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Maritime Border Security Top on OCO Agenda

Jun 7, 2022

Customs officers in one of the training sessions.

Suva, Fiji June 07, 2022: Maritime border security is top on the agenda of customs agencies in the Pacific as threats of transnational organised crime activities, human trafficking, money laundering and white-collar crimes, illicit drug trafficking and smuggling, COVID-19, climate change, illegal fishing increase.

The Australian Border Force has been helping the Oceania Customs Organisation and its members equip themselves for these threats, and this include the training of officers to understand latest trends.

“Maritime security is complex with multiple shared regional threats, the responsibility to combat crimes committed at sea and ensure safe and sustainable shipping for trade purposes cannot be achieved by one agency or one country,” a spokesperson of the Australian Border Force said.

 “Coordinating our activities; sharing knowledge, sharing information, and working collaboratively within the region ensure the challenges of illegal unregulated and unreported fishing are suppressed, transnational serious and organised crime groups are disrupted, and vulnerable people are not exploited.  Safe and sustainable trade, travel and use of our natural resources is in the best interest of all countries within our region.”

 Recently, ABF supported OCO on a two-week training on Maritime Border Fundamentals to help border enforcement officers achieve ‘core’ practical skills that were fundamental to border protection practices. The 20 officers were trained in Fiji learning and understanding maritime threats in the Pacific, how to use the Pacific Small Craft Application (mobile map) and how to detect impostors. The training also included sessions on illicit drugs, outlaw motorcycle gangs, human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

“Due to recent turnover of officers in the membership, there is an influx of new frontline officers manning our Pacific borders. These officers need a face-to-face training on core functions of Customs in the maritime stream. The workshop is also part of OCO’s obligation under the Boe Declaration to combat transnational crimes,” OCO Head of Secretariat, Richard Brennan said. “We also used the opportunity to train our regional coordinators of the mobile app.”

The training included a mix of junior and senior officers, which was critical as they were able to share knowledge and experiences at all levels of border management.

“Border security is important in protecting our population from all these Illicit activities and people from entering our islands and disrupting our way of life,” Etison Sadang Jr. of Palau Customs says. “These trainings, whether it be on Small Craft or Intellectual  Property Rights enhances the capabilities of each officer involved and introduces them to a whole new way of approaching their work no matter where in the Pacific they may be. All the different agencies involved may have different procedures, but we might be approaching the task at hand similarly and these trainings are providing the guidelines with how to approach each of them.”

 Solomon Islands Customs Intelligence officer, Denison Varikesa said: “As a Customs border officer, one of my core tasks is to protect Solomon Islands and its citizens when comes to border security issues.  Customs plays a significant role in national and regional borders. I always value the importance of border security and its context as it gives me knowledge to differentiate the dos and don’ts at the border.

Furthermore border security plays a significant role in nation building. The more we understand border security the better we will equip our borders.”

 Papua New Guinea Customs Senior National Liaison officer, Billy W Aura was happy to have acquired new skills in searching a small craft vessel, passport and identify verification and the use of the Pacific Small Craft mobile map.

 “Border security is important because as a border security officer, I don’t appreciate being cheated for example through Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) infringements or tax invasion not being aware of what’s happening in my backyard (human, drugs and illicit item smuggling),” Mr. Aura said.

 Yoransom Kresma Cain of Nauru Customs said: “Border security is important as it’s the frontline defense from objects that can threaten national security and even sicknesses such as Covid 19 or monkey pox. Therefore training is important because it allows me to gain more wide range of ideas and knowledge.“

For more information, queries or interview requests, please email MediaOCO@ocosec.org

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About OCO: OCO is a grouping of 23 customs administrations in the Pacific region. It facilitates regional cooperation, information sharing and capacity building of its members with the overall target of supporting economic growth and improved border security in the Pacific.

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