Training commences for detection of illegal cargo in containers
- Guyana and Suriname commitment to C’bean programme lauded
By Dale Andrews
The commitment of Guyana and its eastern neighbour, Suriname, to combat the trade in illegal cargo through the use of shipping containers was lauded by the United States of America Government and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The praises came from Tom Pierce, Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy in Georgetown, and Troel Vestor, Regional Manager of the UNODC Container Control Programme (CCP), during the opening ceremony of a training programme for officials from the two
South American nations, yesterday at the Grand Coastal Inn, Le Ressouvenir, East Coast Demerara.
Over the next two weeks, six representatives from Guyana and their eight counterparts from Suriname will undergo training that will enable them to detect and track illegal cargo in containers that pass though their respective seaports.
The Guyana contingent is drawn from the Guyana Police Force, the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit and the Guyana Revenue Authority. The training will make the participants key players in their respective country’s efforts to improve port security and to prevent lawful maritime cargo containers from being used for unlawful activities.
Guyana and Suriname are the first two countries in the region to sign on to the programme and have shown their commitment by enabling the fast-tracking of training for its personnel to facilitate the programme.
Speaking on behalf of the United States Government, Deputy Ambassador Pierce said that both countries have shown the commitment to meeting national and regional goals of combating illicit trafficking of narcotics and improving port security throughout the region.
“The illicit trafficking of drugs through seaports is a significant threat to our economies and security. The global drug trade weakens legal trade, distorts and destabilizes economies and facilitates corruption that erodes democratic governance. This is why the United States, together with partners in the region, is so committed to combating the narcotics trade,” Pierce told the gathering that included Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee.
He said that the United States Government is pleased to provide the funding for the initiative to improve port security and prevent lawful maritime cargo containers from being used for unlawful activities, specifically illicit drug trafficking, chemical precursors, smuggling of goods, tax evasion and potential terrorist actions.
“We recognize that we are all partners in this fight and congratulate Guyana and Suriname for being the first ones in the region to begin to develop a global network that builds the capacity for our respective law enforcement bodies to combat transnational crime and drug trade through this initiative,” the Deputy US Ambassador stated.
“The United States commends the United Nations and Suriname for moving forward so quickly to bring this programme to fruition. I congratulate the Government of Guyana for its clear and strong commitment to this vital and innovative programme. I look forward to following the future success of the container programme,” Pierce added.
The CCP Regional Manager Troels Vestor highlighted that it was only in August, last, that Guyana and Suriname signed the Memorandum of Understanding, and after a few weeks later the first training course is underway.
“The two countries have been the fastest in the world in signing up,” he said, adding that the CCP made the first contact with Guyana and Suriname in May this year, and already the fruits of the engagement are being seen.
He announced that on October 15, two units will become operational in Suriname and at the John Fernandes Wharf, Port Georgetown.
Vestor spoke about the few critics who had opined that the initiative was another “damp squib”.
He congratulated the relevant agencies in both Guyana and Suriname for proving those critics wrong, especially since things have been moving at such a fast pace.
Chairman of yesterday’s proceedings, Major-General (ret.) Michael Atherly noted that the Container Control Programme is seriously required and will help both Guyana and Suriname with risk management of the international and national supply chains.
He explained that a large majority of global trade supplies are transported by seaboard containers, yet only a few of them are inspected by security officials and as such, criminals target containers for the movement of illicit cargo.
He added that to compound matters, the basic document describing the content of containers, the bill of lading, is rarely verified.
Several months ago, a container loaded with lumber for export was intercepted by local port authorities, who subsequently unearthed a quantity of illegal drugs.
The current Container Control Programme comes two weeks after the US Drug Enforcement Administration, in collaboration with the Guyana Police Force (GPF), commenced a drug investigators’ course for local anti-narcotics agents.
That course is benefiting drug agents from the GPF and the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU), and is aimed at enhancing their knowledge and techniques of drug enforcement, and making them aware of the current trends in drug trafficking.
US Ambassador to Guyana, Brendt Hart, had expressed the hope that the course will lead to further training in other counternarcotics specialties such as digital forensics, case development, and court and legal skills.
The programme is a component of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) which was established in 2010 with the joint pledge to create a strong partnership among the United States and the Caribbean Community.