SEACOP holds regional Maritime Intelligence Unit course in Barbados
“It takes a network to beat a network.” These are the closing words of B.S., an intelligence officer from Trinidad and Tobago’s Transnational Organized Crime Unit (TOCU), as he presents his findings to his peers on Friday 20 May in Barbados.
“Transnational organised crime will always continue to thrive. What we did here in this one week is make our own law enforcement network a bit more advanced, stronger in tackling transnational organised crime.”
Along with 15 other intelligence officers from 9 agencies of the region (including Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat and St Vincent), he participated in one of two weeklong regional training organised by SEACOP for Maritime Intelligence Units.
Next to him, R.R. nods in agreement. “I am certainly taking back to my country much more than what I came in with,” she states, noting that “the information that was shared by the three trainers was very enlightening. It has empowered me to become a better intelligence office.,”
Delivered by two trainers from the UK’s National Crime Agency and one French Customs officer, the course covered a wide scope of topics related to the fight against illicit maritime trafficking such as profiling of pleasure crafts and merchant vessels, fishing boats and go fasts, maritime threats, as well as maritime communication, among others.
“Five days ago, I had very little knowledge of these issues. Now, I have acquired, thanks to my exchanges with everyone around, the relevant skills, knowdlege and experience in profiling, targeting vessels of interest and how to operationalise them. I have the ability to use those in a very effective and efficient way,” B.S. explains.
Particularly appreciated by the participants was the regional nature of the training, which allowed for active networking and sharing of information. Speaking on behalf of Guyana’s Customs Anti-Narcotic Unit (CANU), K.S. says: “We relate so much to many of the challenges faced by our neighbour Caribbean countries. Being a part of this SEACOP programme taught us about the risks and challenges of other countries, their legislation. We were given a platform to exchange information, request assistance, and build a network through which we can collaborate, share and receive intelligence.”
Out of the 28 participants in the two weekly courses, 12 were women, an unusual ratio in this field. For R.R., this was “incredible”. “Back in TOCU, I am the only woman in my team so at first, I was a bit intimidated but everyone was so welcoming and treated me as their equal. It was also enriching to meet with other women, like A.K. from CANU, who is on the contrary surrounded by female peers in her unit.”
Reflecting on her CANU unit, A.K. stresses “it is very important that women in the military and paramilitary organisations be given exposure to such training to enhance their capacity development. At CANU, women are given the opportunity to reach leadership positions, operational ones, to be team leaders. This is all thanks to our head, Mr James Singh, who is a great advocate for gender equality.”
The course was part of a series of activities held by SEACOP in Barbados, including a National Steering Committee gathering representatives from the Ministry of National Security, Customs, Coast Guards, Police, Regional Security System Training Institute, JRCC and the EU Delegation to Barbados.
A memorandum of understanding was further signed to continue the collaboration between SEACOP and the Barbadian government to fight against illicit maritime trade in the region.