Commercial Vessel Compliance

4/20/2015: Transnational Criminal Organizations

Last week, the American Waterway Operators held their 2015 spring convention in Washington, D.C.

Coast Guard Commandant, Adm. Paul Zukunft was the keynote speaker. Zukunfts’ remarks focused on Transnational Criminal Networks, developments in the Arctic, cybersecurity and the American energy renaissance .

For those of you who were unable to attend, Maritime Commons is providing a condensed version of the Commandant’s remarks from the convention in a four-part series.

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Delivered by Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft

The Coast Guard is in the midst of a number of new challenges – all of which are converging on us in a way that is unprecedented in recent history.

We are seeing a spike in violence caused by Transnational Criminal Networks operating throughout Central America, and they are destabilizing governments.

We are seeing a vastly changed Arctic Ocean with ice-free waters that have never before been available for transportation, exploration or resource exploitation.

We are seeing a new domain emerge in cyber that is affecting every line of effort across industry and government.

And, of great interest to the American Waterway Operators, we’re seeing an energy renaissance in the United States that is causing tremendous change across our Maritime Transportation System.

Transnational Criminal Organizations

In the past year, Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell conducted two patrols where she interdicted a combined 57,700 pounds of pure cocaine with a street value of over $1 billion. This was the result of successful joint efforts between the Coast Guard and partner agencies.

The real significance of this is not drug interdictions. It is that drugs are just a symptom of a much larger problem. Eight out of the 10 most violent nations in the world are now in our own Western Hemisphere. In fact, the murder rate in Honduras is higher today than it was in Iraq, in 2007, at the height of the insurgency and many Central American nations are gripped by 40 percent unemployment, 50 percent poverty and wide spread violence.

Illegal trade in drugs, people and weapons is a $750 billion to $1 trillion dollar global criminal enterprise, and it is undermining governance and the rule of law throughout Central and South America and in other developing regions – particularly Africa.

Interestingly, drugs are not the number one industry for criminal networks in Mexico; their cash crop is oil.
Calling it a drug war fails to capture the much bigger picture. This is a fight against insidious Transnational Criminal Organizations…and, it is one that affects every single one us. I am committed to combating criminal networks where they are most vulnerable…at sea.

When we identify a target, and have a flight-deck-equipped cutter with airborne use of force and a highly trained boarding team, our chance of interdiction is nearly 100 percent.
We have actionable intelligence on approximately 90 percent of known maritime drug movements; however, with too few surface and air assets to patrol the vast expanses of the transit zone, they can only target and disrupt 20 percent of that known flow.

You can do the math – this is an issue of capacity.

To close this gap, the Coast Guard is undertaking a number of initiatives:

• We have increased offshore presence to interdict drugs at sea. In the first two months of 2015, we interdicted more cocaine in the Eastern Pacific than we did in the first three-quarters of 2014.

• We are continuing to build upon 41 international counter-drug bilateral agreements and to work with the Department of State and our international partners to grow partner nation capacity.

• We are investing in an affordable Offshore Patrol Cutter to replace our aging Medium Endurance Cutters .
Recapitalizing our 50-year old Medium Endurance Fleet with the Offshore Patrol Cutter is my number one investment priority.

The Offshore Patrol Cutter will be the backbone of Coast Guard offshore presence and the manifestation of our at-sea authorities. It is essential to stopping smugglers at sea; for interdicting undocumented migrants, rescuing people, enforcing fisheries laws, responding to disasters and protecting our ports.

In addition to this post, be sure to read the other upcoming three posts from the American Waterway Operators spring convention.

Part 1: Transnational Criminal Organizations
Part 2: American Energy Renaissance
Part 3: Cybersecurity
Part 4: Developments in the Arctic

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.