A maritime crime is defined as any criminal activity carried out at sea. These criminal activities can be directed at vessels, could violate international laws or coastal state’s sovereignty, or simply be the use of sea vessels for illegal activities.
Maritime crimes are a major setback for the marine industry as almost 80% of the goods are moved by ships. They can also pose serious threats to vessels, the goods being carried by the vessels, and most importantly, the lives of crew members and in some cases, passengers. This article discusses some of the various activities which are termed crimes in the marine industry.
Here are some of the most rampant maritime crimes
1) Drug trafficking
Drug trafficking or illegal drug trade involves cultivating, manufacturing, distributing, and selling drugs illegally. This is one of the most common maritime crimes as most illegal drugs are transported via sea.
2) Human trafficking
Human trafficking is one of the most common and most serious crimes in the maritime world. It is illegal to travel to another country without permission from the authorities. Sometimes people can get illegally and forcefully transported to another country for practices like slavery, though this was more common in the 19th and 20th centuries.
3) Illegal carrying of weapons and artillery
It is illegal to transport weapons and artillery on ships without authorization due to the sensitivity of such goods. Engaging in this activity is a punishable offense as it endangers the lives of people on the ship as well as those around it.
Piracy or maritime piracy is an act of robbery or violence by attackers on a ship with the intention of plundering the ship for valuable items and properties. The people engaging in acts of piracy are called pirates. Though now declining steadily, piracy has been frowned upon since the beginning of time and is still one of the most notorious crimes that can be committed at sea.
5) Tax evasion
Tax evasion is an illegal act of deliberately avoiding the paying of taxes. This is a very common crime in the maritime world. Many ship owners and companies try to avoid paying taxes by presenting false documents and incorrectly representing cargo material. The crime of tax evasion is one of the hardest to catch and prove and is currently on the rise.
6) Illegal fishing or sailing
Sailing or fishing in unauthorized areas at sea is considered a crime. Any ship present in an unauthorized spot for any kind of purpose is subject to punishment by law.
It is illegal for any ship to enter the marine boundaries of a country without seeking permission from the government of that nation. This is a punishable offense in all countries.
8) Smuggling of Exotic Plants and Animals
Smuggling of exotic plants and animals for wildlife smuggling is illegal for any ship without authorization. This is because wildlife smuggling involves the isolation of plants and animals. When they arrived at the destination, they may not be able to adapt to the new place. Animals may also cause infectious diseases in people.
9) Oceanic Pollution
Polluting ocean water by discharging sewage or oil in it is a punishable offense. Many countries have implemented strict policies against this. A discharge of oil in ocean waters greatly affects the coastal areas of the region.
Read more: Meaning Of Flotsam And Jetsam In Shipping
10) Illegal Trafficking of Toxic ships
After a ship has lived its life, it needs to be dismantled safely in shipbreaking sites. Since a ship carries many toxic parts and cargo, it has to be broken down carefully and according to the standard norms so as to not endanger the safety of both the ecology and workers. Unfortunately, many companies choose to illegally traffic the ships and break down the ship in ecologically sensitive zones flouting all norms just to save money.
Despite strict law enforcement, maritime crimes are still very common owing to the vastness of the world’s seas and oceans. There are no concrete boundaries to waters. It is very difficult to make people not engage in maritime crimes.
Some ways of improving the maritime security of the world could be the use of satellite tracking, more cooperation between countries, more efficient monitoring of ships and ports, etc.
Finally, it should be realized that the main reason why people engage in criminal activities is because of the deprivation of resources. It is high time that all the countries of the world operated with each other in order to solve global problems like hunger poverty, illiteracy, terrorism unemployment through proper education and equal distribution of wealth and resources, population control, etc., and bring world peace.
IMO & Maritime Crimes
The International Maritime Organization has within its mandate to make marine trade and travel safe and secure. It has formed Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) to form suitable regulations and guidance.