Crime-linked vessels are an unfortunate reality worldwide.
The lack of information about vessels can result in countries flagging or re-flagging ships involved in criminal activities, or letting such vessels sail out of their ports unimpeded.
Main Concerns for Malta
Malta has had long-term concerns regarding contraband linked to Italian organised crime as well as to Libyan militia groups.
The head of Malta’s sanction board Neville Aquilina, detailed in an International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Assembly “mechanisms for the full implementation of UN sanctions requirements are either too weak or inexistent”.
In addition, vessels which have been sanctioned in one country are able to sail to another jurisdiction, to obtain their license. This is possible because countries which de-flag vessels do not have the obligation of informing other countries about this and/or other actions taken.
International Database Proposal
In March 2020, in a meeting arranged by the IMO and the International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI), Malta proposed an idea to the EU to deal with this issue:
- Malta suggested the idea of building a global database of vessels or companies, connected to illicit activities or subject to international sanctions, and for this database to be shared between countries, to help them make informed decisions.
The goal is to strengthen international maritime law, specifically, making it more difficult for criminals to obtain vessel licenses when they sail from one country to another, after their ship has been de-flagged for sanction violations in a previous country.
In addition, this new information about vessels worldwide will make it easier to carry out investigations. Currently these can take years to complete because of the lack of information available.
International Database Creation
Malta raised this idea again in 2021, during a follow-up event. In April 2021 the European Commission agreed to start working on a database across the EU, and to introduce it as soon as possible, in the forthcoming months.
Located centrally in the middle of Europe and to the north of Africa, Malta is ranked sixth in terms of world ship registration and regards this new initiative as being extremely important.
Even though the objective for the database is to be used by all of the IMO state members, the IMO has not, as yet, committed to a date to implement the database.
Dixcart will keep you updated.