during this 30 Days at Sea operation.
Growing trends included COVID-19 disposable items such as used masks and gloves, with 13 criminal cases involving medical waste opened as a result of the operation.
Authorities in Indonesia detected 65 oil spills and detained two vessels which tried to evade detection by turning off geolocation systems and concealing their national flags.
Elsewhere, an illegal shipment of metal waste was uncovered in Croatia, and authorities found that hazardous metal scraps had been illegally shipped from Europe to Namibia.
Several countries from Europe, Asia and Africa reported illegal shipments of contaminated or mixed metal waste falsely declared as metal scraps.
With the value of gold on the rise, law enforcement agencies across Africa, Central and South America worked to track illegal mining, “which often results in devastating contamination due to mercury discharges,” Interpol said.